Nika Rejto

Naked Emotions

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Nika Rejto has yet to become well-known in the jazz world, but those who are familiar with her playing know her to be an expressive, lyrical flutist along the lines of Hubert Laws and Herbie Mann. The Los Angeles resident showed a lot of promise on her debut album, Naked Emotions, which she released on her Unika label in 1984. This little-known LP isn't for jazz purists; Naked Emotions is essentially jazz, but Rejto often mixes her jazz with elements of funk and soul. In fact, one of the album's highlights is an imaginative version of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," which she successfully transforms into instrumental jazz-funk. While someone like Najee or Dave Koz would have provided a pointless note-for-note cover, Rejto really interprets the tune and doesn't hesitate to improvise. "Billie Jean" is the only thing on the LP that Rejto didn't write, and she shows herself to be a talented composer on originals that range from the tender ballad "Kareem" to the salsa-minded "Ruff Stuff" and the Middle Eastern-flavored "Cous Cous." Although Rejto is primarily an instrumentalist, she demonstrates that she can be a likable vocalist on three quiet storm offerings: "More Than Just a Dream," "Coming Home Again," and the dreamy "Now I See the Sea." But flute playing is really her forte, and this pleasing debut makes one wish that she were better known.

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