• Track Thana Alexa on Bandsintown

CD Description

1. Ode to Heroes (Thana Alexa)
* Winner of the 2011 Alpe-Adria Composers Competition
My goal with “Ode to Heroes” was to conceptualize an original composition that would complement the arrangements that I wrote as tributes to specific artists on the record (i.e. Wayne Shorter, Charles Mingus, Paul Desmond). I wanted to embody how I have come to see, hear and breathe music as a vocalist with an instrumental mentality. The lyrics speak about letting go of writer’s block and vocal stereotypes, always challenging yourself and letting your heroes guide your inspiration. This was also the first experience I had composing with specific musicians in mind. I so clearly envisioned Antonio Sanchez and Donny McCaslin flying up, down, in and around the rhythms and melodies of this tune with my own compositional and physical voice leading the way.
Soloists: Donny McCaslin (tenor saxophone), Antonio Sanchez (drums)

2. Trace Back Your Footprints (Wayne Shorter/ Arranged by Thana Alexa)
Growing up in Croatia I was not exposed to a lot of Latin rhythms, so being in New York surrounded by different Latin-American cultures was a huge eye and ear opener. One day I was at home humming the melody of “Footprints” and realized I was singing along to the rhythm of my dishwasher (which happened to mimic a baião). I decided to create a mix of baião and back beat in 4/4 and to later break into an Afro-Cuban 6/8 groove where drums and voice would be left alone to solo together. I envisioned the “footprints” of my musical influences (namely Wayne Shorter in this case) leading me all over the world to new and exciting places. The shout chorus with voices and percussion at the end symbolizes a celebration – everyone on the record comes together to sing and celebrate the fact that we’ve made it here, to this place and time.
Soloists: Christos Rafalides (vibraphone), Thana Alexa (voice)

3. Ghost Hawk (Thana Alexa)
Most of the music on this record was composed and arranged after the heartbreaking passing of my brother, Niki. It was his energy, love of life and my need to connect with him on a higher plane that propelled a lot of my writing and creative process for this project. Although only this song is specifically about him on the record there is a strong sense of power and determination in all the songs that I like to think comes across as a result of his continuous guidance and influence on my life. The message I sought to convey (to myself, to my parents and to listeners) is to live life to the fullest. My brother lived more in his 21 years of life than most people do well into their old age. He taught me that life is worth living and life is worth loving. As the lyric states, “His love, his light, it will help me to grow old”. Niki’s energy and love for life will fuel the way I live mine forever.
Soloists: Sergio Salvatore (piano)

4. Groove Tune (Thana Alexa)
When writing the music for this project I felt that there needed to be a song in the middle of the record dedicated only to groove – hence the name. There are three major sections of this tune (the original groove in 4/4, the breaking away of a sax solo in 5/8 and then an electronic/ drum and bass style interlude with vocal layers and pads). Each section symbolizes a moment during the first time I met my fiancé for coffee. The lyrics speak about first looks, attraction, uncertainty, excitement and the feeling of meeting a kindred spirit for the first time.
Soloists: Sergio Salvatore (piano), Lenart Krečić (tenor saxophone)

5. Siena (Thana Alexa)
* Nominated for Croatia’s 2011 PORIN Award for “Best Jazz Composition”
The first trip I ever took with my fiancé was to Siena, Italy. We were at that beginning phase of a relationship where everything is so new and good that it almost scares you. The tendency is to ask too many questions and put labels on things and feelings that don’t need labeling in an attempt to predict the future. During our trip I found a piano and wrote this song one afternoon. It was my way of describing the unbelievable love I felt and showing my head how to join my heart in the “now”.
Soloists: Thana Alexa (voice), Sergio Salvatore (piano)

6. In A Mode (Thana Alexa)
I was extremely influenced by Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” and modal jazz when I wrote this tune. I chose to leave the melody without lyrics, because I wanted the harmony to act as the sole message.
Soloists: Sergio Salvatore (piano), Lenart Krečić (tenor saxophone)

7. When Evening Comes (Thana Alexa)
I call this my “contemplation song”. While composing I asked myself whether I had used my time wisely during that day/ week/ month, and wondered how I might use my time better tomorrow to improve myself as an artist and human being. I start with an open vocal solo over an Ab Harmonic Minor scale to incorporate the Balkan roots that are my musical foundation. I wanted to meditate on the idea of time through an a cappella intro and bring the rest of the band in to symbolize how the world must work together to find balance and rhythm.
Soloists: Thana Alexa (voice), Scott Colley (bass), Sergio Salvatore (piano)

8. The Wanderer (Charles Mingus/ Lyrics by Thana Alexa)
When I started college I was a psychology major at Northeastern University in Boston. Although I had been playing music since the age of four it took me a year of college to realize that music needed to be the focal point of my career, not just a hobby. I had to accept that there is no “supposed to” in life except for doing what makes you happy and fulfills your soul. In Boston I had one jazz class every week that would set my heart free. The first song we learned was “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” by Charles Minugs. Mingus’ melody, harmony and the solo played by John Handy spoke to me in such a powerful way that I felt compelled to write lyrics about the change that it brought out in me. This standard gave me the strength to pursue music as a career and is probably the most significant piece of music to have entered my life.
Soloists: Jorge Roeder (bass)

9. Take Five (Paul Desmond/ Arrangement by Thana Alexa)
This arrangement pays tribute to Paul Desmond, Dave Brubeck and Iola Brubeck. This well-known composition is originally in 5/4, but I thought it would be challenging and fun to add and subtract beats in different sections to create this arrangement without compromising the integrity of the composition. I also wrote an original melody and counter-melody to complement the bridge that I thought would provide it with a more contemporary sound.
Soloists: Lenart Krečić (tenor saxophone), Antonio Sanchez (drums)

10. M’s Lullaby (Thana Alexa)
Many jazz standards have a verse that precedes the actual song, but is oftentimes omitted and unknown by performers and listeners alike. Harmonically the verse can be very different from the body of the song, but can provide a very lyrical and symbolic introduction. This acts as the verse to the last song on the record.

11. You Are Not Alone (Thana Alexa)
Since I live in NYC and my parents live in Croatia it is difficult to see each other more than a few times a year, which can be very challenging, especially in times of struggle. During the period when I wrote this song our family had lost my brother and my mother was very ill. I wanted to assure her that I would always be there for her no matter what, but that she should never stop fighting, because I needed her by my side as well. Musically this song is extremely influenced by Pat Metheny’s writing. The song is very sectional and through composed, switches back and forth between time signatures, uses bass lines that give a sense of forward motion and the vocal layers build intensity with each section aiming to completely fill the listener’s mind with a strata of sounds.
Soloists: Sergio Salvatore (piano)

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