Camila Meza & the Nectar Orchestra: Ámbar

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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With Ámbar, the Chilean-born New York vocalist, instrumentalist and composer Camila Meza, here recording with the marvelous Nectar Orchestra, sends out a dozen tracks of intriguing, highly-textured culturally-rich music. The material, creatively superb and impeccably performed all around, not only reinforces the fact that Meza is an acknowledged Downbeat Magazine Rising Star, but also vividly demonstrates her awesome vocal and guitar talents. Here exotic rhythmic and melodic flavors of heavily ethnic-flavored music swirl and beguile.

The utter uniqueness of this session is immediately apparent via "Kallfu," a highly rhythmically-charged starter with Meza chanting over the droning, layered strings and with Meza in unison with guitar. The blending of Meza's rich, emotionally-infused voice layered with the Nectar Orchestra's strings and intense percussion is irresistible both there and on the slower, sublime "Waltz #1" and also on "Awaken" where Meza's unison scat with her guitar versus keyboard soars. Her guitar-vocal chops are also on display on "Atadecer."

Meza's vocal magic is enhanced through her lithe approach to melody and her terrific ability to probe lyrics deeply in both English and Spanish, as on the dark "This Is Not America," the beautifully passionate "Ohla Maria," and the somewhat commercially-flavored "All Your Colors. There's a vividness to this album, a magically seductive feeling that certain tracks almost demand repeated play—Milton Nascimento's beautiful "Milagre dos Peixes," for example. That is testimony to Meza and all involved.

The string arrangements, by bassist Noam Weisenberg, leverage contrapuntal interplay between vocalist, orchestra and rhythm section, and are utterly outstanding. They offer many textural beauties (the gorgeous instrumental, "Interlude") and they frame Meza's inviting and gorgeous voice and guitar meticulously ("Ámbar" and "Fall").

Ámbar is indescribably artistically delicious. It is artistically unique and aesthetically beautiful. Meza and the Nectar Orchestra entice and enthrall. It is a superb recording.

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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