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Local Grooves

Michael Bluestein

Wild World (Bootcake)

Combine the contemporary tendency toward eclectic musical repertoires that embrace everything from Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant with the urge of a hardworking sideman to express his qualities as a leader and you have the alchemy of intention behind Michael Bluestein's solo debut. The Bay Area keyboardist is one of those ubiquitous figures who crop up in myriad musical settings – he's played with psychedelic fusion band Mushroom, guitarist Will Bernard's funky Motherbug, electronic trio Wavelord (with loop and sample maestro jhno and drummer Eric Garland), and jazz-cabaret vocalist Jaqui Naylor.

Thus, not all that surprisingly, Bluestein's trio, with acoustic and electric bassist Jon Evans and drummer Jason Lewis, moves fluidly here from the pop of the Cat Stevens title track, Paul Simon's "Bridge over Troubled Water," Steely Dan's "Black Cow," and Led Zeppelin's "Ten Years Gone" to the standard "My Shining Hour," McCoy Tyner's driving "Effendi," and a half dozen originals that similarly reflect Bluestein's diversified portfolio of influences. Playing mostly acoustic piano but adding soulful touches of electric Fender Rhodes where it is sometimes least expected, Bluestein beguiles with a fine balance of chops and straight-ahead ideas. The Michael Bluestein Trio plays Mon/21, Yoshi's, Oakl. (510) 238-9200. (Derk Richardson)

 

Duck Baker and Jamie Findlay

Out of the Past (Day Job)

Although their sensibilities don't range so far into left field as those of, say, free pickers Derek Bailey and Henry Kaiser, baby boomer guitarists Duck Baker and Jamie Findlay bring a certain bent perspective to their treatments of 12 more or less mainstream jazz compositions. The album features such familiar tunes as "Take the 'A' Train," "In a Sentimental Mood," "All of Me," "The Jitterbug Waltz," and "Well, You Needn't," but you won't confuse these duets by L.A. veteran Findlay and longtime East Bay resident Baker for those of Herb Ellis and Joe Pass (who recorded one of the great straight-ahead jazz guitar duo albums, Two for the Road).

Findlay comes from a jazz background, and Baker is steeped in traditional folk music, ragtime, and swing, with forays into avant-garde improvisation. The slightly differing résumés converge in a shared finger-style approach, which provides a broad rhythmic and harmonic palette for sculpting and coloring these pithy musical vignettes. The crisp acoustic sound harks back to the pre-Charlie Christian era of jazz guitar, as in a piece like Jelly Roll Morton's "Wolverine Blues," but the rich panoplies of intertwining bass lines, lead runs, and inventive chord placements flesh out the freshness conveyed in the title of Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring" and bear out the Benny Golson title that gives the CD its name. Duck Baker and Jamie Findlay play Thurs/17, Freight and Salvage, Berk. (510) 548-1761. (Richardson)