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Camila Meza: Ámbar

Friedrich Kunzmann By

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After finally stepping into the limelight with 2016's Traces (Sunnyside Records)—the record on which Camila Meza impressively solidified her very own character and place as a musician and composer—the Chilean singer / guitarist returns with an entirely different cast of musicians that has grown to orchestral proportions, and a new batch of intriguing tunes that consist of the same amount of originals as covers.

While the notion of songwriting and singing has always played an important role in Meza's musical endeavors, Ambar takes it a step further and eliminates the thought that Camile Maza the guitarist and Camila Meza the vocalist coexist, but rather reinforces their interlocking effect to form a whole. Of course, this doesn't come at the cost of her appealingly smooth strokes on guitar. Opening "Kallfu" coherently puts all of these features to show in a bubbling rhythmical framework created by the Nectar Orchestra. High strings are soon joined by Meza on vocals before the rest of the band kicks in for an intricate yet danceable rhythmic exercise. In what lyrically seems to be an ode to nature in Spanish, Meza's breezy yet firm vocals are effectively underlined by the instrumental interplay before she gives a little solo lesson on guitar, which washes over the dynamically scaled back strings and band.

"Waltz #1" follows like a severe change in the weather and introduces the first unusual cover of the record. Neither a standard in western jazz tradition nor from the Latin-American song book, Meza pays tribute to the late singer-songwriter Elliot Smith with an emotional take on the slightly less familiar of his two waltzes. She shows a lot of respect for the creator by sticking to the original harmonic and melodic structure of the song. By decorating the surface and corners with dynamic and rhythmical embellishments, unique little traits are added to what is as very worthy cover.

"Awaken" brings back the warm temperament of the opener. Latin-American tinged rhythms mixed with light-hearted harmonic progressions lay out the measures for Meza to trade solos with Eden Ladin on synthesizer. Other cuts, such as "Atardecer" or the Milton Nascimento original "Milagre Dos Peixes" follow suit in the way the arrangement hoveringly swathes the rhythm section and gives Meza, Ladin and Keita Ogawa on drums as well as Noam Wiesenberg on bass room and momentum in which they flourish.

Beyond the politically charged reinterpretation of Pat Metheny / David Bowie -penned "This Is Not America"—where some fairy dust sprinkles amplify the drama—"All Your Colors" and "Fall" channel Meza's emphatic observations in a way that enthralls and lets emotions come alive. Anticipating the contemplative impact of the latter reflection on autumn ("But time has been burning—Fast as the wind that flows / Soon the sky will tell us—How much love we've missed to share—Leaves will dry again) Meza immediately gives solace with the comforting closing plea not to give way to tears: "Ya no le llores" ("Cucurrucucú Paloma").

Ambar is Camila Meza's most ambitious outing to date and delivers in every aspect. Meza picks up the coherence she introduced on her last album and expands on it with more elaborate arrangements that are kind to the ear, while the warm color of amber seems most appropriately set to music.

Track Listing: Kallfu; Waltz #1; Awaken; This Is Not America; Ohla Maria; Atardecer; All Your Colors; Milagre dos Peixes; Interlude; Ámbar; Fall; Cucurrucucu Paloma.

Personnel: Camila Meza: vocals, guitar; The Nectar Orchestra - Noam Weisenberg: bass; Eden Ladin: piano/keyboards; Keita Ogawa: drums/percussion; Tomoko Omurao, Fung Chern Hwei: violin; Benjamin von Gutzeist: viola; Brian Sanders: cello.

Title: Ámbar | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Sony Music Masterworks

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