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Guillermo Klein: Una Nave

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Composer/bandleader Guillermo Klein left New York City in 2000 to return to his native Argentina (he has since relocated to Barcelona), but his seven years in Gotham undoubtedly made an influence—on his fellow musicians, anyway. His large ensemble groups Guillermo Klein Big Band and Los Guachos were criminally under-recorded considering his remarkable musical talent.

Maybe that will change with the release of Una Nave, which was recorded in 2002 in Buenos Aires with a core septet of Argentinean players plus a comparable number of guest vocalists, percussionists, and other miscellanea (see personnel listing at right). Klein plays piano, Fender Rhodes, and guitar—and he sings in an unvirtuosic and perhaps nicotine-weathered voice made no less affecting by its weathering. This is Latin-saturated music, often with an Afro-Cuban or Argentinean flavor, built on the robust, propulsive powerhouse kit drumming of Daniel "Pipi Piazzolla and the rock-inflected electric bass playing of Matias Mendez. Yet those seeking any sort of traditional music—from Argentina, Latin America, or anywhere on earth—will be confounded by the staggering eclecticism and sprawling reach of Klein's compositions. Klein's work is as traditionally Argentinean as Caetano Veloso's is traditionally Brazilian or, for that matter, Charles Mingus' is traditionally black gospel.

And Mingus is really the only musician to whom I feel compelled to compare Klein—not that their musics sound a thing alike. They do not. But the sheer audacity of grasp demonstrated by Una Nave can only be compared to as brash and fearless a musical personality as Mingus. There's so much to marvel at: the contrapuntal twin-trumpet knotting of "La Ultima ; the dizzying reed ensemble parts of "El Rio '02 ; Klein's percussive vocalizing of the phrase "Fascinating Rhythm-Moliendo Café on the song of the same title; "Venga, with its hard, sideways Latin swing (MVP Piazzolla always prominent) under the interweaved, angular lines of Klein's piano and Mendez's bass.

The delicacy of "Nave —with its doubled Klein vocals, crisp, breezy acoustic guitar, and near-perfect static horn ensembles—should fit in horribly on the same CD as the violently rhythmic "Argentina, with its stacked percussion and pounded piano. Yet it all fits together fine; this is the rare CD where plentiful musical variety only gives an impression of hungry and far-reaching giftedness—not arrogant hubris or lack of focus.

It's important to note that Klein's own playing, be it on keyboard or guitar, is hardly the focus of these compositions. Certainly, the aforementioned "Argentina features his iron-fingered piano playing, but "Niza (milonga) may be more typical in its song-serving twinning of his piano with the bass line of Mendez (not unreminiscent of what Joe Zawinul loved to do in Weather Report). Outside of the rare solos, the music feels pretty through-composed; free improvisation this is not.

Una Nave is an album of huge ambition, and its ambitions are all pretty much realized. I can only hope he's recording right now in Barcelona.


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)

Title: Una Nave | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


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