American pop sophisticate Burt Bacharach and Mexican bolero icon Armando Manzanero may not seem like a good fit for a binary tribute album, but that combination actually works. Why, you ask? The answer is fairly simple: When you boil down the music that each of those men created, you're left with indelible melodies, beautiful and colorful harmonies, and personalized forms of language that, nonetheless, remain approachable.
Gabriel Espinosa, a bassist-vocalist with an affinity for the work of both honorees, seems to instinctively understand how to work the through line that connects the two. He doesn't overplay the qualities that make either composer unique and he doesn't try to twist or pervert the music (or lyrics) for the sake of a modern slant. He simply delivers the music as he hears it, giving due reverence while walking his own path.
Songs Of Bacharach And Manzanero is split evenly between the titular figures, with five pieces per composer showing up on the playlist. Espinosa covers vocals on all of the Manzanero pieces, the incomparable Tierney Sutton steps into that starring role for the Bacharach numbers, and several notable guests add the finishing touches. Flautist Itai Kriss makes the most of his lone appearance on "(They Long To Be) Close To You," enhancing the overall atmosphere and mixing it up with Sutton on the way out; trumpeter Jim Seeley adds volumes to "The Look Of Love" and "Somos Novios," providing warm introductions and solos on each one; and harmonica wiz Hendrik Meurkens appears on four tracks, most notably bringing a wistful quality to "Como Yo Te Ame" and beautifully painting around Sutton (and in his own space) during "Alfie." A variety of others make their way in and out of the picture, as only two musicianspianist Misha Tsiganov and drummer-percussionist Mauricio Zottarellitake the full trip.
Despite the inconsistent personnel lineup and the two-pronged theme, nothing ever feels scattershot in its construction or delivery. That's a testament to Espinosa's vision. The album volleys from Manzanero to Bacharach and back again, constantly shifting focus from one composer (and one vocalist) to the other. But rather than highlighting the differences between the writers and the singers, that stroke of programming acuity makes the album speak as one. It allows the ears to adjust to what makes Manzanero and Bacharach similar, rather than what makes them different. True language and a cultural divide may separate the two, but pure emotion and the music-as-Esperanto philosophy bring them together.
Track Listing: Adoro; (They Long To Be) Close To You; Como Yo Te Amo; The Look Of Love; Esta Tarde Vi Llover; What The World Needs Now; Somos Novios; Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head; Cuando Estoy Contigo; Alfie.
Personnel: Gabriel Espinosa: vocals (1, 3, 5, 7, 9), electric bass (1, 8, 9); Tierney Sutton: vocals (2, 4, 6, 8, 10); Misha Tsiganov: piano, Fender Rhodes; Mauricio Zottarelli: drums, percussion; Jim Seeley: trumpet, flugelhorn (4, 7); Hendrik Meurkens: harmonica (3, 5, 8, 10); Gustavo Amarante: electric bass (2, 3, 4, 7); Joe Martin: acoustic bass (5, 6, 10); Rubens De La Corte: acoustic guitar (7, 9); Itai Kriss: flute (2); Jonathan Gomez: bongos (5, 9).
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