For a long time now Jane Bunnett has been a champion of Cuban musicians and their music. What's more, she has several albums that showcase both. This time around, Bunnett expands her parameters to play folk music from several countries. Besides a core jazz band, she also includes a string quartet. Together they take the music beyond jazz to add lush orchestral textures, and at times a tad too much sweetening. This happens on "Heaven's Gate," where the quartet is not only treacly, but clutters the arrangement. But the many captivating moments make this another worthy album from Bunnett's canon.
One of the most remarkable transformations of theme occurs on "Nkosi Sikelel'i Africa" (South Africa's national anthem), where the hymnal quality floats translucently before the tempo gradually quickens, and then throbs, as the pulse of New Orleans beats in for a rousing finish. The edgy trumpet of Larry Cramer forms the welcome mat for "Maria La O." Bunnett gets to the core, at first with an easy flow and then cutting in with long, flinty notes that hone in on the melody. But shift is the key for her and her evolving strains give the song its sinew and its verve. The Penderecki String Quartet fits in perfectly on the classical wings of "She's Like a Swallow." They paint a pretty picture, but David Virelles' extra depth and dimension on the piano make the colours more permeable and resonant.
Track Listing: 1. Odira-E (7:24) 2. Red Dragonfly (aka Tombo) (5:46) 3. Heaven's Gate (5:59) 4. Black is the Color (4:47) 5. Witchi Tia To (5:42) 6. Maria La O (4:23) 7. She's Like a Swallow (7:04) 8. Rabo de Nube (4:32) 9. Divule Oni (4:31) 10. Nkosi Sikelel'i Africa (6:59) 11. Moon Over Ruined Castle (5:37) 12. Un Canadien Errant (4:27).
Personnel: Jane Bunnett, soprano sax; Larry Cramer, trumpet & flugelhorn; Mark McLean, drums; Kieran Overs, acoustic bass; David Virelles, piano; Penderecki String Quartet - Christine Vlajk, viola; Jerze Kaplanek, 1st violin; Jeremy Bell, 2nd violin; Simon Fryer, cello.