Alexa Tarantino, Clarity Review
by Ferell Aubre
Alexa Tarantino is a composer, soprano and alto saxophonist, and flute and alto flute player on the Posi-Tone Records label. She is releasing her second album on the label titled Clarity. Joining Tarantino is Steven Feifke – piano, Joe Martin – bass, and Rudy Royston – drums. With eight engaging tracks presented on the album, jazz fans will find many delights and musical adventure moments.
“Through” is a Tarantino original composition in which she clearly demonstrates her skills as a composer and performer. The modern jazz feel by Martin and Royston is colored by modal harmony. The chords are given a shifting figure by Feifke, as Tarantino plays the melody on the flute. The different sections are elevating and steadily brought to life by the quartet. Feifke’s solo has many bright moments. Tarantino is focused and relaxed as a soloist in front of the rhythm section that is interactive and supportive. Her musical message is filled with amazing moments of technicality and raw emotion.
The Latin standard “La Puerta” is given a warm playing with Tarantino on saxophone. Her tone is full as she plays the entire register of the alto. Never rushing to make her point, she keeps her musical ideas building in logical ways as she increases her intensity throughout the solo. There are distinct elements of be-bop in her playing and an understanding of the Latin rhythmic structure. She performs many emotional bends and register leaps that will inspire a smile from even the staunchest jazz listener. Her cadential cadenza is beautiful.
Tarantino continues to justify why she was named one of the “Top 5 Alto Saxophonists of 2019” by the JazzTimes Critics’ Poll. Her abilities on the saxophone and flute are complementary and give the album a varied sonic flow. Tarantino is setting herself on a trajectory to significantly influence the Latin jazz and jazz idiom. Time is on her side, and as her album catalog grows, so will her fan base and the jazz community’s understanding of her many talents.