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Jane Bunnett: Embracing Voices

Embracing Voices isn’t the first album by Canadian saxophonist/flutist Jane Bunnett-nicknamed “Havana Jane” because of her deep passion for Cuban jazz and her fierce dedication to its preservation and presentation-to include vocalists. Nor would it be fair to call it her best work with voices, since that would diminish such achievements as 1994’s The Water Is Wide, featuring exceptional guest turns by Jeanne Lee and Sheila Jordan, or the towering presence of Ernesto Gatell on Ritmo + Soul in 2000, or the stunning contributions made to 2003’s Cuban Odyssey by Grupo Vocal Desandann.

The 10-member Desandann collective-five men and five women, based in Cuba but of Haitian descent-play an even larger role in Embracing Voices. Indeed, the luminous blend of their voices can be heard on all 12 tracks, a breathtaking spectrum that extends from the explosive joy of Bunnett’s own “Sway” (co-written with fellow Canadian Kellylee Evans, who takes vocal lead with august authority) to the gently rousing Haitian anthem “Wongolo” (a musical promise that the long-beleaguered nation will rise again), the Creole and French protest cry “Chen nan Ren” and composer and multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson’s “Egberto,” a bracingly beautiful homage to composer Egberto Gismonti that flows like a crystalline jungle stream, culminating with a delightfully honorific rendition of Sheila Jordan’s “The Only One” (again featuring the perspicacious Evans, who also contributed the Jordan-exalting lyric).

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