Veteran jazz saxophonist/flutist Paul Messina released his latest album, Blue Fire this month through GVAP Music and Funky Paul’s Music Publishing. Messina’s seventh full-length studio recording, the eight song record will find the most appeal among his most devoted audiences. That is due in large part to its featured musical arrangements, which present a uniquely wide range of styles and sounds. They will be discussed shortly. While the arrangements form a strong foundation for the album, the lack of any background on the songs detracts from the record’s presentation to a point. This will be addressed a little later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make the album a presentation that most audiences will find is worth hearing at least once.
Blue Fire, the seventh studio recording from Paul Messina, is an intriguing new offering from the veteran jazz musician. Its interest comes in large part through its featured musical arrangements. The arrangements are of such note because of the variety that they exhibit in their sounds and stylistic approaches. Right off the bat, the album offers audiences an easy listening style composition a la Pat Metheny in ‘Thursday Morning Coffee.’ The subtle tones of Tommy Paes’ work on the guitar alongside Messina’s work on the saxophone and Ignacio Nunez’ work with the Latin percussion immediately draws that comparison. The subtle bass line of Mark R. Harris adds even more to that sense. The compliment of the horns to the mix gives the arrangement serves well to give the song even more of its own identity even with the Metheny comparison still there. The whole of the five minute-plus composition makes for a strong introduction to the album and just one example of what makes the album’s arrangements worth examining.
As the album progresses, Messina and company decidedly change things up in the likes of ‘Seven Smiles.’ The song, which also barely tops the five minute mark, comes across as a two-movement composition. The first movement is a light, smooth modern jazz composition. Soon after the song starts though (roughly a minute and a half into the song to be exact) a keyboard line — performed by Messina — is gradually incorporated into the composition. As the song progresses, the synthesizer becomes more prominent alongside a decidedly rock-oriented guitar line that conjures thoughts of early works from Emerson Lake & Palmer. The contrast of that part of the song to the composition’s first half (and the gradual progression from one to the other) makes the song another interesting addition to the album.
On a completely opposite note, the album’s title track/closer is another intriguing addition to the whole. The opening bars comes across as a sort of almost Renaissance style presentation. That portion of the song only lasts a short time though, before Messina and company transition into something more akin to a smooth jazz composition. Messina leads the way here on the sax, with his fellow musicians adding their own flare to the song along the way. The gentle use of the wind chimes and what almost sounds like a vibraphone pairs well with the richness of the hi-hat on the drumset and the bass to make for much of that flare. All things considered here, the whole proves itself to be yet another unique addition to the album, further proving the value of the album’s musical arrangements. When it and the other songs examined here are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes that value unquestionable.
While the musical arrangements that make up the body of Blue Fire are unquestionably important to the album’s presentation, the lack of any background on the songs in the record’s packaging detracts from the enjoyment that they ensure. Speaking more specifically, the packaging has no liner notes. On the surface this may seem like something minor, but in the bigger picture it is very important and has been addressed by this critic so many times. When it comes to instrumental music, titles only make for so much ability for audiences to connect with songs. Having actual explanations behind the songs enhances that connection and in turn helps audiences better appreciate songs. Not having that connection because of the noted lack of background will and does take away from the overall enjoyment. It is not enough to make the album a failure, but still detracts from the album’s presentation, regardless.
Knowing that the lack of background on the compositions is not enough to doom Messina’s new album, there is still one more item to address here. That item is the arrangements’ sequencing. The album starts off relaxed with its mid-tempo opener, but very quickly relaxes immediately after in ‘Jade.’ ‘Say Yes’ continues that relaxed mood before giving way to something funkier in ‘Red Star.’ The energy builds gradually until it climaxes in the Joe Satriani-esque ‘Above The Clouds.’ From there, Messina and company pull things back again in ‘Seven Smiles.’ From there, the album’s energy gradual pulls back again into the finale, closing out on a relaxed note to finish things off. Simply from, from start to end, the album’s energies rise and fall just enough and at just the right points. The resultant general effect is positive and will ensure listeners’ engagement and entertainment just as much as the record’s content. Keeping that in mind, the pairing of the content and its sequencing makes the record well worth hearing at least once. That is even with the lack of background on the songs in mind.
Blue Fire, the latest album from Paul Messina, is an interesting addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums. That is due in large part to the album’s featured arrangements. The arrangements are jazz, but also some prog-rock to a point. What’s more within themselves, they each display their own identities separate from one another. While the arrangements for a solid foundation for the record, the lack of any background on the songs detracts from the album’s listening experience to a point. It is not enough to doom the record, but is important to note. The arrangements’ sequencing rounds out its most important elements. That is because of the balance in the energies exhibited through this element. When it and the arrangements are considered together, they make the album in whole a presentation worth hearing at least once.
Blue Fire is available now through GVAPMusic and Funky Paul’s Music Publishing. More information on the album is available along with all of Messina’s latest news at:
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