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Mala Waldron: Always There

Ernest Barteldes By

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When you hear Mala Waldron's soulful voice on Always There, you realize that you are experiencing something very special, for Waldron is not only an accomplished vocalist and songwriter, but also a fine pianist who hits the keys with great precision, bringing various musical influences into the jazz realm.

On the romantic "Because of You," which speaks of the happiness that Waldron has encountered with a special someone, bassist Miriam Sullivan performs a beautiful solo halfway through and also provides a backbone when the tune drifts into more of a light reggae mode.

The title track goes into more soul/gospel territory as the singer shows uncertainty in her life, pleading for guidance from God, who is "always there." This time around, veteran guitarist Steve Salerno shows his chops, delivering a highly technical but also heartfelt solo. His riffs throughout the tune are the perfect backdrop for Waldron's sad lament.

The group delivers the album's only cover, The Doors' "Light My Fire," with a funky feel that goes into a more playful mode—Salerno's guitar sounds freer than in the other tracks, and even Waldron sounds more relaxed as she is relieved from carrying one of her own compositions. This is definitely a fun track to hear, and it does justice to the original.

Another welcome surprise is "Too Good For Words," a mostly instrumental piece which begins with an R&B feel but then quickly mutates into a modern jazz tune, giving a chance for Waldron to show her keyboard and scat skills. Kudos also for Steve Salerno, who performs a twisting guitar solo halfway through.

Listen also to "I Do Remember You," an acoustic tip of the hat to Jobim with a bossa nova groove. Drummer Michael "T.A." Thompson channels not only Dom-Um Romao (with some assistance from Jim Clouse) but also does his own take on Jobim with his subtle backing vocals.

Track Listing: Whispers in The Wind; Because of You; Always There; Too Good For words; I Do Remember You; Ellie; Why; Can't Stop Thinking About You; Light My Fire; Proud Lion; Maybe It's Not So.

Personnel: Mala Waldron: vocals, piano/keyboards; Miriam Sullivan: bass; Steve Salerno: guitars; Michael "T.A." Thompson: drums, background vocals; Jim Clouse: additional pecussion (track 5).

Title: Always There | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Soulful Sound

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