• Track Thana Alexa on Bandsintown


Label: Harmonia Mundi/Jazz Village
Available on iTunes | Amazon | CD Universe

Thana Alexa is a study in contrasts. She is a thoroughly contemporary individual living in the 21st century, yet she has an aspect that seems to harken back to a courtlier period. She’s definitely “one of the cats” (as we musicians say) and is a blast to hang out with. But at the very same time there is a quiet grace about her that belies her age or epoch. These contrasting elements don’t however cause a duality, but create a unified and nuanced whole, and quite a nice one at that. If art at its best is a reflection of the artist’s own nature, it is no surprise to also find.

If art at its best is a reflection of the artist’s own nature, it is no surprise to also find contrasting elements at work on Thana’s first release as a leader. Ode To Heroes is replete with intriguing juxtapositions; density / openness, simplicity / complexity, heartache / joy, light / darkness, etc. There are many examples of these contrasts on Ode To Heroes, one case in point being the bookend cuts of this album – the involved architecture of the title track and the easy accessibility of You Are Not Alone. In between is a wealth of music, showcasing an artist exploring a broad swath of stylistic, cultural and emotional terrain.

Throughout Ode To Heroes, Thana’s voice has dual roles, functioning at times as the vehicle for a song’s narrative and at others as a wordless instrument, negotiating difficult rhythms and intervallic jumps, whether improvised or written. Just as her aesthetic decisions as a vocalist are spot-on, so too are her instincts as an arranger. On her own compositions, she uses the ensemble imaginatively and to great effect. And on such pieces as Footprints and Take Five, she puts a unique spin on the work of the Masters, bringing new life to these well-worn songs. One thing I particularly enjoy about Alexa’s approach is that she constructs her arrangements so that there is room for the song to grow, to deepen, blossoming into something new by the end. It’s what makes listening to this recording such a nice ride.

Another thing that makes this CD so rewarding is the wonderful cast of musicians with whom Alexa collaborates here. The core group plays with fire and grace throughout, and each of the well chosen special guests enthral the listener with unique and beautiful contributions. Antonio Sanchez is a particularly vital presence on this recording, where his powerful musical identity is in evidence both at the drums and in his role as the project’s co-producer.

Thana Alexa is a welcome addition to the world of creative music. Technically superior, artistically engaged and emotionally awake, she shows us that she has the ability to connect head and heart. The results are a gift to us all.

- Joe Locke January 2014

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