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Pedro Giraudo Big Band: Cuentos

Jack Bowers By

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Cuentos, the sixth recording by Argentine-born, New York-based composer / arranger / bassist Pedro Giraudo and his first as leader of a fully formed large ensemble, is a rhythmic delight, deftly interweaving the best of Giraudo's South American heritage with contemporary big-band jazz of the highest order. Giraudo wrote and arranged every number, on each of which the irrepressible harmonies and cadences of his homeland play an essential role.

Much of the music is thematic, from the four-part "Angela Suite" (written for Giraudo's second daughter) to those inspired by poetry ("La Ley Primera," "El Cuento Que Te Cuento"), birth tradition ("Push Gift") and the sky above us ("Nube," or Cloud). Almost none is what would be considered easy listening, as Giraudo weaves elaborate ensemble passages around a number of engaging solos to produce an impressive tapestry. It is, however, the sort of subtle and nuanced discourse whose basic purpose embodies rewarding the more ardent and attentive listener.

Giraudo uses a number of traditional South American rhythms to make his point: the cueca, zamba and chacarera from Argentina, and the merengue from Venezuela, which underscores the opening "Muneca" (Doll), an upbeat swinger whose articulate solo spokesman is trombonist Ryan Keberle. The suite is next, its animated "Overture" followed by the melancholy "Ojos Que Non Ven" (Blind Eyes), the assertive "La Rabiosa" and emphatic "Coda," in which the various components of the first three movements come together. Soloists are alto Todd Bashore and pianist Jess Jurkovic ("Overture"), trumpeter Josh Deutsch ("Ojos") and baritone saxophonist Carl Maraghi ("Rabiosa").

"La Ley Primera" (First Law) is a sensuous ballad whose lovely melody and impromptu observations are presided over by alto Alejandro Aviles, "El Cuentro Que Te Cuentro" (Storytelling) a picturesque tone poem based on a verse by Giraudo's wife, Marianela Fernandez, on which the splendid trumpeter Miki Hirose is the featured soloist. Buoyant rhythms and a brisk solo by tenor John Ellis are the order of the day on "Push Gift," which leads to the exquisite finale, "Nube," on which Maraghi's deep baritone sets the compass. A lovely way to end an impressive debut album by Giraudo's trim and talented big band. After years of searching, Giraudo seems to have found a congenial dwelling place. Let's hope he chooses to linger awhile.

Track Listing: Muneca; Angela Suite (Overture / Ojos Que Non Ven / La Rabiosa / Coda); La Ley Primera; El Cuento Que Te Cuento; Push Gift; Nube.

Personnel: Pedro Giraudo: leader, composer, arranger, acoustic bass, electric bass; Jonathan Powell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Miki Hirose: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mat Jodrell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Josh Deutsch: trumpet, flugelhorn; Alejandro Aviles: alto, soprano sax, flute; Todd Bashore: alto, soprano sax, flute; Luke Batson: tenor sax, flute, clarinet; John Ellis: tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Carl Maraghi: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Ryan Keberle: trombone; Mike Fahie: trombone; Mark Miller: trombone; Nate Mayland: trombone; Jess Jurkovic: piano; Franco Pinna: drums; Paulo Stagnaro: percussion. Special guest – Claudio Ragazzi: guitar (7, 8).

Title: Cuentos | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Zoho Music

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