Dawn is a collaboration between noted Flamenco guitarist Javier Limón and Mexico City-born Latin jazz vocalist Magos Herrera, a collaboration that attempts to blend what is best in their two traditions. The album’s liner notes describe it as “the convergence of vanguard jazz and minimalist Flamenco, a summit of sound for the 21st century.”
The artists’ original composition “Dawn,” which gives the album its title, is perhaps the best example of this convergence. It begins with a repeated percussive note on the guitar, keeping the rhythm alone at first and then serving as the foundation beneath the intense vocal. Later it moves to a repeated phrase over the rest of the song. It is minimalistic guitar with a vengeance. There is even an almost minimalist element in the repetitions of the lyric. On the other hand the album’s opening number, the Mongo Santamaria jazz favorite “Afro Blue,” takes a more expansive jazz approach. The focus is on the vocalist’s improvisational creativity in phrasing and scatting. It is also one of the few tracks on the album that uses some additional musical accompaniment with some clapping and percussion.
Magos Herrera has the kind of voice that makes this concept viable. She moves from breathy and sultry to mystically elegant in her interpretations, often in the same song. Limón seems always ready with just the right complement to back her up. When he takes a solo it is always, as in the first of two Mexican folk songs, “La Martiniana,” a welcome addition.
Of the standard material on the album, besides the “Afro Blue,” there is a haunting version of “Skylark,” a dynamic, dark Flamenco take on “Wild is the Wind,” and a softly emotional rendition of Jobim’s “O que Tinha de Ser.” The set closes with an ethereal “Nature Boy” and an exotic exploration of Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green.”
Herrera delivers an emotively powerful performance of what the album identifies (for those of us up North) as the other popular Mexican folk song, “La Llorona.” It is one of the most compelling tracks on the album, along with Magos and Limón’s original composition, “My Love for You.” This last has some additional work from the violin of Layth Sidiq. “Tierra Movida” and “Oracao ao Tempo” complete the album’s dozen songs.
Dawn is the kind of successful collaborative effort that presages more to come. It is certainly something to look forward to.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00IK8KE1E]