Some albums are simply a collection of discrete songs; others are broader works where the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. With Una Nave, Argentinean pianist Guillermo Klein has created a boldly sweeping album that transcends its individual components. While these sixteen pieces can be assessed in terms of stylistic roots, specific performances, and compositional élan, these considerations are really secondary to the greater impact they have when experienced as a 66-minute whole.
Klein, a mainstay on the New York scene through the '90s until he returned home to Buenos Aires in '00, doesn't neglect the folkloric elements of his Argentinean roots. But they are so completely subsumed that one has to look more closely for them, although the rhythm-centric nature of Una Nave does have a clear Latin precedent. Still, with the powerful strength of his rhythm sectionbassist Matias Mendez and drummer Daniel "Pipi Piazollathere are points where Klein's sometimes complex compositions take on a kind of fusion energy, albeitwith the exception of Mendez's electric bass and Klein's occasional use of Fender Rhodesin a completely acoustic context, and without the bombast and almost inherent overplay.
Still, fusion doesn't adequately describe the music. "Venga, a maelstrom that begins with a potent riff-based beginning that leads to freer interplay by its end, contrasts sharply with the lighter but no less compelling "Flores which would be a waltz if it weren't for the dropped beat at the end of every fourth barwhere Klein's unschooled and smoky vocals introduce rich counterpoint by the horns, before dissolving into an almost ambient outro by Klein's Rhodes and Pablo Klein's classical guitar.
Klein's orchestral musical universe sometimes combines seemingly dichotomous elements. Nahuel Litwin's classical guitar solo on "Luminarias (tango) appears at odds with the rhythm section's funky backdrop, and seems even more unlikely an accompaniment to the bright horn arrangement that follows; still, everything somehow gels and nothing feels out of place.
Within the compositional construction of Una Nave, improvisation is an important element; but solos often seem so integrated that it's sometimes difficult to know if one is actually hearing one, or if it's just Klein's challenging writing, which often combines lyrical beauty and greater abstraction within the confines of a single piece.
It's remarkable that pieces as chaotic as "Argentina, which introduces both the album and Klein's occasionally aggressive piano style, can cohabitate with the elegiac "Luci, a duet for piano and voice; the suite-like "Miminashi Yama, which places a potent tenor solo in the middle of a lengthily-arranged through-composition; and the tabla-driven reprise of "Flores (India) at the end of the album, also featuring Indian singing by Saindevi. But that's just a testament to Klein's remarkable ability to envision a larger narrative arc.
As effective as the individual compositions are, their contextual placement creates an even more vivid and profound experience that makes Una Nave one of the best albums of this year, or any year for that matter.
Track Listing: Argentina; Nave; Fiu; Venga; Flores; Luminarias (tango); Piernas; Niza (milonga); El Fin; La
Ultima; Luci; Miminashi Yama; El Rio '02; Fascinating Rhythm-Moliendo Caf
Personnel: Juan Cruz de Urquza: trumpet; Richard Nant: trumpet, percussion, vocal (14), background
vocals; Ricardo Dominguez: tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet; Nahuel Litwin: guitar;
Matias Mendez: bass, vocal (14), background vocals; Guillermo Klein: piano, Fender Rhodes,
guitar, vocals; Daniel "Pipi" Piazzolla: drums; Sergio Verdinelli: drums (1,6,12); Alvaro Torres:
Fender Rhodes (7); Pablo Klein: guitar (5); Silvia Aramayo, Matias Conte, Javier Calequi:
background vocals (7); Tsai: tablas (16); Saindevi: vocal (16)
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