Singer Claudia Acuna's style has been shaped by a wide range of influences. She started out singing Chilean pop and rock along with folk and opera. It seemed nothing was off limits. Jazz came calling when she came under the spell of Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan, leading her to sit in with Wynton Marsalis, Danilo Perez and Michel Petrucciani when they visited Santiago. Acuna moved to New York City in 1995 and soon settled into a more permanent jazz scene performing at Arturo's, the Zinc Bar and Small's.
Pianist Arturo O'Farrill has fused jazz and Latin music with a great deal of success. It was natural then, for Acuna and him to find common ground in the two streams. That has come to fruition on In These Shoes, which has jazz and Latin standards as well as a Van Morrison composition.
Acuna grabs attention right off with her sassy, slinky interpretation of "In These Shoes." Her leaning to the theatrical, without the artifice, comes through in her phrasing on this upbeat cha-cha tantalizer which is enlivened by the coro.
Latin rhythms and the tenor sax of Yosvany Terry greet "Willow Weep For Me." Acuna is lithe and emotionally deep as she gives meaning to the lyrics; an accomplished performance. The song is given greater impetus by the fluid ideas that O'Farrill brings and Terry's sturdy work. Morrison's "Moondance" is another tune that breathes freely from a Latin arrangement, with the percussion of Pedro Martinez blooding the beat.
"California" is sunny and sparkles, with Acuna joyously singing with abandon backed by the chorus. Yes, it's radiant, and in that lies an irresistible call to have fun.
O'Farrill's arrangements are top notch. They give Acuna the opportunity to mark her class as a singer, and also open the instrumentation to body the song with impressive melodic and harmonic streams.