CD Reviews: Oleta Adams and Miles Okazaki

New work by two locals.

Oleta AdamsLet's Stay Here(E1 Music)After years of working as a vocalist in the realm of R&B and gospel, Seattle-born, Yakima-raised singer Oleta Adams returns with Let's Stay Here, her first proper full-length in nearly eight years. Although she released a Christmas album of covers in 2006 and a greatest-hits disc in 2004, this is the first true follow-up to her acclaimed 2001 disc All the Love. Based on the songwriting on Let's Stay Here, you get the impression that Adams is full of stories she wants to share after such a long time between projects. Lessons from life and love remain constant throughout the 10-track album, but she's far from being preachy.The album opens with a cover of Nina Simone's "Feelin' Good," a relatively bold choice that Adams hits just right, giving the number a smooth-jazz touch. Many of the songs have a mature sound, and the album definitely feels crafted for the adult R&B crowd. But there's an unmistakable gospel feel as well, especially on songs like "Picture You the Way I Do." Here she's not implicitly giving shout-outs to the Lord, but rather the arrangements underneath her draw on aspects of black church music. That's still where her strength resides. "Act of Forgiveness" is all upbeat gospel-pop, and consequently the best song on the disc. Her R&B songs aren't nearly as engaging, but when Adams toes the line between secular and spiritual, she's at her best. JONATHAN CUNNINGHAMMiles OkazakiGenerations(Sunnyside)On his second album as a bandleader, Port Townsend native Miles Okazaki expands on the conceptual framework he established for his 2006 debut, Mirror. Although on Generations the jazz guitarist is again intent on capturing nature in overt, subtle, and even subliminal ways, this time he assembled a seven-piece band to perform the entire album in one take, without ever going back to edit or add components. At times it's reminiscent of Sun Ra's more elegantly earthbound work, at other times it pushes into post-fusion territory; but for all its conceptual basis Generations flows out of your speakers with remarkable ease. Okazaki focuses on mechanical aspects of the natural world—symmetry, gravity, polarity, momentum, and recurring mathematical shapes—without requiring heavy thinking on the part of the listener. It's no small feat that Generations unfolds as gracefully as a sunrise, yet also contains the tension, drama, and chaos of a raging storm. Meanwhile, Jen Shyu's wordless vocals keep the music anchored in human experience and lift it into an ethereal realm. SABY REYES-KULKARNI

 
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