Yes Way Jose (Music Thoughts: Altitude, Jose Llana)

jose-cover-altitude-300x300Jose Llana is wowing crowds nowadays in the touring company of the Bartlett Sher production of ‘The King And I,’ so it might be a perfect time to write about his album ‘Altitude,’ one of my favorites from last year. I think I first saw Llana playing Lun Tha in the 1995 production of ‘The King And I’ (with Lou Diamond Phillips and Donna Murphy) and he was impressive then. Of course he is now playing the King, and in teh album he includes songs from both roles – a touching medlette of ‘We Kiss In the Shadow/I Have Dreamed,’ and then a peerless ‘A Puzzlement,’ which should cement him as the best actor playing King nowadays. But he has also originated great roles in recent years, and you see that here in ‘Chip’s Lament’ from ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,’ and ‘Child Of The Philippines’ from ‘here Lies Love.’ The latter is a fun duet he sings with Ruth Ann Miles, who plays Imelda Marcos in that musical.  He also shows considerable pop music chops in Ed Sherran’s ‘Thing out Loud,’ and don’t tell Ed, but I think I might prefer Llana’s version of that song here. It’s all about the show songs, though, that makes Llana soar here  whether it be songs from Adam Guettel (‘Hero and Leander’) or Sondheim (‘Marry Me A Little’)  But I think my favorite track is his ‘Lonely Town,’ which has just the right amount of melancholy to make the song work.

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