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"Soul Express"



Talking about jazzy soul – or soulful jazz music, an album by a songstress named ME’NA, Living My Life (US Menasvision, 2006) is also worth checking. Just like the Liberty Silver CD, it’s a combination of standards (My Funny Valentine, Summertime, Down by the River) and new and more soul-oriented songs. Of the last mentioned, the title track is an impressive slice of mid-tempo soul with a real instrumentation, including tasty acoustic piano basis and some funky guitar playing.

Other tracks that should grab your attention include the ethereal, trumpet-flavoured (Joe Miller) ballad Deja View, the extremely stylish flute and piano-laced Journey Begins with You, the equally elegant ballad tune Home and the absolutely wonderful, sax-drenched ballad Stoopid. The swaying closing track Time is something you might expect from a future Ledisi album. If you’re into jazzy soul music like Fertile Ground and more recently The Five Corners Quintet and The Invisible Session, Me’na’s CD should be right up your alley!

Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express
editor

- Ismo Tenkanen


"Me'Na"

Ohio native Me’na’s debut CD, Living My Life, is a solid independent debut. Listening to the CD, one is easily transported to a non-smokey jazz club somewhere on the lower Eastside of Manhattan for one of those big city jazz moments. Fortunately for Me’na, the CD overall is better than the lead-in track, which begins with a somewhat sappy sounding minute-long soliloquy from her co-producer, Nathaniel Rhodes.

Standout moments on the CD are provided by ‘Home to Me,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Stoopid.” Me’na has a Jill Scott moment on the title cut, which is really one of the golden songs on this project. Me’na nails the popular Ira Gershwin written jazz standard ‘Summertime’, which really harkens back to Broadway’s Porgy and Bess and even gives you the feeling you have a playbill in your hands.

While Living My Life is richly and impeccably steeped in a straight ahead jazz tradition, it is sometimes handicapped by dated sounding spoken word pieces on songs such as ‘I of the Storm,’ the aforementioned title track, and ‘Later.’ In other instances, Living My Life is hampered by misfired delivery, as is the case on songs such as the Neil Young composition “Down by The River,” which begins strong, but begins to sonically fall apart in by the middle, and the final song of the CD, ‘Time,’ which does nothing to bolster some of the lackluster moments that precede it.

Overall, Living my Life is a CD that’s not made for everyone, which is a good thing. It’s certainly not made for the middle of the road jazz listener. Rather it is either, on one hand, for the casual jazz listener looking for some of that good ole fashion romance found in straight ahead inspired jazz, or the purist who believes that the 70’s fusion era, and the subsequent ‘smooth-jazz’ explosion (or implosion according to some) destroyed ‘real jazz.’ Living is a good listen, but not a great listen, with bright spots that are bright enough to warrant adding it to your collection. Many might argue that because there are four good songs on the CD that the CD is great. Bottom-line: If you love the music of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra, you might want to want to grab this CD. Just don’t look for any of them to come alive on it.

By Drake Phifer
- Soul Tracks.com


"Me’na :: Living My Life"

Me’na :: Living My Life

© & (p) 2006 Menasvision / Just Stand Still Music
12 tks / 62 mins
(Dave Baker, Robert Cunningham – g; Justine Chenault – fl; Glenn Holmes – ac.b; Phil Jones – p, keyb; Ken LeeGrand – saxes; Joe Miller – tp; Bill Ransom – dr, perc; Nathaniel Rhodes – back vov; Me’na – voc;)
диск предоставлен Menasvision

Певица из Огайо Мина весьма неординарно выглядит внешне, и столь же неординарное впечатление оставляет ее дебютный альбом. Его очень трудно пристроить на какую-то определенную стилистическую полочку. Две стихии, джаз и соул, переплетены здесь столь тесно, что отделить одну от другой чрезвычайно затруднительно.

Мина поет и стандарты (My Funny Valentine, Summertime, Down by the River), и песни, специально написанные для этого проекта ею же в сотрудничестве с продюсером Натаниэлем Родсом. Кливлендские продюсеры Родс и Дуглас Грин сыграли важнейшую роль в становлении творческого лица этой певицы. Именно они заметили незаурядный талант Мины и взяли ее под свою опеку. Грин безвременно ушел из жизни в 2004 году в возрасте 47 лет, и Мина посвятила свой фонографический дебют его памяти. Родс же очень активно работал над воплощением этого проекта в жизнь. Он не только стал одним из сопродюсеров альбома и соавтором ряда песен, но определил даже дизайн наряда Мины для фотографий на конверте и ее макияж для этих снимков.

Но вернемся к музыке. У певицы очень сильный и в то же время гибкий голос – сочетание многообещающее, и Мина извлекает из своих природных талантов максимум возможного. Ее необычная манера исполнения делает даже всем хорошо известную колыбельную братьев Гершвинов Summertime с трудом узнаваемой. Баллады, в том числе титульную Living My Life и очень эффектную Stoopid Мина поет в экстатичной манере, характерной для исполнителей соул и ритм-энд-блюз, а вот инструментальные аранжировки несколько ближе к джазу. В сопровождающем певицу ансамбле присутствует солидная группа духовых, придающая саунду особую интенсивность и выразительность. Если рецепт джаз плюс соул вам не противопоказан, то на альбом Living My Life, безусловно, стоит обратить внимание.


Леонид АУСКЕРН


© 2007 Jazz-Квадрат
- City Jazz


"Me'na-(Living My Life)"

Canton singer Me'na survived brain surgery and rediscovered her love of music, working in musical theater before recording her debut, Living My Life. Over an elastic, R&B funk riff on the title track, Me'na sings of her trials and inspirational rebirth. She collaborated with producer Nathaniel Rhodes on 7 of the 12 tracks, mostly soul- and blues-inflected originals with a cool cabaret vibe. She also lends her versatile vocals to excellent renditions of old standards "Summertime" and "My Funny Valentine." The album highlight is the sassy, infectious "P.I.A. (Plan in Action)," in which Me'na proclaims, "Most of my adult life, I've dealt with some funny-ass ways." You go, girl!

http://www.clevescene.com/Issues/2006-08-16/music/rbeat3.html - Chris Parker for clevescene.com


"Sonic Soul"

'Living My Life'
Mena




Die ganz besondere Empfehlung…und da sie aus der SonicSoul Abteilung kommt, steht selbstredend ein ganz eigener Umgang mit Soul und Jazz und Jazz und Soul im Fokus des musikalischen Geschehens – und zwar mit Tiefgang, nicht nur im Sound-Department, sondern auch in der von spirituellen Weisheiten durchdrungenen Wahl der Worte. Worte einer Dame, die es nach schweren Operationen wieder in den Mittelpunkt geschafft hat und die im kongenialen Zusammenspiel mit einem äußerst delikat arrangierten, überaus einheitlichen Sound-Gewand aus Jazz (vornehmlich..), Soul (in jedem Takt…), Blues (Leben, Lieben und Leiden…) und gar Rock (Neil Young…) zu einem ganz speziellen Erlebnis machen. Ohne jede Aufdringlichkeit (auch wenn Me´Na einen eher offensiven Vokal-Stil bevorzugt, den sie einst auf der Musical-Bühne verfeinern konnte) schleichen sich die ausgefeilt arrangierten Tunes tief in deine Seele - real serious music, nicht für den alltäglichen Fast-Sound-Konsum, sondern für die ganz private Wellness-Kur. Ein gewisser Nathaniel Rhodes zeichnet verantwortlich für das Gesamtkunstwerk Me`Na – Äusserlichkeiten wie „Hair, Make-Up, Haute-Couture“ wurden genauso von Herrn Rhodes designt, wie das semi-akustischen Sound-Kostüm aus diversen Gitarren, Pianos, Keys, Flöten, Saxofonen und Trompeten – durchgehend wohltuend unterstützt von einem omnipräsenten akustischem Bass und einem sanftmütigem Schlagwerk. Die Song-Auswahl von „Living My Life“ stützt sich auf bewährte Klassiker („My Funny Valentine“ und „Summertime“ aus dem All-American Songbook , sowie ausgerechnet Neil Young´s „Down By The River“ – allesamt überaus interessant und neuklingend überarbeitet) und filigrane Kompositionen aus der Schatzkiste des Herrn Rhodes, die im Zusammenspiel der Kräfte aus Musik und Stimme zu dem eingangs erwähnten besonderen Erlebnis werden.






25.11.2006 ~jms, jms@soulsite.de


- Joerg Michael Schmitt


"Me'Na"



Mena's living her life with a really wonderful groove -- one that's a bit jazzy at times, and always laidback and soulful -- with a depth and complexity that goes beyond just simple Neo Soul, and which marks the lady as one of the more sophisticated soul singers of her generation! A few tracks here are standards, but the best numbers are originals penned by Mena in collaboration with producer Nathaniel Rhodes -- who also sings backing vocals on the album, and really helps Mena find a great setting for her music. Backing is mostly small combo -- keyboards, bass, saxes, trumpet, and percussion -- cast out in a relaxed, almost spontaneous way that underscores some of the jazzier elements of the vocals. Titles include "Home 2 Me", "Later", "Living My Life", "Infinity", "I Of The Storm", "PIA", "Summertime", and "Journey Begins With You
- Dusty Grooves.com


"African American Earth Mother"

This is an awesome album.
I'm going to dispense with my usual "long winded review" in this case.
There is little explanation needed.
Either you "get it, or you don't".

To put it bluntly, Me'Na "Living My Life" puts on full display the type
of "African American Earth Mother" that singers like Erykah Badu, Jill
Scott and others will become after they grow up.

This album is laced with a combination of eroticism, spirituality and
wisdom that we thought Black people had completely given upon.

If albums could have a smell, this one would smell like a combination
of
incense, rose petals & collard greens. It's down home, yet
sophisticated
and bohemian all at the same time.

It's jazz, it's funk, it's rock, it's slow jams, it's kozmic, it's
amazing...

For example, remember the classic song "Down By The River" by the great
Buddy Miles?

Imagine if you will "Down By The River" performed with Donny Hathaway
on
keyboards, Carlos Santana on guitar and Ron Carter on bass, fronted by
a
female singer whose voice sounds like a cross between Nancy Wilson,
Marlena Shaw, Betty Davis and Lynn Collins.

Well you don't have to imagine anything, because on the album "Living
My
Life" by Me'Na you can actually hear a version of "Down by the River"
that sounds exactly like what I have described.

If that sounds like your cup of tea, do yourself a fava and pickup on
this album.
You won't be disappointed.
The vibe of this album is incredible and right at this moment, it's my
favorite album...

Bob Davis
soul-patrol.com - soul-patrol.com


Discography

LIVING MY LIFE--2006
RELAX--EP 2009

Photos

Bio

Me'na dubs Canton Ohio her home. An area steeped with tradition. With a host of eclectic entertainers hailing from the area. Walter Williams, James Ingram, Howard Hewitt, and Macy Gray. Just to have your name associated with these individuals is an achievement within itself. She temporarily put aside her musical aspirations and focused on raising her family. Me’na a power company executive was stricken with a rare congenital brain condition called A.V.M. she states “it was a bomb exploding in my head!” Surviving two brain surgeries, and a lengthy recovery. After the storm. She promised the Savior, to lift her voice in praise, and give God the glory!!

Me’na was introduced to a Cleveland based musical production team of the late Douglas Green, and Nathaniel Rhodes. The team took on the task of honing her Vocal, and acting abilities. The collaboration led to her debut at the prestigious Karamu Theater in “NO NIGGERS, NO JEWS, NO DOGS”. Her voice drove the productions soundtrack to great musical heights. She also did a stint as Anne Wiggins Brown in the musical “GERSHWIN BY GEORGE”. This operatic piece tested her abilities to its fullest. Which garnered critical acclaim!

Then the vocalist channeled all of her energies into the completion of her debut CD. With the aid of visionary Nathaniel Rhodes, and the exceptional Bill Ransom as producers. Who decided to go with the live acoustical sound. The journey had begun. “Living My Life” is a collection of songs that convey a wide range of emotions. From the sensual “I Of The Storm”. The poignant “Time”. Me’na penned the introspective title track “Living My Life”. The inspirational “Journey Begins With You”. The melancholy “Stooped” is about an unintelligent situation. Some well loved standards “Summertime”, “Down By The River”, and “My Funny Valentine”. Whether near a pulpit, or under concert lights. Her dedication is unparalleled. Realizing she is blessed! Angels have certainly set her free. Me’na is definitely “Living Her Life”. MENASVISION.COM/1-866-509-4654