Jazz CD Reviews – March 2018

February 25, 2018

Mica Bethea Suite Theory (indie release)

This is composer-arranger Mica Bethea’s third album and it reinforces his growing stature as a leading contributor to contemporary big band jazz. Here, Mica has turned his talent to the creation of a profound musical portrait of his life. The first movement portrays his first two decades and is filled with promise. Entitled Crystal Clear, it is named for a long-time friend, Crystal Bay, who works with quadriplegics. By dark coincidence, following a road accident in 2005 Mica sustained injuries that rendered him quadriplegic and the second movement, Destiny’s Boat, traces the immediate aftermath. It is impossible for an outsider to imagine the effect of such catastrophic damage to a young and gifted multi-instrumentalist and his dawning realization that he can no longer play. During this period of his life, Mica was greatly helped by another friend, Destiny Guerra, hence the title. The third movement depicts the time when Mica began the arduous task of building his new life.zz The Mica Bethea Big Band Suite The title, Meniscus, refers to the curve on top of contained liquid, which can be either concave or convex and by implication suggests whether a glass is half full or half empty. The joyous rumba-based form makes clear that Mica’s view is decidedly positive. The fourth and final movement reflects Mica’s attitude toward himself and his location not only in place but also in time; that he is who he is and always will be. The title, Guardian of Forever, is taken from a Star Trek episode and refers to a time portal through which other dimensions might be visited. An alt take of the second movement is included because Mica did not want to lose the solo by alto saxophonist Todd Guidice. And by the way, the main title, Suite Theory, is a play on the name of Mica’s favorite bakery, Sweet Theory. Throughout, the music heard here demonstrates yet again that Mica Bethea brings a new, distinctive and exciting flavor to contemporary big band jazz.

For more on Mica Bethea, including booking, contact Mouthpiece Music.


Akira Tana Jazzanova (Vega)

Akira Tana is long established as a leading jazz drummer and noted for his work with bassist Rufus Reid in the duo TanaReid. Akira’s jazz credentials go back to his earliest days as a professional musician and coincident with this is his abiding love for the music of Latin America, especially the exhilarating rhythms of Brazil. Joining Akira on this album are pianist Peter Horvath, bassist Gary Brown and percussionist Michael Spiro and adding to the rich instrumental mixture heard are notable guests: soprano saxophonist Branford Marsalis and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, while Ricardo Peixo provides fluid arrangements and also contributes some guitar moments. JAZZaNOVA-coverImportant in much of the music of Brazil is its rhythmic underpinning and often romantic vocals. The first of these qualities stems from Akira who is a master of percussion. That second quality is provided by several singers who are gifted interpreters of this repertoire: Claudia Villela, Claudio Amaral, Maria Volanté, Jackie Ryan, Carla Helmbrecht and Sandy Cressman. For this release, Akira has chosen to perform examples of Brazil’s much loved contributions to popular music, several of the songs coming from composers Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ivan Lins and Elis Regina. These  include Águas de Março (Waters of March), Caminhos Cruzados (Crossroads), Bilhete, Corcovado, Love Dance, Por Causa De Você (Don’t Ever Go Away), Chega De Saudade (No More Blues) and La Gloria Eres Tu. There are also two original songs by Claudia Villela, Jangaga and Diride. The inherent romanticism of these songs is brought out superbly in these excellent interpretations. Lovely music, exceptionally well performed and warmly recommended.

For more on Akira Tana, including booking, contact Mouthpiece Music Mouthpiece Music.

All albums available at Amazon.


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