Cultures and musical styles resonate against one another and blend beautifully on Reverence (Columbia CK 85270; 47:59), a warm and often touching effort that should cement Richard Bona's reputation as one of the great talents of our time. The Cameroon-born composer does the bulk of the work here, arranging, producing, performing vocal gymnastics in his pure elastic tenor and playing the bulk of the instruments.
Bona sings native tales in their homeland language, Donala, setting them in a variety of musical styles that spin moods transcending language. While "Ngad'a Ndutu (Widow's Dance-Celebration of a New Life)" combines a big contemporary-jazz feel (with Michael Brecker on sax) with an African vocal chorale for a celebratory tone, "Laka Mba (Plea for Forgiveness With the Pride of Lions)" is a rhythmically twisting, staccato tale of strength and wherewithal featuring Bona's astounding guitar work. Other highlights include the orchestral "Suninga (When Will I Ever See You?)," with sadness and depth of emotion portrayed in deep-bowed strings as well as Bona's vocal, and "Reverence (The Story of a Miracle)," a sweeping, swinging jazzy piece marked by Pat Metheny's delicate, tender guitar work.