On her fifth CD as leader, Seattle-based pianist and vocalist Dawn Clement gives credence to the notion that good music often defies categorization. Ten songs, nine of which are duets, cover a broad range of musical genres, oft conveying several within a single tune.
Clement's vocals are as rural folksy as her piano playing is urban jazzy. The ballad standard "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," occurs during Clement's "mornin'" (she sings) when she's "countin' sheep." Her lazy diction only emphasizes the sheer sophistication of her instrumental prowess, as her syncopated piano stabs at chords and throws darts of clustered harmonies that hit only the most essential notes.
The opening "Blues for Wayne," with veteran trombonist Julian Priester, locks into a groove only after the Monk-ish intro seems to stumble randomly off a nearby ridge. "I Think of You" features finely tuned vocal harmonies with fellow Seattle resident Johnaye Kendrick. Saxophonist Mark Taylor plays in tight unison with the pianist on "Ablution," a terse and frantic melody played over the chord changes to "All the Things You Are" that was written by avant-garde pianist Lennie Tristano. Two songs later, the same duo waxes rhapsodic on a lovely ballad titled "Sugar Cliff." Taylor's fluid alto sounds as crisply Nordic as any ECM artist.
With stalwart drummer Matt Wilson, Clement takes Monk's "Bemsha Swing" into a grooving update of a New Orleans street parade. "My Ideal," a ballad recorded by trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker, is the only song here enlisting a bassist. Michael Glynn's upright is warm and woody, plumbing depths that speak contrarily to Clement's lucent, Blossom Dearie-like voice.
Clement's composition "Memory" is perhaps the album's most poignant musical statement. Kendrick's voice beautifully harmonizes with Clement's over a libretto that depicts the complexities of romance. "I love you/I hate you/I need you/Who are you?" she asks over piano accompaniment that morphs from consonant to dissonant, as life so often does.