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New album from Mica Bethea

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    Posted: 14 Mar 2018 at 5:34am


Art is an expression of an artist's interaction with the world, and the most effective works of art are syntheses of the artist's experiences and inner life. On SUITE THEORY (March 1, 2018), composer and arranger MICA BETHEA has turned a devastating, life-altering accident into an inspired work of art.
Back in 2005, Bethea was studying music at the University of Northern Florida in Jacksonville. While driving back to school after a visit to his family, a big rig going 85mph plowed into his car, which was stopped in traffic. The accident left him a quadriplegic, but his artistic drive and deep musicality remained unscathed. Although Bethea could no longer play an instrument, he found he was able to fully express himself musically through composing and arranging big band charts with a contemporary edge.
This is Bethea's third CD. His first two projects, Stage 'N Studio, released in 2017, and The Mica Bethea Big Band, released in 2011, established his reputation as a distinctive voice whose big band writing is infused with soulfulness and a satisfying complexity. Although he's drawn on personal experiences in his previous releases, SUITE THEORY is a thoroughly biographical project. It follows the arc of his life from before the accident until today.
This CD is his first comprising all original compositions. After the accident, Bethea wrote the music while studying for his Master's degree at UNF. He had also been studying privately at the time with Dennis Marks, one of the top bassists on the jazz scene today, who challenged Bethea to write a suite for big band that told the story of his life. Bethea locked himself in his room and wrote the entire piece in about a month. Since this was going to be an extended composition, he decided to write it as a symphony in four movements with each movement corresponding to a period of his life. The title of the CD is a pun on the name of his favorite bakery, Sweet Theory.
The first movement, written in sonata form, represents the first 21 years of Bethea's life. It has a sunny feel, infused with the hope and energy that are the boon of youth. He named the piece "Crystal Clear" after an old friend, Crystal Bay, whom he had been close to since high school. As kismet would have it, Crystal was working with quadriplegics.
The second movement, titled "Destiny's Boat," represents waking up from the accident and the depression that ensued. Bethea had spent most of his young life as a musician and could play just about any instrument, but he focused on the saxophone. After the accident, he faced a new, daunting reality. As a nod to his past life, he wrote the movement as a ballad featuring the alto sax playing of multi-instrumentalist TODD GUIDICE. Bethea loved Guidice's playing so much that he included an alternate take of the movement at the end of the CD, because he couldn't leave his other solo on the cutting room floor. Bethea named this section in honor of his friend, Destiny Guerra, who helped him through some of his darkest days.
The third movement represents a time of healing psychic wounds and of figuring out how to put his life back together. He named this movement "Meniscus," which is short for "Ambu-Nebukah-Huba-Bubble-Gum-Meniscus." The first part of the name is a playful mashup of the names of a couple of friends he became close to during this phase. "Meniscus," however, has a deeper significance for him. A liquid in a container has either a concave or convex curve close to the surface. It's a way of measuring if a glass is half full or half empty, and for Bethea, he decided that his life was indeed still very full. He was finding happiness again, so he wrote the piece as a songo, which is a style of Cuban music that incorporates the rumba into popular dance music.
Bethea named the final movement "Guardian of Forever" after an episode from the original Star Trek series. The Guardian was a time portal that allowed access to other times, locations and dimensions. He dedicated this movement to his mother, who quit her job to be with him and who helped him find the grit and determination to forge ahead. This movement, which contains references to the other movements, represents the rest of Bethea's life going forward. He named it after the time portal because he realized, despite what had happened to him, he was the same person he had been in the past and would always be that person.
Although Bethea's music is rooted in the big band genre, he has a voice that's all his own. That's largely because he writes for himself and doesn't worry about categories or stylistic purity. His music is both fun and complex. It's brimming with originality and technical sophistication. Although his body is limited, his mind, heart, and artistic soul are flying free and unfettered in the musical cosmos.
SUITE THEORY will be available in stores and online everywhere on March 1, 2018. View the video "Suite Theory Mvt. 1: Crystal Clear" at  https://youtu.be/djnJ2ok7Lls.

Edited by js - 14 Mar 2018 at 5:35am
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