Jane Bunnett & Maqueque – Oddara – Linus Ent.

Jane Bunnett & Maqueque – Oddara – Linus Ent., 270244, 53:51****:

Oddara is a surging, rhythmic, muscular offering.

(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; special guests: Melvis Santa – vocals; Dayme Arocena – vocals)

Canada’s ties to Cuba go back to the 18th Century, and the Canadian Government has maintained an Embassy in the country continuously since 1945 (unlike the U.S.). Cuba has been a favourite Canadian tourist destination for many years (and also Portland Unitarians), and thus jazz musician Jane Bunnett’s fascination with the Afro-Cuban music tradition is not some Johnny-come-lately affair. Her latest foray into the genre with her all-female band Maqueque is entitled Oddara and is a surging, rhythmic, and muscular offering.

Jane Bunnett’s accomplishments as a soprano saxophonist are well documented. The group of female musicians that she leads are primarily from Cuba, but spend significant amounts of time in Canada both recording and performing, when they are not on tour around the world in support of their music. In this release, the music has been penned, for the most part, by members of the group, starting with “Little Feet”. Guided by Bunnett’s swirling soprano sax, the band fills in support with a vocal chorus supplied by Melvis Santa, and some smart violin from Elizabeth Rodriguez.

“Dream” follows along in a rhumba mode with Bunnett laying down her lines with a flute, as pianist Olano adds her own touch to the number. The opening of “25 New Moves” has a piano riff from Danae Olano leading into a unison vocalese segment, all the while the rhythm section delivers a smart pulsing beat, over which Bunnett’s soprano sax dives and swoops. Leon Russell, a rather idiosyncratic figure – whose music crossed many styles and eras – wrote  “Song For You” which was one of his biggest hits. He died several days ago on November 13, 2016. Bunnett’s reading of the number is wonderfully evocative, with vocalist Dayme Arocena leading the way as Bunnett’s flute dances in the background.

Clearly Jane Bunnett has a deep understanding of the musical forces that are inherent in Afro-Cuban jazz and she harnesses them so that a musical story is told in the playing. For example in “La Flamenca Maria,” the underlying Spanish flamenco theme, is subtly present, as Bunnett’s flute draws the number together and the vocal story unfolds. In “Euology” the throbbing percussive feeling provides Bunnett the opportunity to use her soprano sax in an authoritative fashion. The musical dynamic that Jane Bunnett and her band have put together are grounded in a joyful, throbbing, harmonic expression.

TrackList: Little Feet; Dream; 25 New Moves; Song For You; Power Of Two; La Flamenca Maria; Eulogy; Trés Golpes – Pa Eleggua; Changui Del Guaso; Café Pilon

—Pierre Giroux

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