Miho Wada: Para Ti (2011)
Good things can indeed come in small packages. Flutist Miho Wada's Para Ti, for example, clocks in at just a hair over 20 minutes, with five melodic and catchy songs that manage to combine sharp musicianship with a sense of whimsy and fun.
Para Ti was issued as a companion piece to a Wada's PLAY M!HO, a musical score book geared towards teaching jazz and improvisation to children. The music here is serious but does not seem to take itself overly so.
The album opens with the bouncy, pop-ish "Bailamos," which translates appropriately enough into "We Dance." With a galloping rhythm to play over, Wada trades lines with the violinists Pascal Roggen and Claire Macfarlane. Despite the Spanish title, "Bailamos" might be the least overtly Latin-sounding performance on the EP and if it is at all out of place stylistically, the joy it exudes makes it a worthy inclusion nonetheless.
Cellist James Donaldson opens the next piece, "Fancy Tango." Wada combines both Cuban and Eastern-leaning melody lines into her solos. Percolating percussion work from Alistair Deverick and Tala Niko, plus some sinister piano from Takumi Motokawa, keep this one charging along. If this is a slightly typical take on a jazz tango, it is no less enjoyable for being so.
The show tune-esque "Welcome Home" is noteworthy for Wada's arrangement. Here she makes strong use of what she calls "Miho's Jazz Orchestra," which includes a variety of winds, reeds and strings. Clarinetist Mark Dennison and Motokawa are the featured soloists and their contributions are as able and perky as anything else on this record. The string and horn work fits perfectly.
"Cats Out" has a Henry Mancini vibe. Latin but lounge-y, with some terrific interplay between Wada, Motokawa, Dennison, French Horn and trumpet player Dillon Mayhew and the violinists.
The record closes with "Los Dos," the most ambitious and serious track of the set. Strongest in terms of Wada's composition as well as her band's execution, it is a fitting piece with which to close, providing deeper insight into Wada's capabilities.
Track Listing: Bailamos; Fancy Tango; Welcome Home; Cats Out; Los Dos.
Personnel: Miho Wada: flute, alto saxophone; Pascal Roggen: violin, electric violin; Lee Corson: bass guitar; Takumi Motokawa: piano; Dillon Mayhew: French Horn, trumpet; James Donaldson: cellos; Mark Dennison: clarinet, tenor & baritone saxophones; Clarie Macfarlane: violins; Andrew Rudolf: guitar; Alistair Deverick: drums, percussion; Tala Niko: conga, percussion.
Record Label: Florestar