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Martin Longley's Music Blog



Martin Longley discovers that the musics of Argentina, Brazil and Puerto Rico are all fusing their asses off in New York City...

The Pedro Giraudo Jazz Orchestra: Jazz Standard

The Argentinian bassist and composer Pedro Giraudo is throwing a two-night cd-release party for El Viaje, his fourth album.

The first night's opening set has managed to cram the joint completely with a very attentive audience. Of course, they have to be attentive when there's an extremely lusty 13-piece Jazz Orchestra blasting out into the club's intimate surround.

Huge and regimented force is the first quality that Giraudo establishes, but once he's throttled out our full attention, he can afford to relax and communicate the tonal subtleties and shaded colourations that are also a significant part of his compositional personality. Of course, Giraudo moved from Córdoba to NYC in 1996, but he still retains the aroma of his native folkloric culture. This is presented in a very New York structure, though still ensuring that the Jazz Orchestra stand apart in their stylistic nature.

There's a particularly attractive use of clarinet and bass clarinet in unison, with impressively cutting or lyrical solos also sparking from the trumpet and trombone ranks. Jeff Davis and Tony De Vivo are urged to shift the emphasis between conventional drumkit and cajon, with each rising up at fitting points.

Singer Sofia Tosello glides on for two numbers, and her exuberant, outgoing nature feels disconcertingly Broadway-esque within a jazz club, as if she's accustomed to a bigger theatrical scale. Even so, Tosello succeeds in providing yet another stylistic swerve before the impressive closing suite of El Viaje provides a suitably elaborate climax of varied moods and phases.

Emilío Santiago & Dori Caymmi: Birdland

Birdland's annual BossaBrasil mini-festival becomes even smoother and slicker than last year's, combining the romantic croonings of singer Emilío Santiago and Dori Caymmi, the latter also nimbly pricking his acoustic guitar.

Once again, the bassist Sergio Brandãu forms the core of the rhythm trio, but this year he's joined by drummer Celso Alberti and pianist Cidhino Texeiro. Santiago is the embodiment of Rio De Janeiro's more sophisticated side, exuding no trace of funky sweat, and distributing liberal dashings of energetic cabaret flash.

This can become a touch sickly, as he's doubtless accustomed to performing in front of an audience to whom music is only a peripheral pleasure. Casting the eyes around this late night crowd, it's possible to conclude that many folks are here to eat, drink, canoodle or sleep rather than listen intently to the songs of Brazil.

When the Bahian Caymmi arrives for the set's second phase, he brings a welcome sense of almost earthy humour, and when the pair share a song, the guitarist's lived-in burring is a positive influence on Santiago's often smarmy delivery. Adding more of a 'festival' feel, the harmonica player Hendrik Meurkens steps up to guest, he too contributing a welcome amount of mild friction.

Ismael Quintana: Lehman Center For The Performing Arts

Ismael Quintana

The Lehman Center's second Legends Of Salsa evening is dedicated to the Puerto Rican singer Ismael Quintana, famed for his contributions to The Fania All-Stars and Eddie Palmieri's La Perfecta, as well as his subsequent run of solo recordings. Nowadays, this former Bronx resident is semi-retired, and living in Colorado. Jimmy Delgado's Salsa Con Dulzura Orchestra play host to a succession of increasingly hyped-up singers.

It's not explicitly advertised that Quintana is actually going to be present at this tribute, but suddenly, here he is, surrounded by most of his family members. Quintana elicits an electrified response from the packed audience, and when it suddenly becomes apparent that he's going to actually sing, the house erupts in an ecstasy of adoration.

It's a spectacular moment, and positive vibrations as extreme as this are rarely encountered. Even though Quintana's voice no longer possesses the power and projection of old, it's obvious that his sheer charisma is still beaming out from the stage. As he continues, the old confidence grows, and it's clear that he's beginning to re-inhabit the old moves and emotions.

It's a lengthy evening of multi-guest star turns, but the momentum hardly ever wavers, due to the constant turnaround of performers, the punchy slickness of the orchestra and the sheer enthusiasm of the Bronxian crowd, right here in the salsa heartland.



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