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Camila Meza: Traces

Dan Bilawsky By

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Try to process and pin down the meaning of Camila Meza's mien in any number of pictures included in this package and you may come up empty. But it's not for lack of expression there. It's for the exact opposite reason. Meza projects countless thoughts and moods—both complementary and contradictory in nature—within a single image, and it's the same with her music. She's extremely colorful in her methods and means of expression, creating rich and enchanting concoctions that project longing, hope, beauty, strength, fragility, love, and any number of other emotions and thoughts. Her talents are many, but her ability to layer and blend different feelings may be the greatest gift she gives us.

Traces, by Meza's own written admission, is something of a reflective work. But, as hinted at above, this is not music of a purely introverted or introspective nature. These tales of self-discovery can be powerful, poetic, and/or peaceable in nature. None of those ideals prove to be mutually exclusive here. Across ten numbers Meza shows herself to be a singular talent, fashioning her own sonic universe with her guitar, capturing the imagination with her arresting vocals, crafting personal songs that still manage to resonate in universal terms, and investing her own soul within the work of other composers. And with a band that includes strong and malleable personalities like pianist Shai Maestro, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Kendrick Scott, Meza is able to amplify the intent in the music.

This album opens on the windswept wonders of "Para Volar," but it doesn't take long for the mood, sound, and theme to shift. "Away," bringing vocalist Sachal Vasandani and cellist Jody Redhage into the mix, deals with the difference between skin deep affection and true love. Then there's the title track, playing like an exploration of optimism and empowerment; Djavan's "Amazon Farewell," a commentary on the way man deals with and destroys nature; and "Mar Elastico," Meza's reminisces and reflections on the elastic nature of familial bonds.

Further on, Meza presents more of her own music and deals with the work of composers as different as Chilean Victor Jara, Broadway giant Stephen Sondheim, and indie icon/producer/film composer Jon Brion. Jara's "Luchin" finds Meza alone with her guitar, bringing voice to the problems and injustices in her native country through the titular character, and Sondheim's "Greenfinch And Linnet Bird" takes on a sunnier and lighter-than-usual quality. Brion's "Little Person" comes later, serving as an intimate finale that's light in texture but weighty in other respects, addressing relationships and the balance between insignificance and importance. It's the perfect sendoff from an artist who continually and successfully manages to set off such disparate ideas against one another.

Track Listing: Para Volar; Away; Traces; Amazon Farewell; Mar Elastico; Luchin; Greenfinch And Linnet Bird; Mangata; Emerald; Little Person.

Personnel: Camila Meza: vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar; Shai Maestro: piano, Rhodes, wurlitzer; mellotron, pump organ, ampli-celeste; Matt Penman: bass; Kendrick Scott: drums; Bashiri Johnson: percussion; Jody Redhage: cello (2, 4, 8); Sachal Vasandani: vocals (2).

Title: Traces | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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