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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mara And The Bitter Suite - Unspoken

Mara and the Bitter Suite – Unspoken
2012, Adam Waite & Mara Davi
Mara and the Bitter Suite plays on the combined talents of Broadway actress/singer Mara Davi and composer/conductor Adam Waite.  Davi has graced the stages of the Great White Way in productions of The Drowsy Chaperone, A Chorus Line and White Christmas.  You might also have seen her playing Bianca Sanfino in Blue Bloods.  Adam Waite is the Co-Artistic Director and Resident Conductor for Lyrica Chamber Music.  He’s worked with dozens of Broadway Casts as a musical supervisor, and serves as a Director for Broadway’s Carols For A Cure.  He’s also won several ASCAP awards for original compositions.  The Tonawanda, NY native has been lauded by the L.A. times for his work, and has performed on Good Morning America, as well as at New York’s Birdland and at the opening Gala for the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  The fact is that Mara Davi can flat out sing, and Adam Waite has an ability to craft arrangements that fit perfectly to her voice.

Unspoken unfurls with uncertain opening strains of "Solo", with a stumbling guitar walking Davi along. On the second pass things become more certain. It's a wonderfully artistic expression of finding oneself again on the other side of a relationship. The quiet strength that grows here is inspiring, wrapped as it is in an essential goodness that is palpable. "Playground Song" uses hand rhythms and the unfettered dreams of youth to sketch out a carpe diem vision of the future. The arrangement is a perfect mix of simplicity and complexity, with Davi's voice bridging that gap in precarious and pretty fashion.

"Walking Thru Water" is built on a contemplative melancholy vaguely reminiscent of early REM. The difference, of course, is Davi's gorgeous voice full of quiet accusations and even quieter hopes. This number ends in ethereal folk fashion, with voices layering and creating beautiful echoes that are both there and not there. "Hurricane" opens as part of an incessant if unobtrusive dance beat but turns into a new age pop number. This is relatively unsatisfying even in spite of Davi's voice.

"Clover And Clementine" finds Mara & The Bitter Suite at their very best in a song about personal heavens and perfect moments. The light, airy feel of the song is sweet, and you could imagine this being a surprise hit on commercial radio. On "Lighthouse", Mara and the Bitter Suite" delve into the lonely quiet of the heart of a woman whose love is at sea. Whether taken figuratively or literally this is a thing of beauty, and when Davi wails in her anguish toward the end, you can feel the unwinding of her heart strings plucking one by one.

"Unspoken" is about the strings of memory that tie old flames together. In this case it's a shared melody that will never mean anything to anyone but them. This quiet meditation is aesthetically lovely but carries a universal weight that is hard to ignore. On "Lay Your Battle Down", Davi offers up her edgiest vocal work of the album. The darkness here is underwritten with a gritty sort of hope, with beauty just a swipe of the hand away. Unspoken closes with "When I". If there has ever been such a thing as pure poetry on the form of a quiet pop song then this is it. Davi waxes poetic about movie stars such as Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. This is a tear jerker; a moment of utter aesthetic bliss brought to you by a flawless arrangement and the angelic voice of Mara Davi.
Mari Davi and Adam Waite would seem to be a perfect match, as evidenced by their collaborations on Mara And The Bitter Suite’s Unspoken.  There are perhaps a couple of slow moments but not a stumble is in evidence, and there’s a certain chemistry within the songs that speaks of connections that are deeply musical and bordering on spiritual.  Unspoken wants to be an alternative pop/rock experience, and manages to get there but relies on some artfully theatrical songwriting.  Davi handles all of this with the aplomb of a seasoned veteran of the stage, and a voice that stops people in their tracks.  All the while Waite is behind the curtain pulling the musical strings that back her up.  The result is a brilliant mix of talents and sounds.  Unspoken is well off the beaten path, and very much worth the detour.
Rating:  4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
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