June 5, 2016
Reviewed by John Hoglund for Cabaret Scenes
If Luba Mason’s career becomes as big as her voice, she’s going to be selling a lot of CDs. The impressive vocalist has never shied away from taking chances in a career that has repeatedly triumphed in the lights of Broadway and Off-Broadway as well as cabaret.
Mixtura, a name she has trademarked and describes as… “a blend of different musical currents,” is a mostly Latin-sounding, bossa-flavored potpourri that mashes a wide range of jazz, pop, country and bossa nova rolled into this hot CD. She collaborates with several respected industry names, including Al Jarreau, Randy Brecker, Dori Caymmi, Flor de Tolache, Jimmy Haslip and Kenny Loggins. Always a big belter, her vocals are in top form here. It should be also be noted that her exceptional band couldn’t be better on lush arrangements. To her credit, surrounded by these stellar musicians, Mason holds her own and rises to the occasion on all fronts on this disc.
“Beautiful” (Michael Friedman) is a compelling, intricately arranged reggae-style novelty ditty about changes and choices (brilliantly arranged by Felipe Fournier). From Off-Broadway’s Pretty Filthy, she breezes through dicey subjects as varied as cancer, motherhood, the fast lane and porn as she notes, “I had a lot of ideals that I wanted to do.” In lesser hands, this might have been too maudlin. Here, Mason delves deep and offers an optimistic spin sans regret. This song stands out for its approach to life. Her in-depth reading hits the mark. A sedate “Moondance” (Van Morrison), gently sung in a smoky duet with the legendary Al Jarreau, swings with a bucolic and sexy twist (also arranged by Founier). “On The 4th of July” (James Taylor) is a driving melange of exciting guitar licks and fluid vocals in English with a Portuguese verse. It tells a tale of two souls sharing Independence Day: “Oh the smell of the smoke and the lay of the land/And the feeling of finding one’s heart in one’s hand/With the tiny tin voice of the radio playing, ‘Love must stand,/Love forever and ever must stand.” With additional vocals by Dori Caymmi, Xocoyotzin Moraza on requinto and Kenny Loggins on background vocals, this is another unexpected specialty.
Other highlights include Mason’s original “Hannah,” a trenchant tale about a twelve-year-old girl working in a factory who is abused at home: “Love was a peculiar kiss/And touch from Papa’s hand.” It is structured with heartfelt understanding. “All That Jazz” (Kander & Ebb) shows off Mason’s big belt. “Calm Before the Storm” (written by her husband Rubén Blades and the late Lou Reed and backed by the all-female Flor de Tolache Mariachi Band, with a beautiful arrangement by band member, violinist Mireya I. Ramos) is a winner, as is this classy album by a wonderful singer/songwriter with thrilling vocals.
Her band includes Musical Director Felipe Fournier (vibraphone/percussion), Rafael Rosa (electric & acoustic guitar), Dan Martinez (bass), Joel Mateo (drums) and Sara Caswell (violin).