Talkin’ Broadway – Sound Advice, July 26, 2012
LUA HADAR with TWIST
LIKE A BRIDGE
Singing in seven—count ’em, seven—different languages, Lua Hadar’s rich voice and strong, commanding presence and overall musicality transcend language barriers quite well for those ready for some international flavor. We’re rather out of our usual show music/cabaret/standards pool here, but since we first came across the California-based chameleon in cabaret circles, I wanted to cover this. The vocalist has proven her versatility and comfort level with an ever-widening range of material even before this; her earlier work from her days as one-third of a “girl group” to a recent album showcasing her rich tones and full sound don’t make me overly surprised by Like a Bridge‘s variety. The album title is plucked from the opening number, Paul Simon’s classic “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which is sung in English in a room-filling, dramatic fashion that is as much balm as it is empowerment exercise with a vocal performance that somehow encompasses a deepest-toned early section to a lighter conversational phrasing to something that melds operatic stance and earth mother. And just when you think the accompaniment is insistent and mantra-like, it begins to float and loosen up. “Help me to be like a bridge,” she sings in a modification of the lyric as it concludes.
Lua’s voice has the kind of intensity, beauty and dignity that make understanding the words secondary to the overall mood feel and pure pleasure in listening to her magnetic power. As someone who gravitates to lyrics and sometimes focuses on them and their interpretation/the phrasing so very much, first and often foremost, it’s an almost guilty pleasure to switch gears when I don’t speak the tongue, and I can just let the sound wash over me. (Lyrics or translations are not included with this minimalist-packaging item.) Here, that sound wash includes not only the compelling confident vocals, but intriguing instrumental work that also has great variety and power from track to track. One of the ten tracks is an instrumental, Billy Strayhorn’s sinuous and haunting “Isfahan” from Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite. It’s a glorious jazz sojourn of well over five minutes. (I wonder why it was placed as the next-to-last cut instead of a midway breather/change of pace, but I don’t find myself desiring a break from the vocals.)
Those not born the day before yesterday and strictly brought up in a limited musical cave will probably recognize some familiar melodies. There’s Ravel’s Bolero with the love theme from the film La Strada, Debussy’s La Mer (which was the basis for the Bobby Darin hit, “Beyond the Sea” and here it’s combined with the not-listed-on-the CD French folk tune, “Sur le pont d’Avignon”), and a Japanese item that was a surprise pop hit some decades ago: “Sukiyaki.” This one is sung in both Japanese and English.
I’m also impressed with the Twist instrumentalists—especially the piano work of Lua’s returning musical director/arranger/pianist Jason Martineau, and Larry De La Cruz, who plays not only flute, but sax (alto, soprano and tenor). They’re joined by several other ear-catching musicians and Ian Dogole’s work with the less common instruments to American ears (dumbek an dudu, anyone?). Three “special guests” are listed without specifications as to what they play or on which tracks. Thinking biggish about the power of music, the universal language, perhaps the CD title can also, modestly, be like a Bridge connecting us to other cultures … and to the past. But it’s certainly beautiful and often hypnotic.