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Akira Tana: Secret Agent Men

Session drummer Akira Tana visits themes from classic spy movies and TV shows on Secret Agent Men (Sons of Sound), his American debut as a leader. Kinda kitschy, you say? Well, maybe the CD artwork is, but the performances aren’t. Tana and his outstanding ensemble-bassist Rufus Reid, guitarist Rodney Jones, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, saxophonist Bob Kenmotsu and percussionist Chuggy Carter-mine the improvisational possibilities in these familiar tunes. The group reimagines Charles Gounod’s “Funeral March of the Marionette” (known by many and billed here as the “Alfred Hitchcock Theme”) as an upbeat, swinging number that morphs into a spirited jam featuring some delightfully crunchy B-3 from Smith. Their take on Sting and Eric Clapton’s ballad “It’s Probably Me,” from Lethal Weapon 3, features some nice interplay between Kenmotsu’s melodic sax and Jones’ spiky guitar. The album also includes several originals billed as themes from a fictitious film called Tough Guys. The good-humored “Struttin’ About” has plenty of spring in its step, while Tana’s driving drums and clashing cymbals impel Jones’ guitar and Kenmotsu’s sax “sirens” on the urgent closer, “Chase Game.”

Originally Published