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Chilean-born singer Claudia Acuña burst onto the New York jazz scene in the late 90s. Her debut CD is nothing short of marvelous. Supported by a stellar cast of young, cutting-edge musicians — Jason Lindner on piano, Avishai Cohen on bass, and Jeff Ballard on drums, as well as special guests — Acuña casts a spell with her latin-influenced repertoire and her highly creative interpretations of standards. Avishai Cohen co-produced the disc with Acuña, and much of the material bears his creative imprint.
The CD opens with a gorgeous reading of "Pure Imagination" (from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), followed by an energetic Acuña/Cohen original titled "Viento Del Sur" (Wind from the South). Acuña sings beautifully in Spanish on this track as well as on "Gracias A La Vida" and "Alfonsina Y El Mar," the latter a bass/vocal duo feature. Duke Ellington’s "Prelude to a Kiss," George Gershwin’s "My Man’s Gone Now," and Rodgers and Hart’s "Bewitched" are given truly suprising treatments. "The Thrill is Gone" and "Long As You’re Living" don’t work quite as well, and it’s impossible to improve upon the original version of Stevie Wonder’s "Visions," although David Sanchez contributes an inspired soprano sax solo. Pianist Harry Whitaker makes two guest appearances, on Irving Berlin’s "What’ll I Do" (a piano/vocal duo) and Whitaker’s own "I’ll Find You," a slow piece filled with mystery.