Wednesday, March 07, 2018



On Suite Theory, composer and arranger Mica Bethea has turned a devastating, life altering accident into an inspired work of art. When he was just 21 years old, a car accident left him a quadriplegic, but his artistic drive and deep musicality remained unscathed.  This is Bethea’s third CD. His previous projects have established his reputation as a distinctive voice whose big band writing is infused with soulfulness and a satisfying complexity.  Although he’s drawn on personal experiences in his previous releases, Suite Theory is a thoroughly biographical project. It follows the arc of his life from before the accident until today.  Since this was going to be an extended composition, he decided to write it as a symphony in four movements with each movement corresponding to a period of his life. Although Bethea’s music is rooted in the big band genre, he has a voice that’s all his own. That’s largely because he writes for himself and doesn’t worry about categories or stylistic purity. His music is both fun and complex. It’s brimming with originality and technical sophistication.  Although his body is limited, his mind, heart, and artistic soul are flying free and unfettered in the musical cosmos. SOUNDCLOUD:


Deep sounds from Menagerie – a group led by funky genius Lance Ferguson, who's given us wonderful work in a variety of styles over the years – but who here has turned his talents to the world of spiritual jazz, which he takes on brilliantly with this excellent ensemble! Menagerie have a classic vibe that really lives up to the cover of the record – a style that's in that post-Coltrane moment when jazz groups were getting even more sophisticated with both their performance and sense of composition – really pushing the boundaries with new ideas, and a much larger vision in jazz. Lance plays guitar in the group, but the fuller energy comes from the tenor, alto, and soprano sax of Phillip Noy, as well as the trumpet of Ross Irwin, and use of piano and Fender Rhodes by Mark Fitzgibbon – all excellent players who can really hit the right sort of crescendo in spirit! The leadoff track has some great vocals, and all others are instrumental – nice and long, and very deep – with titles that include "Evolution", "The Arrow Of Time", "Escape Velocity", "Spiral", and "Nova". ~ Dusty Groove


Fire may well be on fire more than ever before here – which is saying a lot, given the trio's previous run of really amazing records! The set features lots of bold work on electric bass from Johan Berthling – who almost seems out to transform the avant jazz combo into some sort of heavy rock trio from the Brit scene of the early 70s – inspired clearly by all the fuzz and dark tones of that generation, which makes an amazing match for the reeds of Mats Gustafsson and drums of Anreas Werliin! There's this amazing freakout vibe here – almost as if the ESP generation of the late 60s had drunk deep from the brew of early Sabbath – then commenced to merge outside jazz and rock in ways that Albert Ayler or Archie Shepp never could have imagined. Mats blows tenor, baritone, and bass saxes – and also plays electronics – while Werliin controls some feedback on the performance, which certainly adds to its ferocity. Titles include "To Shave The Leaves In Red In Black", "Washing Your Heart In Filth", "Touches Me With The Tips Of Wonder", "The Hands", and "When Her Lips Collapsed". ~ Dusty Groove


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