Beata Pater – Blue (B&B Records)
A follow-up to 2006’s Black, Polish vocalist Beata Pater’s Blue is a collaboration with pianist-composer Mark Little. Opening with an energetic take on Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue” and closing with Miles Davis and Bill Evans’ “Blue in Green,” nine of the remaining tunes are credited to Pater and/or Little. Pater isn’t singing lyrics on these recordings, but rather scatting with clarity and precision on both melody lines and solos. Blue, while always hovering near a contemporary jazz ambiance, covers a great deal of stylistic ground.
Blue is a highly inventive album with a variety of moods and textures. The intro to Little’s “West Wind” roars out of the gate, recalling David Bowie’s “Young Americans” thanks to the beefy sax of Mikole Kaar. “Southbound Train” opens with a duet between Pater and bassist Jon Evans before Kaar joins them on clarinet. The trio cast a smoothly melodic spell. Composed as an emotional response to Michael Jackson’s memorial service, written by Pater and Little as they watched the telecast, “The Little Prince” is a mournful piano ballad. “Fly Strip,” another Pater/Little composition, kicks a solid groove with a bold, funky sax solo by Darius Babazadeh. Loaded with memorable hooks, it’s a very accessible album.
“Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe…” So begins the liner notes for pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s FÉ … Faith. Regardless of your religious affiliation (or lack thereof), there is no denying the beauty of this lengthy solo piano album. Rubalcaba, playing mostly original pieces, captivates for long stretches with a virtuosic performance. If a bit of preachiness is enough to scare you off, just ignore the liner notes and absorb the playing.
As a nearly eighty-minute listening experience, dominated by very slow and meditative pieces, the album is most certainly not intended for casual listening. The emotional focal point is a trio of pieces, each inspired by one of Rubalcaba’s children: “Joan,” “Joao,” and “Yolanda Anas.” Each of these compositions begins with a relatively simple memorable melodic statement before exploring that melody comprehensively.
Two improvisatory pieces “based on Coltrane,” according to the liner notes, pick up the pace with a more traditional jazz approach. Two versions of Davis and Evans’ “Blue In Green” turn up, along with a pair of takes on Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma.” Clearly a very personal work, FÉ … Faith contains as much music as will fit on a single disc. As deeply felt as his playing is, Rubalcaba might have strengthened the album by tightening it. Maybe I just have too short of an attention span, but some of the sleepier passages seem a little indulgent.