MaxJazz, the independent jazz label formed in the late-1990s which originally specialized in vocal jazz, continues its well-received vocal jazz series with what can only be termed a pièce de résistance, the recording of Chilean-born singer Claudia Acuna. Miss Acu'a has two previously releases on Verve that have helped establish her a talent worthy of recognition. Her present recording, Luna, extends that worthiness.
is an assembly of pieces in Spanish and English, with the better part of the songs sung in the former. Often this presents a problem for monolingual listeners. However, Ms. Acu'a's delivery is so engaging that it transcends mere language in the same way that most Opera does. Thus, "Esta Tarde Vi Llover" with its sand-shifting Latin rhythms and pianist Jason Linder's funky-Caribbean "Yesterday You and I" are equally challenging and enjoyable.
Acuna's voice is a beautifully uncomplicated alto with a pungent distilled purity. The deep richness of her voice is maximized on the ballads "Tu. Mi, Delirio" and "Carita De Luna." Her voice dissolves into and recrystalizes out of the melodies and accompaniment on "Historias, " "Chorardo," and "Yo No Llevo La Razon." On the former, Ms. Acuna's voice melds with Linder's electric piano and the very fine John Benitez's funky electric bass. Benitez was the absolutely most perfect bassist to tap for this date.
"Yo No Llevo La Razon" features the soul of Latin music in percussionist Luisito Quintero. You might not be able to identify this music as Chilean, but you will not mistake it for Mexican, Tex-Mex, or Cuban. In the music of Claudia Acuna, melody and rhythm are on a more equal footing making the music less "hot" and more serene. This recording will certainly show up on many 2004 best-of lists.