Critique: "On My Way Home" (CD)
Genre(s): Piano Jazz; Contemporary Jazz
To Mavis Pan, home is where the groove is.
Born in Taiwan but spending the last 13 years in New York, Pan is caught between two worlds on “On My Way Home," echoing both the cultured tastes of her Asian heritage and the frantic energy of inner-city life in Harlem. It’s a thrilling and endlessly fascinating combination; a yin and yang marriage that often yields explosive results.
Ulysses Owens’ slamming drums that open the title track seem symbolic of Pan’s introduction to African-American life; it is boisterous and filled with positive vibes. Dustin Cicero’s alto sax pushes emotions even higher, bathing in the exhilaration in the air. Pan’s stately piano work offers a balancing counterpoint; it is the calm in the middle of the storm. A peaceful flute provides “Indian Blues" with a soothing caress as Mark Lau’s bass throbs with a deep, bellowing voice; Pan’s piano remains unruffled but crackles with spunk. Pan’s mastery of the piano is highlighted on “Steps," in which her fiery playing bursts from the speakers; it is quite breathtaking. Compare that to “Bossa" wherein her piano has the plushness of silk.
Most of “On My Way Home" consists of instrumentals; however, Pan does sing on a few cuts to moving effect. On “I Don’t Need Roses," Pan employs a sultry croon that nearly disguises the bittersweet content of the lyrics. Her voice is downright playful on “Girl from the South Sea," acknowledging her Asian roots with giddy self-confidence.
When viewed as a travelogue, “On My Way Home" becomes an even more enriching experience. Its melting pot of cultural influences in music – American, Asian, Latin, and European – illustrate the real face of this country and reveal how wide a net that jazz music has tossed around the globe.