STRINGS THAT SWING…Akua Dixon: Akua’s Dance, Amelia Romano: New Perspectives

While the cello and harp are intermittently in jazz recordings, these two recent releases make us wonder why.

In her third album, Akua Dixon composes and arranges the music to accompany her melding of swing and strings. She teams with Russell Malone-Freddie Gryant/g, RonCarter-Kenny Davis/b and Victor Lewis/dr for a satisfying chamber jazz outing. The strings bounce in gentle canters and bass, guitar and cello work wonders as Malone weaves through the bows on “If My Heart Could Speak To You” and “Orion’s Gait.”  The hues get darker on the nimble lines of “Afrika! Afrika!” with the pulse reminiscent of a gallop as Carter creates a groove like a migration on the Serengeti. Dixon and Bryant bop with deliht on “Dizzy’s Smile” while there is humanlike agony expressed on the gospel honed “I’m Gonna Tell God All My Troubles” as Dixon sighs and adds the baritone violin for extra testimony. Excellent outing!

The electric harp is in good hads with Amelia Romano, mixing world and latin grooves in a luscious atmosphere. She has a folksy voice as well, and it fits well John Melinger/perc with the pulsating “Smile” and the honky tonking “It’s About Time.” Salsa flavors work well as the pizzicato strings and percussion slither on “Besame Much” and the delicate “Defying Gravity.” There’s some wonderful intimate moments as well, as she delivers a dreamy solo on “Nataliana” and sensitive duet with guitarist John H. Clarke on “Baroque Flamenco.” Worth stringing along!

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