The Bay Area music scene continues to spawn groundbreaking artists putting their own spin on genres from rock to folk and Latin music.
Kat Parra has been singing almost as long as she’s been walking and possesses a rich, expressive soprano that can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, to plagiarize a phrase. Her debut album, “Birds in Flight,” has just been issued by Patois Records, the label run by local jazz producer Wayne Wallace. Wallace also lent his arranging and producing expertise to the set.
The album is being marketed as Latin jazz, but it could just as easily find favor with lovers of world music. “Mais Que Nada,” a Jorge Ben tune, blends a samba melody with an Afro-Cuban percussion track, and drops a bit of hip-hop into the mix, courtesy of Pat Parra, the singer’s son. John Worley’s expansive trumpet lines and Parra’s serene vocals provide a nice contrast to the younger Parra’s rhythmic rapping.
“Alfonsina y el Mar” is based on the poem Alfonsina Storni left behind on the night she walked into the sea and drowned. Parra’s vocal vibrates with restrained passion; Anthony Blea’s weeping violin and the flamenco guitar work of Rick Vandivier add to the song’s desolate vibe. Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” gets a world music makeover with Parra’s dreamy vocals and the sparkling piano work of Murray Low.
Mission District instrumentalist Luz Flemming, who records as Luz Mob, recently moved to Brooklyn, but his sound owes much to the Latin music he grew up with. Most instrumental albums built on a dub reggae template tend to sound a bit generic. On “Luz Interpretations” (CrystalTop Music), Flemming avoids monotony by mashing up his beats with ska, jazz, funk and Latin rhythms including cumbia and bachata.
The mood is chilled out and down-tempo, but there are enough unexpected twists and turns in the mix to keep you on the edge of your seat. Flemming plays sax and clarinet while his band drops in piano, organ, booty bouncing bass and even accordion to keep things moving.
Michael Lindner has been rockin’ the Bay since the mid-’60s in bands like Mojo, Those Darn Accordions and the surf noir band The Aqua Velvets. His latest offering is “Cocktail Napkin,” a mostly instrumental album of widely divergent styles.
Faux marimba and shimmering surf guitar give “Martin Dennis,” a tribute to Martin Denny’s exotica, just the right touches of Far Eastern mystery. “Tremulux” is a dark, bass-heavy, spaghetti-western-meets-’60s, spy-movie piece of reverb-drenched nostalgia, while “8 Strings” blends thick, atmospheric drum’n’bass textures with wistful bouzouki-like guitar meditations.