Jazz Ventures (Pure Communications)
Betty Liste's new Jazz Ventures - following 2006's ace Pensive Moments - finds the persuasive pianist and composer investigating a stellar program of pop classics, gems from the jazz repertoire and originals with gusto and emotion. The New Jersey native - a regular at the Stony Hill Inn in Hackensack and Trumpet's Jazz Club in Montclair - here teams with a handful of top Garden State jazz artists: bassists Steve Freeman, Bob Funesti, Kevin McCarthy, and Rick Crane; drummers Tom Baker, Billy Hart, Rich DeRosa, and Greg Searvance; and vocalist Bill Robinson. "Willow Weep for Me" has a bubbling samba groove and features Baker's drums and Betty's flowing piano lines. Her gift for chordal melody enlivens Monk's "Well, You Needn't," which also boasts a percolating Latin beat, this one centered by Freeman's catchy bass contribution. Freddie Hubbard's endearing jazz waltz, "Up Jumped Spring," has buoyant, melodically-rich piano; likewise, the Benny Golson favorite, "Along Came Betty." "Jazz Waltz" is a choice Liste original with a deft theme and engaging improv. And there's "East of the Sun," just one number that displays Liste's vibrant swing feel. On "I Could Write a Book," "How Insensitive," "Our Day Will Come," and "Night and Day," Robinson's glowing tenor-baritone lights up the proceedings. All in all, the music is warm and spirited, just like Betty Liste herself. -- Zan Stewart.