Sean Noonan’s ” The Aqua Diva” is in a class by itself


Sean Noonan is a drummer, composer, vocalist, and producer. He brings those many hats to his latest project, ” The Aqua Diva.” Working with pianist Alex Marcelo and bassist Peter Bitenc, Noonan brings his theatrical-minded example of surrealist, world pop meets jazz to life.

About Sean Noonan and “The Aqua Diva”

Noonan is a veteran of more than 20 albums, all of the un-classifiable variety. It might be accurate to state that the albums could be classified with a series of hyphens. The performer is influenced by a variety of sources, and his overall vision for the current project is that of a soap opera with characters named “Aqua Diva,” “Bubbles,” and Butterflies.” The songs on half the CD detail the relationship between the three characters that culminates in a jealous Butterflies murdering Bubbles and the title character. It is not clear that this is exactly what happens without some help from written documents about the album.

Still, the storyline is over-the-top, and audiences almost clamor for more about these strange characters, if for nothing else, a sense of continuity.

Other songs on the album include a track written about late actor Don Knotts, “Elijah Rocks,” and “Smoking Man” among others.

But at its core, the album is fun. The world music elements gives songs gravitas that might be pure whimsy otherwise. At times, jazz elements – – a moody and nimble bass line for example, reminds listeners that this is, in fact jazz.

The song, “When My Band Goes with Me on the Road,” goes so fast, it practically spins. Noonan’s singing is fast, too, and the instrumentation gives the feeling of a children’s song, as if the challenge is in how fast the song can be sung without messing up the words.

The first song, “A Sunny Day,” begins with a strident piano motif and drums that crash and get louder, more present with each measure until the half-spoken lyrics begin. The rhyming poetry of Noonan’s lyrics plus the instrumentation transports listeners to other places. The middle is marked by an aggrieved dragging of a bow across bass strings while off-kilter drum beats work their way into a shimmer of cymbals, and on top of that busy soundscape, a piano plays notes in its highest register. The end plays on the theme of that soundscape, but the actual sound is more lively, less strident.

The gentle ending of the first song can only be enjoyed for a handful of seconds, as the second song is the frenetic “When My Band Goes With Me on the Road.” Without preamble, Noonan sings loud and fast, seeming to blot out any instrumentation at first.

There is genius here. Noonan takes listeners on a wild ride, though those who are new to the performer’s work might not know how to take it. “The Aqua Diva” could require  multiple spins before the story(ies) of the CD  make themselves clear. The elements of jazz are present, but this isn’t smooth or classic jazz for dancing. It is art for consideration and perhaps on some level, boundary-pushing.

“The Aqua Diva” will be available June 1, 2018.


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