The innovative and versatile cellist Nioka Workman
leads the, New York based, dynamic ensemble Firey String Sistas, on the group's captivating sophomore album. The delightful That's What She Said...
consists of eight originals that explore various styles with a jazzy sensibility and thematically cohesive manner.
The tracks range from the soulful to the stately veering occasionally into Latin territory. "Adversidad" is a wistful, passionate melody that violinist Marlene Rice
plays over the hypnotic, sashaying beats of the band. Workman bows her strings with facility and grace endowing the music with a melancholic romanticism. Pianist Mala Waldron
follows with a refreshingly crisp and equally lyrical solo before Rice returns to the tune's head.
Rice's lilting phrases and her colleagues' loosely swinging rhythms create a melodic substrate for Waldron honeyed vocals on the emotive "Shine." The thumping cadence of bass and drum punctuate Rice's agile and stimulating flights of fancy that embrace Waldron's rich, warm voice.
Waldron's equally expressive pianism shines on the cinematic "Fantasy." The classically influenced composition features, at its core, Warldron's cascading lines and shimmering tones. Rice and Workman alternate intricate and mellifluous soliloquies over drummer Karina Colis
' splashing cymbals and bassist Melissa Slocum
evocative reverberating refrains.
On the whimsical "T'Ainchy Blues" Slocum takes center stage with a playful improvisation that dances around Colis' soft beats. The latter takes her turn in the spotlight with thrillingly thunderous polyrhythms. The song also showcases Rice's ardent and lithe acrobatics and Workman's superbly eloquent extemporization.
There are rare moments where the momentum slacks such as on the overly syrupy "Castles in the Sky." The disc, however, closes on a high note with the rousing and boppish "To the Holy Land." The elegant and stirring piece highlights the seamless camaraderie among the quintet members as each individual instrumental statement overlaps with another forming a highly satisfying and textured performance.That's What She Said...
is a charming and delectable work by five supremely talented musicians. It is simultaneously accessible and sophisticated, poignant and erudite and, as such, should have a wide appeal. It certainly whets the appetite for more to come from this exceptional collective.
Shine; Ellie; Adversidad; T'Ainchy Blues; Fantasy; Miss Lady; Castle In The Sky; To
The Holy Land.
Nioka Workman: cello; Marlene Rice: violin; Mala Waldron: piano, vocals; Melissa
Slocum: bass; Karina Colis: drums.