Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » The Mica Bethea Big Band: Suite Theory


The Mica Bethea Big Band: Suite Theory


Sign in to view read count
The Mica Bethea Big Band: Suite Theory
In 2005 Mica Bethea was studying music at the University of Northern Florida when he was involved in a serious traffic accident that left him a quadriplegic. That ended his being able to play any musical instruments so instead he threw his energies into learning composition and arrangement. He has released two previous albums of music by his big band but this one contains his most autobiographical work, a suite dealing with his life before and after the accident.

Despite the potentially grim subject matter there is no real feeling of tragedy or sadness in this music. Bethea writes hard-swinging charts that burst with life and optimism. The opening section, "Crystal Clear," about his life before paralysis, has a particularly carefree, strolling sound. The frisky melody bounces from section to section and there are several bubbly solos laid down along the way by trumpeter Ray Callendar, trombonist Michael Dease and saxophonist Juan Carlos Rollan. The closest thing to a melancholy mood in the set comes on "Destiny's Boat," a slow ballad that has wary, minor key harmonies reminiscent of Quincy Jones' and Oliver Nelson's soundtrack work, and a gently ascending guitar and sax melody line. The piece also features billowing guitar octaves by James Hogan and a rich and thoughtful tenor sax solo by Todd DelGuidice.

"Meniscus" displays a surging massed sound worked into dancing Cuban rhythms laced with electric piano that again shows Bethea's ability to use brass and reed interplay effectively and gives Joshua Bowlus a chance to work out on the Fender Rhodes. "Guardian Of Forever" injects Bethea's affection for both the grooving and spacey sides of Herbie Hancock's 70's music with a combination of wah- wahing electric piano and intricate but funky horn riffs that give off an outer space vibe worthy of a vintage Star Trek episode. The composition also makes room for Daniel Dickinson's lyrical soprano sax solo and Hogan blazing on cranked up rock guitar. That is the end of the suite but the CD ends with an alternate take of "Destiny's Boat" featuring a second tenor solo by Todd DelGuidice that has a sharper, more virtuostic edge than the one on the main take.

This CD further shows that Mica Bethea is a talented big band composer who is shaping a distinctive identity. This suite, telling his personal story of perseverance and gratitude at being alive and able to create, contains some of his best and most original work to date.

Track Listing

Crystal Clear; Destiny's Boat; Meniscus; Guardian Of Forever; Destiny's Boat (alternate take).


Mica Bethea
composer / conductor

Greg Balut, Dave Champagne, Daniel Rollan, Ray Callendar: trumpet; Michael Dease, Diego Herrada "de la Vega" Ventura, Lance Reed: trombone; Gina "Badeeduh" Benalcazar: bass trombone; Todd DelGiudice: alto sax, tenor sax, soprano sax, flute; Daniel Dickinson: alto sax, soprano sax, flute; Juan Carlos Rollan: tenor sax, alto sax, flute; Jose Rojas: tenor sax, alto sax, clarinet; Seth Ebersole: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Josh Bowlus: piano, Fender Rhodes; James Hogan: guitar; Dennis Marks: bass; John Lumpkin Jr: drums; Terry "Doc" Handy, percussion.

Album information

Title: Suite Theory | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced

< Previous
No World Between Us



For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.


Billy Marrows and Grande Família
Cadair Idris
Awen Ensemble
DDG19 Big Band
Dani Gurgel


Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.