Home » Jazz Articles » Raquel Cepeda at Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston

10
Live Review

Raquel Cepeda at Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston

By

Sign in to view read count
Raquel Cepeda
Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston
Passion CD Release Concert
Houston, Texas
October 19, 2019

Raquel Cepeda is vivid proof that life is nothing if not a journey. Born in Venezuela, she worked in the oil industry as a geologist before leaving the corporate world behind in 2015 to devote herself to music fulltime. But as fascinating as her backstory is, a climactic new chapter was glorious drafted on October 19, when she celebrated the release of her second album, a Latin jazz extravaganza titled Passion, with a career-defining concert and gala. In a stroke of rarity, she and her band played the entire album, in order, without encore, yielding a narrative of not only personal but also collective significance whose central message was clear: She lives in this music as much as it lives in her.

The performance began and ended in standard-leaning territories, thus embracing the program with things familiar, evergreen, and emotionally secure. Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington's "Caravan" filled the room with an energy best described using its own lyrics: This is so exciting, you are so inviting. Indeed, the optimism in which we were all enveloped was brimming with welcome. All the way to "It Don't Mean a Thing (if It Ain't Got That Swing)/Quimbara," a rhythmically savvy fusion that closed us out with further invitation, we were treated to a panoply of images and moods. "Moliendo Café," as well as the originals "From Afar" and "Dentro dos Olhos Seus," were atmospheric jewels filled with smoky occlusions and windswept tenderness. Cepeda's writing, in fact, capped some of the evening's highest mountains. Her ballads "Your Return" and "Luz de Luna" wove nocturnal threads into dawn-seeking patterns. In their delivery, the past felt like a basket in which had been carried memories left beautifully intact for our present regard. Venezuelan cuatro player Hector Molina's memorable guest appearance in the latter song only confirmed Cepeda's musicians as master storytellers in their own rights molded by the firm touch of experience.

Bassist Thomas Helton contributed music to the bandleader's "Little Gem," another alluring highlight whose chameleonic tango moved like ocean, pointing to an overarching theme of water as both physical and metaphysical substance. Pianist Barry Sames, responsible for the arrangements, added depth to songs like "Llorarás," in which his balance of hope and caution—through merest suggestions of salsa and vintage emotions—mirrored that of the words being sung. Drummers Adriano Santos and Orlando Fuentes, along with percussionist Cassio Duarte, gave us answers to every rhythmic question in the buoyant grooves of "Mil Congojas" and "Canto de Ossanha," but nowhere in so raw a manner as in the Baden Powell classic "Berimbau," one of many showcases for the brilliance of saxophonist Ernesto Vega. As in every song, Cepeda and her cohort proved themselves to have walked through life with lessons on their shoulders in full understanding that the contact of music on the body and its invisible ingredients is the very recipe of life. In this respect, the flesh was like a compass whose cardinal directions were fire, wind, water, and earth, with the human heart beating at the magnetic center of them all.

FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter Since 1995, shortly after the dawn of the internet, All About Jazz has been a champion of jazz, supporting it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to rigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

Post a comment

Tags

More

Popular

Read Ramsey Lewis: Life is Good
Read Meet Abe Goldstien
Out and About: The Super Fans
Meet Abe Goldstien
Read Herbie Hancock: An Essential Top Ten Albums

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.