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  • Jonathan Widran


One of the artist/performers prominently mentioned in The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide, veteran NYC based vocalist and songwriter Andrea Wolper’s incredible, multi-faceted “does it all and does it well” career tracks perfectly with the spirit and title of Wanderlust, her all over the map but always somehow engaging first album in 13 years.

With a background that includes everything from the straight ahead Heavenly Big Band to free jazz icon William Parker, Wolper seems to delight in offering strange, unexpected and surreal pieces like “Sobe e Desce,” a whimsical Brazilian scat/flute duet with flutist and co-producer Jeff Lederer amidst gorgeous straightforward originals (like the heartbreaking and poetic ballad “Still Life”) and imaginatively arranged, uniquely offbeat takes on lesser known songs from iconic songwriters like Ray Charles (“Light Out of Darkness”), Carole King (“Been to Canaan”) and Sting (a trippy, hypnotic and slightly atonal “I Burn For You”). Because of her lovely, wide ranging voice and special affection for insightful lyrics,

Wolper could easily have blessed us with a full album of infectious and colorful mainstream jazz. But she seems to delight more in throwing odd stylistic curveballs like the ethereal, avant-garde “The Nature of Life,” which finds her reciting poetry over a droning shutri box (an Indian instrument approximating a harmonium) and “Nevermore,” a vocal/bass duet with Ken Filiano whose stylish vocal seduction includes a famous Edgar Allen Poe reference. Speaking of “out there,” Wolper and her band totally freewheel it on the fully improvised “Cisluna,” which features all over the place percussion, soaring wordless vocals, and contributions by Lederer’s flute and Charlie Burnham’s violin (which is most effective elsewhere soloing on the beautiful country flavored ballad “Dog Day Afternoon.”

Wolper wraps with “The Winter of Our Content,” a lovely reflective coda to all the stylistic ping-ponging which quotes charmingly from Shakespeare. True to its peripatetic title concept, Wanderlust may not appeal to every jazz fan, but Wolper’s eloquent philosophy, so beautifully expressed in her liner notes, will. She writes, “Somewhere along the way I came to understand music as something that travels, a form of expression that zags and curves and unfolds in ways that may not be predictable or have a clearly discernible throughline, even as each step leads to the next step.” That sums up everything we need to know about why Wanderlust is such a fascinating and original work.



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