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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.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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