Virtuoso bassist and superlative bandleader Mimi Jones' (AKA Miriam Sullivan) Balance is a delightful album filled with 79 minutes of engaging music. Despite the title, however, it is an unevenly structured work.
The edgy, dramatic "The Incy Wincy Spider" for instance completely deconstructs the children's rhyme into an intriguing, darkly hued and haunting piece. Jones' evocative vocals evolve over percussionist Shirazette Tinnin's angular beats, Jones' own plucked and bowed strings and keyboardist Miki Hayama's rolling sonic cascade. The ambience brightens a bit as Hayama and Jones take brief, witty and inventive solos.
The stimulating Jones original "The Edge of the Circle" reintroduces the mystical atmosphere with a lyrical touch. Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen's intricate and mellow improvisation meanders poetically over Hayama's magically crepuscular notes. Tinnin and drummer Justin Faulkner's interwoven and complex rumble frame Jones' lilting extemporization that is peppered with Levantine hints.
In contrast to these stand the soul-jazz workout of vibraphonist Roy Ayers' "Everybody Loves the Sunshine." Flutist Camille Thurman's twittering tone rises and falls over Tinnin's stormy percussion ushering in her R and B-ish vocal refrains that glide over smooth instrumental lines. Similarly the elegiac closer "Dream" (dedicated to the memory of recently departed pianist Shimrit Shoshan) is in a gospelish vein. The singer Mala Waldron enunciates the uplifting lyrics with emotive flair over the slow undulating rocking rhythms of the Jones, Hayama and Tinnin trio.
Elsewhere "Speedbump" is a traditional hard bop tune featuring Jones' loosely swinging bass, Jensen's blustery horn and pianist Luis Perdomo's mordant, tightly woven spontaneous creativity. Meanwhile, "Patriot" takes on a rock and roll shade with guitarist Martin Sewell's blistering phrases and Faulkner's machine gun drumming. Lastly a pop ballad "Someone Like You" is intensely mellifluous almost flirting with the saccharine. It is pianist Enoch Smith Jr.'s understated sophistication, guitarist Sean Harkness's incandescent steel strings and Jones' agile and thrillingly deft intermixing of yearning con-arco, reverberating pizzicato and breathy vocals that save the song from banality.
There is no doubt that Jones is a master of her instrument. She is also a superb vocalist, accomplished composer and arranger and a very versatile artist. Balance, however, contains within itself the raw motifs for a number of different records, each one with a unique flavor. Nevertheless, despite its stylistic incongruities it remains a very enjoyable and rewarding disc.
Nothing Like You; Traveler; Speedbump; The Incy Wincy Spider; The
Spinning Tree; Patriot; Someone Like You; To Be; The Edge of a Circle;
Everyone Loves Sunshine; Junk Funk; Dream.
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