Red is the third album in jazz singer Beata Pater’s color series. Beginning in 2006 with Black, she (in collaboration with pianist/composer Mark Little) put together a set of familiar standards, songs like “Moon River,” “September in the Rain,” and “Summer Wind,” with what her website calls “modern, edgy interpretations” rooted in traditional jazz, “displaying her rhythmic acuity and fine tuned control of tonality.” “Control” is the key. Pater is a singer who understands how to control her voice for optimum effect.
Blue, which followed, was a collection of mostly original material, but building on the vocal control she had demonstrated in the Black album. She spurns lyrics and plays her voice like a musical instrument. It is a tour de force performance that goes beyond scat singing and takes vocalese to another level. It is the pure emotion of the music free from the tyranny of the word. This is the new direction of her music and it is the direction she continues to explore in Red.
I’m not sure how literally listeners are meant to apply the album titles. Certainly there are songs like “Afro Blue” and “Blue in Green” on Blue and “Big Red” and “Red Clay” on the new album, but if there is a central connection between all the tracks on the albums related to the color, I can’t say I have any idea what it is. Talking about the second album, Pater says “I want these CDs to not just be a series of tunes but to flow like a suite so listeners can listen to the whole CD in one setting.” Perhaps I’m being too literal, but this doesn’t help to explain the relationship between the musical choices and the titles.
On the other hand, if the music is great, what difference does it make? And there is some excellent music on all three of these albums. Of the dozen tracks on Red, only three are from composers other than Pater and Little, either individually or together. The album opens with Herbie Hancock’s “Butterfly,” which gives listeners a good indication of what’s on tap for the rest of the album. If you like what you hear, you’re in for a treat. The other covers are the interesting “Bachnova” from Polish composer Marek Balata and Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay.”
Of the original material, highlights include Pater’s “Bis,” a down and dirty gem which shows a wilder side of the singer and features some nice solo work from Darius Babazadeh on sax, guitarist Carl Lockett, and Little on keys. The Latin rhythms of “Ahmar” are infectious and Babazadeh adds some nice texture with his solo on the sax and flute. There is a haunting Afro beat on Mark Little’s “Praise” where the singer is joined by Kush Khanna on tabula, Ranzel Merritt on drums, Tom Peron on trumpet, and Buca Necak on contrabass. “Rainy Bombay” has the Indian vibe indicated by the title, providing another twist. “Big Red” features a truly impressive keyboard solo from Little and some as well as some nice vocal harmonies from Pater.
Beata Pater is an original. Red is not an album you want to read about, Red is an album you have to hear.