Glenn Alexander's multi-faceted career as a live performer, sideman for a host of all-star talents, and recording artist has encompassed every stylistic twist imaginable, from bebop to electric pop fusion. His early solo efforts and most recent supergroup collaborations showed what he could do in the dynamic fusion arena. For Oria, his debut on Palmetto Records and third solo release since 1987, he focuses on his lush compositional sense, stripping down to the acoustic with minimal outside instrumentation for a striking look at the softer, more romantic side of his artistry. Enthusiasts of Alexander's other projects, as well as his fiery plugged-in exchanges with the Connection (keyboardist T Lavitz, bassist Dave LaRue, and drummer Danny Gottlieb) on 1992's Inside Out may be surprised at the calmer side of his musical persona, but Alexander says that he's always had an affinity for all of the different kinds of music he explores on Oria, including bossa nova, folk-rock, classical, and the orchestral elegance of Henry Mancini. The first four tunes on Oria express exactly the heartfelt emotions and sharp soloing style Alexander had in mind while conceptualizing the album. Leading up to the breezy, percussive bossa nova of "'Dreamsville'" are a trio of heartfelt valentines enhanced only by Manolo Badrena's subtle percussion touches -- "Better Days Will Come," the reflective "Belle Mahome," and "Thoughts for You." Alexander explores a similar mix of passion with melodic and improvisational invention on "Only a Few Will Know," "Laura" (which artfully spawns a dual harmony-melody approach with the electric), and "Wichita Headed East."
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran