Roxana Amed: Ontology
The question of how to build a compact disc with repertoire immersed deep in a metaphysical concept of the nature and relations of beings is comprehensively and eloquently answered by the Buenos Aires-born, Miami, Florida-based composer and vocalist Roxana Amed. The dry, one word title Ontology is transformed in dramatic manner by the fourteen evocative songs in this repertoire. And in doing so Miss Amed emerges as an artist of the first order. Her voice is gloriously dark, generous, big and beautifully controlled, and impeccably throughout its phenomenal range. This lends itself perfectly to the bittersweet nature of these songs, most – if not all – of which tie in with the metaphysical nature of this album.
Far from being philosophically remote, Roxana Amed lures you into her world; one in which she examines arrival and departure, hope and despair, sadness and joy by pouring her all into these pieces as if her life depended on it. This is the kind of deeply penetrative and meditative exploration of life’s pain and pleasure that you might find in works by Schubert or Gesualdo, for instance. Miss Amed’s work deals with many of those difficult and often impossibly bleak emotions that those classical composers also deal with in her very own, especially revelatory way.
One of the most impressive characteristics of Miss Amed’s musicianship is her ability to offer interpretative complexity with remarkable clarity. The sardonic bitterness of “Tumbleweed” for instance is pure genius. She uses traditional Argentinean forms – such as in “Chacarera para la mano izquierda” – making insightful and novel use of the dancing rhythms to explore alienation, which reaches its bitterest extreme in “Milonga por la ausencia”. And like Schubert’s Winterreise, you will find it impossible to distance yourself from the ache that she expresses in her songs; rather you are drawn to her pathos and elevated by her voice in its climactic, cathartic finales of the songs.
It is tempting to suggest that the apogee of this album is the two majestic interpretations of Alberto Ginastera’s work: “Danza de la moza donosa” and “Danza del viejo boyero”. The composer’s poetic evocations are brilliantly explored on both the charts. It’s here that Miss Amed gives wing to the original lyrics diving into the depths of her lustrous mezzo before soaring to impossibly lofty heights in a soprano register. But the whole record unfolds in a series of dramatic arcs ebbing and flowing as if by magic from one song to the next.
Her interpretation of Wayne Shorter’s composition “Virgo” may be the finest vocal interpretation of any song by the composer because she not only captures the celestial nature of the piece but evokes the very spirit of Mr Shorter throughout. By the end of the album – from the penultimate “Amor” to the use of a fearsome chest-voice on the bleak song “Winter” – Miss Amed pours her heart into grand soaring accounts of her own, most seductive songs. These are only some of the reasons to rejoice in the musicianship of Roxana Amed.
The group of musicians led by the incomparable pianist [and co-composer on several charts] Martin Bejerano, and including such prodigious musicians as saxophonist Mark Small, guitarists Tim Jago and Aaron Lebos, bassists Carlo De Rosa, Lowell Ringel and Edward Pérez, drummers Ludwig Afonso and Rodolfo Zúñiga, you have a masterful ensemble fully attuned to Miss Amed’s vision and artistry. All this makes for an album to die for.
22nd Annual Latin Grammy Awards Nominee · Best Latin Jazz/Jazz Album
Track list – 1: Tumbleweed; 2: Chacarera para la mano izquierda; 3: Peaceful; 4: Virgo; 5: Blue in Green [Sky and Sea]; 6: Last Happy Hour; 7: Milonga por la ausencia; 8: Ontology; 9: El regreso; 10: Danza de la moza donosa; 11: Danza del viejo boyero; 12: Goodbye, Rose St. 13: Amor; 14: Winter
Personnel – Roxana Amed: voice; Martin Bejerano: piano; Mark Small: saxophone [1 – 7, 7 – 9, 13]; Tim Jago: guitar [3, 5, 12]; Aaron Lebos: guitar [1, 13]; Edward Pérez: acoustic bass [1, 2, 6, 9]; Lowell Ringel: acoustic bass [3, 5, 12]; Carlo De Rosa: electric bass  and acoustic bass ; Rodolfo Zúñiga: drums [3, 5, 11, 12]; Ludwig Afonso: drums [1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 13]
Label – Sony Music – Latin 
Runtime – 1:13:24