Ben Winkelman's fascinating trajectory has taken him from Australia to New York with a most stimulating detour through Cuba. With world-spanning roots spread over all those territories, his approach to the keys insistently leans bright and rhythmic, which is an absolute delight for listeners who enjoy their tropical sunshine with a hint of the tango.
A dose of Thelonious Monk gets the easy-swinging island treatment, and all-original remainder of Balance walks a fascinating line between breezy cool and wicked-sharp smarts. Obed Calvaire and Matt Penman deliver snappy flair on the rhythm front, as brisk and sharp as such well-built pieces demand. The complementary pair of bookends evoke the steady bounce of mass-transit busyness even in intriguingly odd time (further reinforced by the addictingly hot-to-trot "Wheels"); several others serve as colorful portraits of locales from Australia to Havana, while the quietly pretty highlight of "Santiago" paints a view of a cityscape full of lights on a warm spring evening.
Winkelman does indeed nail the theme of balance here: between exotic and familiar, sharp and playful, simple and multi-shaded (and many other characteristics besides). This whirlwind of a tour has enough life to encompass them all.