The true artist is never content with repeating oneself, always looking to push him/herself, and to develop. Buika is a true artist. After winning a Latin Grammy for Best Traditional Tropical Album for her collaboration with Cuban jazz pianist Chucho Valdez in their tribute to Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, El Ultimo Trago, she is out with a new release, La Noche Más Larga [“The Longest Night”]. It is another groundbreaking album in which the Spanish-born Buika (she of one name) has moved to stretch out from her flamenco roots.
Flamenco is in her blood, and while it may infuse her music, it needn’t suffocate it. The new album gives this truly exciting vocalist an opportunity to travel over new roads, and we are lucky enough to be able to go along for her journey.
Of the album’s dozen songs, five are original compositions; the remainder includes a selection of Latin songs and a surprise or two. On the one hand she resurrects “Siboney,” an old chestnut recorded in the past by the likes of Bing Crosby and Percy Faith, and gives it a lively new spark. She does a renovation of Argentine composer Dino Ramos’s “La Nave del Olvido,” a song she says hurts and heals her. Then there are a couple of pop pieces which she has chosen for their personal significance—“Yo Vengo a Ofrecer Mi Corazón” and “Santa Lucía.” In all cases she has taken these pieces and made them her own.
Buika’s creative touch may be even more evident to American audiences in two songs she sings in English, and even more so in her version of the Jacques Brel favorite, “Ne me quitte pas.” Her take on Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away” and the Billie Holiday-Arthur Herzog piece, “Don’t Explain” serve as a showcase for her to feature her jazz chops, and she takes full advantage. The Brel cover is a revelation of the song’s possibilities, showing what a fine singer can do with a great song.
Of the original material, perhaps the most interesting track is “No Lo Sé,” a lyrical melody in which she is joined by guest guitarist, jazz great Pat Metheny. But it is no more tuneful than a piece like “Los Solos” or “Sueño Con Ella” which opens the album. She writes beautiful melodies.
Although Buika works with a variety of musicians on the disk, her main collaborators seem to have been pianist, arranger and musical director Iván “Melón” Lewis and percussionist/arranger Ramón Porrina. Both, along with the singer herself, are credited with producing this exciting album.