Alexa Tarantino | Firefly Review
by Stamish Malcuss
Alexa Tarantino returns with her third release for Posi-Tone Records titled Firefly. Joining the award-winning young jazz saxophonist, woodwind doubler, composer, and educator are vibraphonist Behn Gillece, Art Hirahara on piano and Rhodes, Boris Kozlov on bass, and Rudy Royston on drums and percussion. Firefly is a mixture of original tunes from various band members and covers, with the set consisting of twelve songs.
The opening selection is an original composition by pianist Hirahara called “Spider’s Dance.” With a rubato intro, Tarantino’s warm saxophone has character and focus. The melody settles into a relaxed modern setting. Hirahara and Gillece both provide support and chordal colors. Over the past releases, Tarantino’s melodic development and maturity have grown to be a formidable force, and her solo on “Spider’s Dance” exemplifies this character. Gillece plays a melodic solo that has a robust harmonic outline. Hirahara delivers the most satisfying solo of the three, with energy, clarity, and melodic and harmonic adventure.
Wayne Shorter’s “Iris” is given a proper performance, with Tarantino again dazzling with her musical adventures and warm tone. Tarantino and Gillece are very interactive on this selection. Also, Kozlov’s and Royston’s supporting colors are deep and interactive. The ensemble plays as a unit, and each listens intently to allow the music to unfold naturally. The density of vibes and piano is seldom an issue, with both keeping out of the way and allowing for space.
Firefly is a new high for Tarantino as she exhibits more gloriously controlled power and tonal beauty. The original compositions on the album are intelligent, which allows the ensemble to perform with naturalness and flow. Overall, it is impossible not to love her; even though she still has room to move to an additional space of strength, it is always a delight to hear her performances. When it comes to Tarantino, I can’t wait to listen to what else she can do.