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.