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Juan Condori is one of most heartfelt and deeply moving releases you will come across. It is about remembranceof childhood, people and place, of things lost and regained, of relationships, of a life lived fully, with intent.
It actually does not matter what label you give this music, but if you must, let it be Argentinian folk jazz. Actually beyond category, and to these ears beyond words, the tunes on Juan Condori have a deceptive simplicity that hides much complexity and group cohesiveness.
The group is based around the musical Saluzzi family, plus the outstanding U. T. Gandhi (an "honorary family member") on drums and percussion. While Dino Saluzzi is the patriarch of the clan, each player provides memorable moments that emerge from the continually shifting ground that forms the group's "arrangements." Although there is an obvious structure to the proceedings, it is also quite clear that many cues are passed and a particular player might take off at any time while the others follow. The music breathes as it moves and its dynamics rise and fall. There is no shouting, but a feeling of calm effortlessness that masks a certain intensity and seriousness.
Dino Saluzzi's bandoneon is always bathed in a weeping pathos that nevertheless seems to be smiling at the same time. His inclusion on Tomasz Stanko's From The Green Hill (ECM, 1999) is considered by many to be a master stroke, and his ethos blended perfectly with that of Komeda on the two solo "Litanias," but it feels almost obvious in retrospect.
Felix "Cuchara" Saluzzi, who also plays tenor and soprano saxophone, is a standout on clarinet, with about as pure a sound as you will hear anywhere. It floats both above and within the music, caressing the ears, occasionally bringing a tear to the eye. Felix's clarinet is the perfect foil to Dino's bandoneonboth coming from the same deep emotional space that draws the sensitive soul inside.
José Maria Saluzzi's guitar playing, especially on the acoustic instrument, is also extremely pure, uncluttered and sensitive. His composition "Soles," which segues into "La Camposantena," owes a lot to Ralph Towner, with whom he studied, but also take note of his solo on "Las Cosas Amadas." His electric work, which many times has a Pat Metheny-esque sound and feel to it, always fits into this group's overall sound, and his solos have much in common with Felix's clarinet.
The rhythm section of Gandhi and bassist Matias Saluzzi is light as a feather and immediately responsive to the ebb and flow of the pieces. They are always there, but very subtly so, and obvious only upon their absence.
Juan Condori would be a gem in any genre on any label, but for ECM it signifies not just Manfred Eicher's catholic and superb taste, but also a triumph of emotional immediacy. Sit back and be swept away by this superb record.
Track Listing: La Vuelta De Pedro Orillas; Milonga De Mis Amores; Juan Condori; Memoria; La Parecida; Inside; Soles/La Camposanteńa; Las Cosas Amadas; A Juana, Mi Madre; Los Sauces; Improvisación; Chiriguano.
Personnel: Dino Saluzzi: bandoneon; Felix Cuchara Saluzzi: tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet; José Maria Saluzzi: acoustic and electric guitars; Matias Saluzzi: double-bass, bass guitar; U.T. Gandhi: drums, percussion.