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Jane Bunnett & Maqueque: Oddara

James Nadal By

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There has been a constant stimulating fascination associated with Cuba that has attracted numerous jazz musicians to delve deeper into its musical traditions. Also, judging by the amount of recent recordings by Cuban artists, and those who feature them in collaborative efforts, the island sustains its status as a vital source of inspiration on the global jazz scene. Cuba captivated saxophonist/flautist Jane Bunnett many years ago, eventually leading her to form the all-female group Maqueque in 2013, culminating in a well received, self-titled record the following year. Oddara expands upon the Afro-Cuban format established on the first record, and further exhibits the collective talent which comprises the group.

The clever utilization of upbeat vocal dynamics opens the set with "Little Feet," Bunnett entwining her soprano around the joyous chorus led by Melvis Santa, augmented by the deft violin work of Elizabeth Rodriguez. The light hearted direction continues on the "Dream," which takes a surprising turn into a Cuban son. The essential clave introduces the rumba oriented "El Chivo," Bunnett switching over to flute for a distinct charanga feel. Kudos on this track to pianist Danae Olano, who establishes her credentials as a formidable player with an expert grasp of the montuno, and percussionist Magdelys Savigne, a superb rumbera in her own right.

They slip into a modern groove on "25 New Moves," and as the surprise of the project, Leon Russell's classic "Song For You," is given a fresh atmospheric arrangement, courtesy of lead vocalist Dayme Arocena, and an inspiring vocal choir backing. "Power of Two," is a reflective study of Cuban Santeria, and the perennial danzon is realized on "La Flamenca Maria," immersed in traditional Spanish splendor and grace. This is a tale of a gypsy fortune teller, a mysterious woman with strange powers to predict the romantic future. The Caribbean syncopation of "Eulogy," has Bunnett stepping into the improvisational spotlight with her sax, as the vocals take it back to the streets of La Habana.

In the Santeria religion, the deity Eleggua, is one of the most powerful, recognized as the opener of doors and also as a trickster. "Trés Golpes -Pa Eleggua," is a three part mini-suite, which traverses the spiritual plane with determination in honor of this transcendent being. The rural roots of the folkloric changui rhythms dominate "Changui del Guaso," where pianist Olano again demonstrates her ability to propel the melody against the fierce vocal and percussion onslaught. The famous Cuban coffee "Café Pilon," is the subject of the final track, performed with street carnival flair and attitude, and with a strong dose of humor.

Though Jane Bunnett is obviously the leader, the ladies of Maqueque are a powerful ensemble which can play this music with the authority required. In Cuba, music is intrinsically connected with culture and heritage, the contagious rhythms and vocal incantations being a way of life celebrated with each performance. Bunnett has immersed herself into this phenomenon, and has put it on full display with this production, as the adventure continues.

Track Listing: Little Feet; Dream; El Chivo; 25 New Moves; Song For You; Power Of Two; La Flamenca Maria; Eulogy; Tres Golpes – Pa Eleggua; Changui del Guaso; Café Pilon.

Personnel: Jane Bunnett: flutes, soprano sax, whistling; Danae Olano: piano, vocals; Celia Jimenez: bass, vocals; Magdelys Savigne: percussion, vocals; Yissy Garcia: drums; Elizabeth Rodriguez: violin, vocals; Melvis Santa: vocals; Dayme Arocena: vocals.

Title: Oddara | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Linus Entertainment

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