Jazz female vocalist albums send up all kinds of red flags. Too many seem to be about persona, or revisit standards that have been attended to a time or 20 too often. Sasha Masakowski’s Musical Playground is none of the above. She sings not as character in a musical, someone’s whose inner life is revealed as she sings. Instead, she approaches the songs as a musician, and her stylized warmth in “Afro Blue” is as much a decision as her deliberate, gliding take on “All or Nothing at All”—one that makes sense next to Nathan Lamberston’s scurrying bass and Paul Thibodeaux’s hip-hop drums.
Masakowski’s father Steve plays guitar on all but two tracks, but there’s no sense that he has any special standing in the uniformly excellent band. Her multi-tracked “Gentle Peace” (co-written with Kenny Wheeler) evokes the more ethereal, spiritual side of Pharoah Sanders, but the band’s just as assured in its spacey quality as it is in the bossa novas “Tierra Humeda” and “E Preciso Perdoar.” I’m not sure the world needs another “Summertime,” but at least she and the band resist the temptation to make the languid, languid-er.