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Album review: 'Play Doh'


Carmen Sandim

'Play Doh'

Ropeadope Records

If the title of pianist Carmen Sandim's new album, "Play Doh," suggests something malleable, it couldn't be more appropriate. Like the children's "clay," jazz begins with a structure, but it's up to the individual players to shape it, often spontaneously, into myriad forms. Sandim — who began piano studies in her native Brazil and holds degrees from Berklee College of Music and University of Colorado-Boulder — has used her skills composing for various media. Whether influenced by Brazilian music or contemporary forms, her tunes are all first-rate.

Sandim is a superb pianist, but her arrangements are designed to let everyone shine. Trumpeter Shane Endsley plays a soaring solo on the title tune, and trombonist Alex Heitlinger takes a colorful flight on "Aruru, Juju," while Bruce Williamson solos on several tunes on a variety of reed instruments. The album's most adventurous track, "Undergrowth," features Khabu Doug Young with a guitar solo that ventures far into the realm of electronic distortion. Throughout, bassist Bill McCrossen and drummer Dru Heller provide a strong foundation.