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Sofia Tosello: Alma y Luna

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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There is a story that bears telling about Brazilian musician/multi-instrumentalist Egberto Gismonti and legendary teacher, Nadia Boulanger. Upon hearing him and evaluating his technique and higher knowledge of harmonic devices, the story goes that Boulanger said to him afterward, "Go back and learn the music of your country. This will unlock your voice and the world will then hear you." Gismonti returned to Brazil, spent years in the remotest parts of that country, and is now a great artist and musical ambassador.

Alma y Luna is very possibly another case: Sofia Tosello grew up listening to a variety of music in her parents' collection, guided no doubt by their favorites. The voices that echoed in her head were by no means less than significant—Brazilian: Caetano Veloso and John Nyerges; Argentinean: Mercedes Sosa; American: Duke Ellington, Luther Vandross, and, no doubt, a host of others. The vocal techniques of each of these wonderful singers and musicians gave hope and provoked wild dreams of reaching deep into her voice to sing out and be heard. Then came Sheila Jordan—a legend, if ever you could dub a living vocalist that. Jordan did not simply unlock Tosello's voice; she woke up the young singer's soul.

Jordan teaches not just how to control breath, but she first teaches that singing is recognizing the joy of expressing the joys of being alive—even when singing a song of sad nature. With deep blue indigo quarter tones, Tosello can be heard to do just this on "Me Falta la Imaginacion." She shreds the emotion with such sadness, and so sharply, that the words cut right through the heart. "Mi Musita Saltena" picks up the mood slightly as here the zamba demands a brighter, more confident mood and Tosello delivers this in a dizzying, spiral kind of dancing manner that is edifying and resonant.

Tosello has a voice that she can manipulate—bend and hold back, choke and uncoil with tremulous ferocity ("Sim Piel"), and this stands her in good stead throughout the record. When addressing elements that may be slightly beyond her age, she digs deep into her lungs and delivers words with sublime authority and ravishing sensuality. The instrumentation —especially the guitars of Miguel Rivaynera, Pavel Urkiza and the great Aquiles Baez—adds superb color and majestic timbral values to Tosello's soaring voice.

It is very possible that, in the future, Tosello may choose to explore more contemporary forms of song—this record, despite its edgy intent, stays relatively safe in the confines of rendering folk classics, in a realm that echoes with the idioms of Afro-American music. The choice is one a matured Tosello will have to make. Whatever she chooses to do, the music will certainly be edgy, graceful and full of enormous and thrilling highs.

Track Listing: La Clarosa Cruz; La Seca; La Vardadera Llama; Que Bonito; Me Falta la Imaginacion; Mi Musita Saltena; Sin Piel; Nacida en Agua Guerra; Alma y Luna; Zambiotapa mi Coquita; Nada; Sentirme Libre Contiguo; Caminos Del Cielo.

Personnel: Sofia Tosello: lead vocals; Julio Santillan: guitar, background vocals; Jorge Roeder: double-bass (1, 4); Yayo Serka: bomba leguero (1, 6), drums (3, 5, 6, 7), darbuka, cajon (7), palmas; Raul Lavadez: accordion, palmas; Pablo Farhat: violin (1); Miguel Rivaynera: palmas (1), guitar (2, 7, 8, 11); Raul Lavedenz: accordion (2), palmas (1); Pedro Giraudo: double-bass (2, 6, 10) Franco Pinna: percussion set, bomba leguero (2); Pavel Urkiza: guitar (3, 9, 10), vocals (13), background vocals 3, 9), palmas (9); Yunior Terry: double-bass (3, 9, 12, 13), vocals (12); Mauricio Herrera: congas; djembe, guiro, timbales (12), congas, darburka; Dyan Abad: trombone (3, 13); Byron Ramos: elelctric guitar; Aquiles Baez: guitar (4, 6, 10); Anat Cohen: clarinet (3); Jair Salas: cajon; Yosvanny Terry: soprano saxophone (5, 9), alto saxophone, chakere (13); Osmany Parades: piano (5); Ignacio Freijo: quena; Rob Curto: accordion; Hector del Curto: bandoneon; Rafi Michale: trombone (11); Albert Leusink: trumpet (11); Axel Tosca: piano, Wurlitzer; Byron Ramos: electric guitar (12).

Title: Alma y Luna | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


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