Here’s an intriguing coincidence. I just finished the review of Anna Koroleva’s Antigravity yesterday, and today I went to the next piece of music on the review schedule, Feel Again from Elena Maque. These two contemporary jazz releases couldn’t sound more different–Antigravity is loose and edgy be-bop with a dash of free jazz, while Feel Again is more rooted in mainstream pop and jazz and has a more polished feel.
Where’s the coincidence? For starters, Elena Maque and Anna Koroleva are both from Russia. They both play sax and they both sing–although Koroleva’s vocals don’t appear on her latest album. I didn’t intend to schedule these two Russian saxophone players back to back, but here we are.
We’re trying to find some holiday-friendly jazz to play, and Feel Again has endlessly more potential for joy among your houseguests. Elena Maque combines both original songs and pop standards like “And I Love Her,” “The Girl From Ipanema” and “Lover Man,” and performs them with a calm and sultry manner–that’s both her voice and her sax. She’s surrounded by plenty of talent, by the way, including a large cast of guest musicians. But I paid particular attention to keyboardist Scott Kinsey’s presence–he worked with Somesh Mathur on his brilliant album Time Stood Still a few years ago.
Elena Maque does emerge as a genuine star here, one of those multi-talented performers who’s more of a crossover than I’m used to. But you can approach Feel Again from a jazz standpoint and find plenty to love–great sax solos, and Latin jazz rhythms that will get your holiday guests dancing. But I detect a more universal appeal here, so we should just trust her choices and hope that over the years she tries a little of everything–a sax trio, maybe, or a torch album with just her and Kinsey. From Just Feel, however, it feels like Elena Maque can do anything she wants.