REVIEW: Wendy Luck – See You In Rio

It would probably be an understatement to say that Wendy Luck is not a name that comes to mind when you think of Brazilian jazz. In fact, you probably wouldn’t think first of her when considering flutists or vocalists — but she’s very good at both skills, as she proves on her new album, See You In Rio.

This is Wendy’s third album and is a bit of a surprise, since her first two, The Ancient Journey and The Ancient Key, were filled with her own New Age compositions. But her rich background includes four years as the lead vocalist/flutist for the Rainbow Room Big Band, and also time playing alongside some pretty serious jazz artists, including Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, so she is capable of stretching herself musically. Additionally, the multi-talented lady has experience on the musical comedy front.

This time around Wendy has focused her attention on the music of Brazil, and has traveled to Rio for recording sessions with some of the best musicians around. In addition to the piano talents of album producer Cliff Korman, some of her collaborators include Kiko Freitas, Ney Conceio, and Nelson Faria.

She has a nice voice, and although she’s no Astrud Gilberto she does a decent job with the material here. But she does have at least one advantage over Astrud — she can supplement her singing with some outstanding flute play, and truth be told I probably preferred the tracks that were either mostly or wholly instrumental.

Among my favorites were “London Samba,” which gets things going via some outstanding percussion work feeding into Wendy’s soulful flute, and “Apanhei-Te, Cavaquinho,” a tune written by Ernesto Nazareth. It follows the same pattern of percussion leading to flute, but kicks it up a notch higher. One of the best on the album.

Although there are a number of songs from legendary Brazilian composers included, such as Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Fotografia,” (which was another good listen) Wendy has included a few surprises. A nice inclusion was Benny Carter’s “Only Trust Your Heart,” given a Brazilian treatment with some gorgeous guitar play accompanying Wendy’s sultry singing. This was probably my favorite from among all her vocalizations.

She’s also included one of her own compositions, “A Man Who Loves,” which shows the confidence that she has in herself, and it’s not a bad effort but I felt that her vocal phrasing was a little uneven. I guess that echoes my overall feeling for this album — a good effort and some really nice sounds, but occasionally disappointing.

(Clips available here and here.)

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