Regardless of the language a particular song's lyrics are sung in, music is a universal language. And that holds true for Claudia Acuna, a Chilean-born singer who mixes Latin rhythms and jazz on her debut album, En Este Momento. Branford Marsalis, amazingly talented jazz saxophonist and band leader, produced her album on his own label, Marsalis Music. And based on the quality of its music, I understand why he took a chance on her.
The album covers several Spanish-language classics such as "La Mentira," written by Alvaro Carillo Alarcon, and three songs by Victor Jara ("El Cigarrito", "Te Recuerdo Amanda", and "El Derecho De Vivir En Paz"), who has been labeled as the Bob Dylan of Chile. But she doesn't just do Spanish-language songs on the CD; she also sings in English on "That's What They Say." That said, the Spanish language has always been full of grace and passion to me, and it doesn't prevent this amazingly talented singer/songwriter from of communicating such emotions.
I've listened to a lot of jazz, but it's rare to hear Latin influences so easily woven into the jazz landscape. Acuna's voice rises to beautiful heights, blending her expressive South American roots with jazz traditions. And you can hear the nearly effortless collaboration between her and the musicians: Jason Lindner on piano, Juancho Herrera on guitar and mandolin, Omer Avital on bass, and Clarence Penn on drums and percussion. In addition, Edgar "Yayo" Serko plays cajon, bombo leguero, and palmos, and Marsalis even plays soprano saxophone on the album.
Though I appreciate the talents required to sing in one language — let alone two — I found "That's What They Say" to be the weakest song on the album. To me, Acuna switching between Spanish and English distracted me from the emotional component of the song, which starts beautifully but dissolves amidst the language changes.