Complete, total improvisation is not everyone's cup of Earl Grey -- not even to experienced improvisers, who (if they have any humility or self-awareness) realize that it doesn't always work. Of course, there are times when it does work wondrously: the right performers at the right time(s) in their respective psyches and/or karmas. Dreamtales is clearly in the latter category. Singer Claudia Villela is from Brazil, and she commingles the varied approaches endemic to jazz, film music and the various sounds of Brazil so thoroughly and organically it's hard to tell where one leaves off and another begins. Pianist Kenny Werner is one of those so-consistently-good-mainly-mainstream cats that it's easy to take him for granted -- his resume includes recordings with Mingus, Mel Lewis, Joe Lovano, Jane Ira Bloom and Lee Konitz. Here, they improvise in the studio -- but where some similar projects slide into making-sounds-for-its-own sake/screw the listener self-indulgence, Dreamtales is not only eminently listenable, it's frequently fascinating and exhilarating -- Villela sings words and wordlessly, making with clicks and sighs in a manner recalling the late great Jeanne Lee, and Werner, who is well-nigh unfailingly lyrical anyway, draws on his experience backing singers (Betty Buckley, Roseanna Vitro), meaning he knows when to wax schmaltzy, when to lay back and let the "silences" do the talking, when to Get Rhythm. Both approach free improv as a means to an end, rather than the end in itself, and that's a big part of why this is such a beautiful set. I say: 3 thumbs up!
Artist / Group Name:Claudia Villela with Kenny Werner