Mayita Dinos had been singing for years before releasing her debut album the Garden Is My Stage in May. Born in Puerto Rico, raised in Queens, and having been exposed to the music of Spain, Greece and Turkey, Dinos has worked with Los Angeles jazz legend Howlett Smith and recording artist Cathy Segal Garcia. However, she also pursued a decades-long career as a landscape designer, and this extraordinary collection unites her twin loves of singing and the natural world in a fragrant combination of 13 songs by such diverse writers as Charlie Parker, Stevie Wonder, Syreeta Wright, Thelonious Monk, Joni Mitchell and Phil Spector, as well as Dinos herself.
The album opens on the lazy, Latin-tinged Ornithology (Parker), which is transformed by Dinos’s lyrics and the interplay between Rich Eames’s piano and Alex Budman’s flute and sax. The tempo then slows for a low-key reading of Wonder and Wright’s Come Back As A Flower, featuring tasteful guitar fills from Dori Amarilio, while Monk’s tribute to his patron Pannonica de Koenigswarter takes on a bluesy but delicate tone, showing off Eames’s and Amarilio’s skills to great advantage.
Mitchell’s Woodstock is given a unique Latin arrangement, eschewing both the rock edge of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and the saccharine of Matthew’s Southern Comfort, as perfectly synced keyboards and organ lend a cool canvas to fine guitar work and engaging vocals. The 1930s classic Lullaby Of The Leaves by Joe Young and Queen of Tin Pan Alley Bernice Petkere features a gentle, shuffling rhythm and resonant bass lines from Steve Hass and Gabe Davis, and Uruguayan musician Jorge Drexler’s Un País Con El Nombre De Un Rio offers a lovely Spanish language journey, the singer’s voice alternately authoritative and gentle. This is the album’s standout song.
The remaining numbers, all connected to the natural world, are equally pleasing, highlights being an unusual take on Spector and Jerry Lieber’s Spanish Harlem, which uses minor keys and Michael Hunter’s subtle trumpet to great effect, Dinos again adding a Spanish language element; poet Federico García Lorca’s La Lola, featuring a melody by Dinos; and the gentle closer Aqua De Beber, which concludes with a fast, jazzy horn and vocal refrain.
This album comes highly recommended, its expert musicianship forming the perfect backdrop to Mayita Dinos’s warm, luxuriant and understated vocals, and would make a fine addition to any soft jazz collection.
Ornithology; Come Back As A Flower; Pannonica; Woodstock; Lullaby Of The Leaves; Un Pais Con El Nombre De Un Rio; Little Sunflower; Double Rainbow; La Lola; A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing; Spanish Harlem; Willow Weep For Me; Agua De Beber (53.44)
Dinos (v); Bill Cantos (p); Rich Eames (p on 1, 12); Gabe Davis (b); Hussain Jiffrey (elb on 7, 13); Dori Amarilio (g); Michael Hunter (t, flh); Alex Budman (f, cl, s); Steve Hass (d); Tiki Passilas (d, pc). Pasadena, California, 2020.
Dash Hoffman DHS 1025