Born in New York, raised in Croatia, singer Thana Alexa delivers her debut album “Ode To Heroes”. Thana, who took voice lessons at the Rock Academy of Zagreb and later enrolled at the New School in New York, is paying tribute here to her influences, by either covering standards or by writing her own, distinguished material, like the wonderful, breezy “Ghost Hawk” with a sparkling solo by pianist Sergio Salvatore. The album was co-produced by drummer Antonio Sanchez who is also featured here throughout.
The album opens with a bass/drums/sax/vocal ad-lib on the title track where Thana is somehow reminiscent of the early Angela Bofill. Donny McCaslin is soon taking over with a rampant sax solo. He is sharing the sax duties on the album with Lenart Krecic who is also capable of fiery explosions here.
There is a lot of scatting going on here, like on the Wayne Shorter classic “Footprints”, and there is the Gretchen Parlato moment on “Groove Tune”, which is sort of a soulful, funky Jazz tune building into a vocalese climax. The song “Siena”, which was nominated for Best Jazz Composition at the Croatian Music Academy Awards, is a haunting ballad where Thana is stretching out a bit. For me, the scat singing is by far taking too much space here, like on the otherwise brilliant “In A Mode” or the Charles Mingus standard “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, backed by bass only where she seems to explore what is possible with her voice and what isn’t. Her version of Paul Desmond‘s “Take Five” doesn’t do it for me – it is technically diverse but there is too much going on there.
There is a very nice ballad where she is accompanied by piano only (“M’s Lullabye”) and the support of musicians like Scott Colley and Jorge Roeder on bass and Christos Rafalides on vibes is a big plus here. She is capable of writing intensive tunes like the album closer “You Are Not Alone” and hers is a sympathetic instrument waiting to be honed.