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La Voz de Tres at Tempe Center for the Arts

Patricia Myers By

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La Voz de Tres
Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, Arizona
September 27, 2014

Chilean-born Natalie Bernal's vocal sound was both illuminatively angelic and deeply sensual, a transfixing contrast for the New York-based trio La Voz de Tres. Her colleagues, Mike Eckroth on piano-vocals and Jason Ennis on seven-string guitar-vocals, make up the coalition that launched the sixth season for Lakeshore Music's nine-month jazz series in this venue, said producer Woody Wilson.

The concert was a world-jazz musical experience of contrasting moods, from gracefully flowing to rapid-fire electricity. The trio's exceptional originality and style seemed to cause listeners to be mesmerized by the soaring clarity of Bernal's high notes and the bluesy warmth of her voice in the lower register. But final audience approval was defined by strong applause at the end of each composition.

Eckroth, a Phoenix native who relocated to New York two decades ago, is a master of expressive power via his agile command of the grand piano. His sounds supported and underscored Bernal's elastic vocal skill as she sang in Spanish, Portuguese and English, entirely captivating throughout the evening. Her original, "Sofia," also proved her mettle as a composer.

An especially memorable rendition was "Tu, Mi Delirio/You're My Delerium," its internal energy further propelled by Ennis' Brazilian-style guitar segment. His original, "Firefly," featured beautifully delivered guitar expressionism. Milton Nascimento's "Milagre Dos Peixes/The Miracle of the Fish" provided an equally commanding guitar feature, complemented by Eckroth's expressive strength and a series of three-part harmonies.

The program's content was predominantly Latin American, with jazz charts offered here and there, including the ever-exquisite Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn composition "Daydream." The inclusion of Stevie Wonder's "Visions" had Bernal's supple voice soaring the widest and strongest of the evening. The trio created a flawless synergy that recalled the interfacing of the {{Modern Jazz Quartet}, this Latin-vocal version of that well-meshed group also allowing ample space for improvisation.

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