A little bit Outkast, Spearhead, Destiny’s Child, and classic Supremes, Nikki and Rich’s neo-oldies groove over strong, catchy beats and percussive, dance-hall piano. Nikki Leonti’s powerful lead vocals bring to mind Alicia Keys and Duffy, while Rich Skillz’s lush production powers the album, full of bouncy retro energy. Wistful piano figures on “Everything” and “Take the Lead” are highlights, as is the surprisingly tasteful use of synth strings and horns throughout. (Reprise, warnerbrosrecords.com)
Quartet San Francisco QSF Plays Brubeck
First, a disclaimer: There are no keyboards on this album. Now that that’s out of the way, QSF Plays Brubeck is still highly worth checking out for any keyboard aficionado, thanks to the group’s unpredictable arrangements of classic Dave Brubeck tracks — and the vivacious performances thereof. “The Golden Horn” is a prime example of how much variation QSF can pull out of the string quartet format; percussion, bass lines, harmonized melodies, and even simulated horn stabs emerge with a freshness and power that seem far too great to have come from the meager instrumentation of twin violins, viola, and cello. Paul Desmond’s quintessentially- Brubeck composition “Take Five” is also a highlight, featuring sinuously harmonized melodies over that unmistakable groove. An outstanding reinvention of a classic jazz piano hero’s work. (ViolinJazz Recordings, violinjazz.