Long-awaited jazz by Ed Maina: “In the Company of Brothers”

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Ed Maina uses his strengths as a multi-instrument performer to create songs that stand out in the realm of contemporary jazz.

Introduction to Ed Maina

Educated at the University of Miami’s Jazz Department, South Florida native Maina gained valuable experience working with some of the best-known names in the music industry. The list of luminaries that grace his resume include: Frank Sinatra, Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, and Maynard Ferguson. In addition to individual performers, Maina has also worked with groups like The Temptations and The O’Jays.

With a star-studded background, Maina probably couldn’t help but pick up a thing or two about music. Even though he worked with some soul and r&b performers, at its core, Maina’s work on his new album is jazz. However, it is jazz with influences from other genres. Listeners are likely to hear smooth jazz, instrumental pop, Latin jazz, funk, and adult contemporary woven throughout Maina’s songs.

In addition to musical influences, what audiences are likely to determine, is that Maina is a performer who works carefully. For example, the current project began in 2004, and took 13 years to complete.

The painstaking effort was worth it—each song offers its own oasis of sound. That feeling of individuality, ironically, helps the cohesiveness of the album. Sometimes instrumental albums (especially instrumental jazz) can sound like one giant song. Here, each song is a well-packaged gift.

The sound of Ed Maina

What pulls the album together is the way Maina and his ensemble members work. The new album is called “In the Company of Brothers,” and with roughly 20 musicians to assist, Maina brings his musical visions to life.

The ensemble members are either related to Maina, or are his close friends. One of the ensemble members is Maina’s daughter, Priscilla. She plays bass flute. Maina plays a host of woodwinds and four registers of saxophone.

In effective smooth jazz the instrumentation often equals movement. Either that the imagery of wind is evoked by the music, or the feeling that people could dance to it is evident. There is a definite sway to “Mi Hermano” (my brother). The exuberant flute reminds me of “Strange Way” by Firefall. (Firefall was a 1970s rock group that incorporated elements like flutes into a traditional rock band sound.) The flute is goaded into playing more excitedly by a piano in its lower keys. The other instruments keep up a contemporary groove, and the flute remains at the forefront of the soundscape. The song is a pleasant surprise for first-time listeners.

While Maina and a few of his fellow players earn most of the songwriting credits on the album, the group tackles an American standard, “Amazing Grace” near the end of the recording. The result is an instrumental adult contemporary sound. At first, there is just a beautiful woodwind line that trills above the earth, or so it seems. At the very least, the sound is lighter and higher than anything else that is playing.

At first, the flute plays alone, and then, horns are added. The sound of storm brews in the background, and listeners realize they are hearing the chorus to the familiar hymn played by woodwinds, and maybe horns. The sounds are soft, and the gently brooding thunder meshes with the instrumentation. The effect is calming and could provoke introspection.

Thirteen years is a long time to work on anything. But the gentle craftsmanship found on “In the Company of Brothers” makes the album worth the wait.

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