Claire Ritter – The Stream of Pearls Project (2011)

There is a sensuous, lush quietude to this recording, which notes on the front that it was “inspired by water.” Ritter’s playing — trickling and ruminative one moment, bubbly and adventurous the next — certainly echoes the theme.

The Stream of Pearls Project, available for purchase through Ritter’s Web site, eventually encompasses trips she took from Boston’s Charles River (“The Beauty of the Stillness Overflowed Me Like a Tide,”) to the Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, from New Hampshire (“Bolero on the Charles”) to the Thousand Islands of Canada (“Blue Ridge in Watercolor”). It’s the 10th recording for Ritter as a leader, a sustained period of involving performances that dates back to 1988’s In Between with Dave Holland. Holland also appeared on Ritter’s 2001 release River of Joy.

This, however, is a different kind of record — not just contemplative, but almost new agey at times. The Charlotte, North Carolina native is joined by just the whisper of additional instrumentation, including Ashima Scripp’s swooning cello (a highlight of “Across the Gorge”), Richie Stearns’ chipper banjo, and the diaphanous work on the vibes by Jon Metzger (“Mustang Calypso”). That only adds to the ethereal mood making.

Now, there are certainly times when Ritter, who once studied privately with Mary Lou Williams, shows that she can swing, as on the rock-skipping “Catfish Shuffle,” one of four songs dedicated to Carolina ponds; and on “Skydune Mambo,” inspired by her time at Kitty Hawk. But, more often, Ritter falls into a kind of mesmerized reverie (as on the gently romantic “Sailing Pamlico”) — and then, just like that, you do too.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.