The album contains 11 tracks. six of those tracks are her own originals and three are fascinating reimaginings of classic Jazz, Pop, and Brazilian tunes—all instantly recognizable and beloved. Elena’s originals are so well constructed and are, as one would imagine, perfect for her vocals and saxophones. She is an excellent composer, a splendid musician, and an enchanting vocalist.
The album opens with her original Hey Friend. The cool groove features great rhythms and cool guitars plus Elena’s sweet and soulful vocals. Scott Kinsey is featured on the Fender Rhodes and it all comes together in extraordinary fashion. Alexey Nikolaev adds his tenor sax on the piece. Great start.
Next is the Jazz classic Lover Man by Jimmy David, Roger Ramirez, and James Sherman. It was written for Billie Holiday but Elena makes it her own with a bit more sultriness. Guitarist Leonardo Amuedo carves out his own space with a fine approach and then there’s that cool Fender Rhodes from Kinsey. But those Elena vocals! So fine.
Then she really turns it on for the Jobim classic, Girl from Ipanema. I can’t get enough of that song and Elena’s vocals and sax double-down on the enjoyment of it. Plus, Elena tackles both the English and Portuguese lyrics flawlessly. Somewhere Jobim is grinning.
The title track, Feel Again, an Elena original, follows. Novak and Feraud are tight in the pocket on this one. Kinsey’s piano is understated but spot-on. Again, something about the Russian approach to vowels makes her vocals absolutely intoxicating. There is a slight bend to the enunciation and it fits perfectly with Jazz. A splendid track.
The big surprise comes with Lennon and McCartney’s And I Love Her. The instrumentals are warm and—dare I say—seductive with Amuedo’s guitar creating a haunting atmosphere. As much as I want to pay attention to Elena’s sax, it is her singing that just grabs you. Listen to the way she intones That’s all I do… and you’ll hear the ever-so-slight bend of do.
Weightless is the Elena original that is strictly instrumental. Her warm saxophone is perfectly paired with Darin Clendenin’s piano. The D’Vonne Lewis drums and Brad Dutz percussion are proof of the weightless aspect to the music. As the title suggests, it is effortless, unhurried, and so at ease.
It’s all Elena originals from here to the end and she knows how to keep you entranced with not only the performance but the compositions themselves. Autumn Rain is a melancholic, somewhat mournful, look at love’s departure. It is sweetly soulful with great piano from Kinsey. Feraud has cool passages on the bass, as well as Novak on drums. Beautiful soprano sax from Elena.
Chance changes directions in this upbeat look at freshly found love or, at least, infatuation. David Lange adds a cool accordion to the dancing and shifting rhythms and Elena’s fine alto sax. Sounds like a night in Paris.
The album closes with Like a Song. Oh, yeah. Bring on those Latin rhythms. The song features a trombone appearance by Dan Marcus and joyful flute from Katisse. The tune is marvelously celebratory and fulfills the first rule of performance—leave them wanting more.
Feel Again is a brilliant and eminently satisfying album from Elena Maque. A debut, yes, but seasoned with exposure to great music and experience with great musicians. But, seriously, I can’t get enough of her vocals.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl