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Needing to Try 

Thana Alexa has jazz in her bones

Thana Alexa isn't just a jazz musician. For one, she's staggeringly beautiful—but that is easily the least interesting thing about her. Her debut record, "Ode to Heroes" is filled with some of the finest players of modern jazz and her voice dances between them like stardust. Her husband/producer/drummer Antonio Sanchez brings his unmatched skills to the record, creating a stunning symbiosis of heartrending vocals with complicated compositions and arrangements.

"Ode to Heroes" bounces between percussive and sparse to lush and layered without ever grinding to a halt. Christos Rafalides' vibraphone explodes against Lenart Krecic's blistering tenor sax, which then spills between Sergio Salvatore's piano and Jorge Roeder's bass. Frankly, this is the best jazz record since Migration's "The Meridian Suite."

Thana Alexa comes to Bend on Sept. 14 to play the new, absolutely gorgeous Tetherow Pavilion. We talked with Alexa about gaining the courage to make jazz music her life. Here is an excerpt from that conversation.

Source Weekly: Tell me a little bit about growing up in Croatia.

Thana Alexa: I'm American born, my mother is first generation American and my father was born in Croatia. My father came over to the States in 1961 and has that classic story of actually taking the boat over and starting from nothing. The only cash that they had when they got off the boat was $25 they had won in a ping pong tournament on the boat.

SW: That's amazing!

TA: So then my dad met my mother in New York. He was a lawyer and she was working in investment banking at the time. My brother and I were both born in NYC and our childhood was in the States. But then my dad was doing a lot of business in Croatia and my parents thought it would be a good adventure if we went over there for a couple of years. Two years turned into three into four into five and now it's 17 years later and they're still there and I came back.

SW: Did college bring you back to the States?

TA: I always wanted to come back to the States for college. I started at a school called Northeastern University in Boston and I was studying psychology for a year with a minor in music. I had this inner struggle when I started school, My parents were always supportive of my music and I played violin very seriously for 13 years, so I was always in music.

SW: Were your parents artists?

TA: Neither of my parents chose the artistic path, so I never psychologically accepted music as something you could do as a career. When I went to college I thought it only natural to study something real and then have music as a hobby. I learned very quickly that I was extremely unhappy with that choice. It took me the whole year in Boston to realize something was missing, something really big. There was one jazz improv course I took every week and I realized that I was so happy every time that class would happen and sad when the week was over. I knew there was something there I had to explore a bit more.

SW: And that was the moment?

TA: There is a song that's on my album entitled, "The Wanderer," which is basically a vocal rendition of "Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat" by Charles Mingus, that I was introduced to in that jazz improv class. There was something about the song that really spoke to me and gave me the strength to realize that this was what I needed to try and do whether or not it works out. But I had to try.

Thana Alexa

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 7:30pm

Tetherow Pavilion, 61240 Skyline Ranch Rd., Bend

$36

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