Many modern-day jazz vocalists have been known to touchdown in a few different locales over the course of an album, but few to none get their passports stamped in as many places as Allison Adams Tucker does on the aptly named WANDERlust. Tucker brings her multilingual brilliance and cultural savvy to the fore during this expertly planned travelogue.
Tucker's voice is a beautiful instrument - one that floats, flies, and seduces with its no-fuss delivery - and she makes great use of it here, never overselling or overreaching. It's rather impressive, but it impresses on its own terms. That's evident right off the bat when Tucker, all by her lonesome, kicks things off in compelling fashion on an old winner ("When In Rome"). Less than thirty seconds in, she's joined by several members of her dream team band - a crew whose full roster includes pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Scott Colley, drummer Antonio Sanchez, multi-reedist Chris Potter, percussionist Rogerio Boccato, and guitarists Romero Lubambo, Mike Moreno, and Stephane Wrembel. These musicians give Tucker's voice the red carpet treatment throughout while continually whisking her away to faraway places where she can speak the language, reflect on her passions, and absorb and refract the essence of different cultures.
The album continues with a trip to Argentina, as Tucker gives us an alluring take on Nuevo Tango (Astor Piazzola's "Vuelvo Al Sur"). Then there's a dip into modern American pop culture (Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years"), a stop in Brazil (Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Aguas De Marco"), an intimate and heartfelt nod to Italy (Ennio Morricone's "Cinema Paradiso") and a sensuous encounter with French chanson ("Sous Le Ciel De Paris"). The second half of the album proves to be equally broad-minded and worldly, with visits to Spain ("Mediterraneo"), Japan ("Takeda Lullaby"), and even Willy Wonka's factory ("Pure Imagination"). By the time Tucker wraps it all up with back-to-back covers from Bjork ("Wanderlust") and Pat Metheny ("Better Days Ahead"), the listener has come to expect the unexpected. That's the power that jazz and polygot programming can have when they're rolled into one.
WANDERlust clearly represents a quantum leap forward for Tucker. Much of that is, of course, due to her own hard work, but anybody with a good set of ears knows that a significant amount of credit should also go to these musicians and to producer Matt Pierson, a man who knows more than a thing or two about putting an album together the right way. And then there are the arrangers to acknowledge - Nelson, Lubambo, Moreno, Wrembel, and Danny Green. Their respective contributions, as different as they may be, are all endearing works that feed into the theme and serve Tucker well.