La Lucha

Everybody Wants To Rule The World
(Arbors)

John C. O’Leary III (a classically trained pianist from Mexico), Alejandro Arenas (a Columbian heavy-metal bassist) and Mark Feinman (a punk-rock drummer from Florida) all came together in college to play jazz. And their latest offering as La Lucha finds all three members contributing original material that sits alongside jazz versions of songs by pop rock stars like The Beach Boys and David Bowie.

Melissa Aldana’s big, warm tenor is a welcome addition to the ensemble on a few tracks, finding a joyful balance between virtuosity and lyricism. She’s undoubtedly the star of the title track—a hit by ’80s band Tears for Fears—reinterpreting the melody (maybe too much) and developing it with concentrated, swirling phrases into an emotive flashpoint. The intricate arrangements here reveal imagination and attention to detail. However, it would be nice to hear a deeper sense of groove and precision within the rhythm section, especially in the funk and rock-based tunes. But the overall effect is energetic, eclectic and uplifting.