Kat Parra: Las Aventuras de Pasion! (2012)
A collaboration between vocalist Kat Parra and trombonist/arranger Wayne Wallace would be reason enough to celebrate ¡Las Aventuras de Pasión!, the duo favoring a slightly more languorous than usual Afro-Cuban jazz, richly played and brightly sung. Wallace has mined this vein on a string of remarkably good records over the last decade or so. Highlights of this Afro-Cuban warmth include Parra's bilingual cha-cha-cha "Oye Papi," and Murray Low's elegant and altogether apposite piano playing.
But there is more to Parra's musical vision than one kind of Latin jazz, however comprehensive that might be. Parra's Azucar de Amor (Patois, 2008)also with Wallace and Low, and an idiomatic Latin jazz set, wound down with a heterodox reading of "Esta Montanya D'Enfrente," a traditional Judaeo- Spanish song several centuries old. The Sephardic element assumed greater importance on Parra's follow-up, Dos Amantes (JazzMa, 2010).
These musical detours emphasize that Spanish speakers spread from Iberia in 1492, not only to Latin America but also east to the Ottoman Empire. Parra takes up the traditional songs of the Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in the year of Columbus' landing in the New World, thereby insisting upon a substantially ecumenical notion of what is meant by "Hispanic music."
On record, this sounds a lot less like a museum exhibit than it might in print. "Esta Montanya D'Enfrente" featured a shakuhachi, as does "Yo M'Enamori D'Un Aire" (furthermore driven by Dana Pandey's tabla). This unconventional instrumentation serves to underscore the vitality of the ancient material.
The back-and-forth between the smoky environs of Latin jazz and the folksy, socially conscious peña of the folk songs is smoothly transited rather than jarring. Indeed, there are more than a few numbers this time round that genuinely fuse these elementslike the ancient and the Afro-Cuban on "Dieziocho Anyos," or in Masaru Koga's fluid soprano sax solo on the Sephardic "Morenika." All the music on ¡Las Aventuras de Pasión!, moreoverand regardless of its particular mix of stylesexudes a slightly laidback (though never insipid) groove that lends overall coherence to the record.
Parra's conceptual restlessness is evident in the opening "Iko Iko," tastefully arranged by Wallace, thereby connecting the Hispanic musical world to New Orleans quite correctly. There is also the closing pair of numbers, fusing jazz with classical music by Gabriel Fauré and Erik Satie. Rich and satisfying from start to finish.
Track Listing: Iko Iko; Dieziocho Anyos; Call Your Name; La Comida de la Manyana; Morenika; Lo Siento Mi Vida; Yo M'Enamori d'un Aire; Oye Papi; Durme, Durme; Nature Boy; Man on a Wire/Gymnopédie No. 1.
Personnel: Kat Parra: vocals, arrangements; John Worley: trumpet (1,8); Wayne Wallace: trombone (1, 8), arrangments (1-3,7, 8, 10) coro singer (1, 4); Masaru Koga: alto sax (1, 8), soprano sax (5), shakuhachi (7), flute (10); Murray Low: piano (1, 3, 5, 8, 11), arrangements (5); José Roberto Hernández: guitar (2, 9); Sam Bevan: acoustic bass (2); Chris Lopes: acoustic bass (3, 5); David Belove: electric bass (1, 8); David Pinto: baby bass (9), arrangements (9); Mads Tolling: violin I (3, 6), arrangements (6); Lila Sklar: violin II (3, 6); Emily Onderdonk: violas I & II (3, 6); Renata Bratt: cello (6, 7, 10); Paul van Wageningen: drums (1, 3, 8); Curt Moore: drums (5); Michaelle Goerlitz: congas, percussion (1, 3, 8); Michael Spiro: congas, percussion (2), arrangements (4); Michael Hatfield: marimba (2, 6); Colin Douglas: batá, percussion (4); Matt Lucas: batá, percussion (4); Katja Cooper: darbuka, riq (5); Dana Pandey: tabla (7); Raúl Ramírez: cajón, cheko, quijada (9); Pat Parra; coro singer (1); Wendy Waller: coro singer (1); Rafael Castro: coro singer (1, 4); Mochi Parra: vocals, coro singer (4).