Jazz Review: Amikaeyla - Being in Love

An absence of pretence gives way to sheer love of art.
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amikaeylaBay Area vocalist Amikaeyla doesn’t believe in confining herself. Being in Love exemplifies this approach confidently, with an absence of pretence giving way to sheer love of art. Like love, the rules are made to be broken and passion flows liberally through 10 authentic expressions of affection.

“I really do feel a deep connection to so many types of sounds,” Amikaeyla says. “Currently in the music industry, where you kind of have to pocket yourself in one genre, it’s really challenging for me because I want to be a part of all the things that make me happy sonically.”

Luckily for listeners, the Ohio born singer is up for the challenge. The resultant “sonic happiness” saturates each track and Amikaeyla transmits joy with her heartfelt, impassioned mezzo-soprano and the help of a stellar cast of musicians.

Among those featured on Being in Love are Esperanza Spalding, members of Trio Globo, Sheila E., Peter Michael Escovedo, and others. Even with superstars like Spalding in the mix, every player works in service of the greater good and the art of pulling off excellent songs is of paramount importance.

Amikaeyla knows this and uses her powers for good. With four original compositions and six classics, the vocalist and executive director of the International Cultural Arts and Healing Sciences Institute in Oakland exudes jubilance.

The lovely “Dreamer,” a piece by Antonio Carlos Jobim, is delivered in English and Portuguese to start things off. The band sets up a bossa nova, smoothly urging Amikaeyla through a sinewy arrangement accented by Howard Levy’s harmonica.

The stops are pulled out – and then some – for Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day.” Spalding and Sheila E. are featured, with the bassist knocking down an adept pizzicato solo, but Amikaeyla climbs with gorgeous enunciation and exuberant tone.

Another highlight is the wild and fun “Hambone,” a collaboration with vocal percussionist Linda Tillery. With lyrics part -improvised, the piece calls on Amikaeyla’s “hambone-offs” from her childhood stays with her grandparents in Alabama.

Being in Love seems, more than anything, an album about being in love with music as an edifying and restorative force. Amikaeyla sings with mind-altering vitality and delight, drawing on a life of experiences (some extraordinarily painful and some staggeringly cool) to tell stories that span genres and generations.