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Jamie Ousley: A Sea of Voices

Edward Blanco By

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Jamie Ousley is not only a renowned recording artist and producer, he is an educator by profession at Florida International University in Miami, and an environmentalist and person of deep, abiding faith. A Sea of Voices is the South Florida bassist's most humbling musical work to date, in essence a labor of love inspired by a commitment to the environment and his respect of religion. After a series of concerts performed in churches over the past few years, Ousley seeks to involve faith communities in a mission to care for the planet and, as such, has founded the non-profit Sunshine State Interfaith Power and Light organization, to which the net proceeds from this project are dedicated.

Reuniting with pianist Joe Davidian and drummer Austin McMahon—all also members of the Joe Davidian Trio since 2003, as well as former members and rhythm section for the University of Miami's Concert Jazz Band during their student days—the album provides a repertoire of gentle, rhythm-based music eschewing the hard sounds of trumpets and saxophones in favor of a traditional piano trio format for the most part. Pianist Gabriel Saientz guests on "Alfonsina" and Carlomagano Araya provides percussion on "Rocky Top" and "Swallowed in the Sea," while singer Nanami Morikawa is featured on the traditional "Shenandoah."

In choosing a theme for a concept album designed to benefit the environment, the bassist decided on water-inspired compositions, with a host of originals accompanying appropriately titled classic standards like "How Deep Is The Ocean," "Swallowed in the Sea" and "Alfonsina Y el Mar." The sea of light music begins on "Hymn of the Tides," continues with a delicate treatment of Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean," and follows with the smoking, Ousley-introduced "Steam." Morikawa delivers tender moments with her lyrical treatment of "Shenandoah," but it is the leader who surfaces, providing an inspired arco solo here and on "Swallowed in the Sea."

Elsewhere, tracks including "Rocky Top" and "Loving Beauty" include delicate solo moments from the bassist, affirming the instrument's pronounced role in the music. The album winds down on a spiritual note with "Holy Water," and closes on the Latin-tinged "Alfonsina Y el Mar." Ousley should be commended for his interest in the environment and dedication to faith. Whether A Sea of Voices translates into a financial windfall for his cause remains to be seen; that it succeeds in floating beautiful mellow music over a sea of calm waters is not in question, as the charming music of this well-intentioned endeavor surely attests.

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