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Luis Munoz: Voz

Dan Bilawsky By

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There's selfless, and then there's really selfless. This vocal-centric album of original compositions written and arranged by drummer Luis Muñoz falls into the latter category. Instead of using this as a platform to promote his own playing, which wouldn't necessarily be frowned upon considering the fact that it's his album, Muñoz's contributions on the performance end—drums, Rhodes piano, percussion, keyboard, and melodica—are strictly about sonic enhancement and support. He even sits out three of these nine tracks, proving that the desire to promote a specific musical vision takes precedence over any need to flex muscles here. On a blind listen, it's not likely that anybody would peg this as a drummer-directed date.

So if Muñoz isn't the star of his own album, what or who is? The answer is twofold: both the songs themselves and the vocalists who bring them to life. Muñoz managed to pull together a multicultural cast of singers to help give voice to the beautiful lyrics he wrote (or co-wrote) for Voz. There's Mexico's Magos Herrera, slowly doling out intoxicating vocals in gentle fashion; Brazilian vocalist Téka Penteriche, capably and mellifluously coasting along; and Chilean songstress Claudia Acuna, making a single swoon-worthy appearance on "Quisiera."

Rather than back each vocalist in similar fashion and work each song with the same cast, Muñoz uses more than a dozen musicians in different combinations to help create and capture exactly what he's looking for. In some cases—Penteriche features like the lively "Manantial" and bossa-based "Pasión"—that means going larger, as Muñoz brings everything from hand percussion to harmonica to background vocals into the picture. Elsewhere, as on the album-ending "Amanecer Luminoso," he strips away any excess, leaving only Herrera's voice and Adam Asarnow's piano to deliver this emotional farewell. There are several indispensable elements here—Asarnow's less-is-more pianisms, guitarist Chris Judge's seemingly simple strumming, trumpeter Jonathan Dane's obbligato and solo work—but this remains an ensemble cast that's largely working in support of these gorgeous voices and songs.

Track Listing: Preludio Y Fin; Manatial; Argentina; Journey Of Saint Augustine; Pasión; Testamento/Mas Alla; Amarilis; Quisiera; Amamecer Luminoso.

Personnel: Luis Muñoz: drums, percussion, keyboard, melodica; Jonathan Dane: trumpet, flugelhorn; Brendan Statom: acoustic bass; Magos Herrera: lead vocals (1, 3, 6, 9); Ramses Araya: bongo, congas (2); Tom Etchart: electric bass (2) acoustic bass (6); Ron Kalina: chromatic harmonica (2, 5); Lois Mahalia: vocals (2); Téka Penteriche: lead vocals (2, 5, 8); Narciso Sotomayor: electric guitar (2); Andy Zuñiga: vocals (2); Adam Asarnow: piano (3, 5, 9); Daniel Zimmerman: acoustic guitar (4, 7); Jana Anderson: vocals; Chris Judge: acoustic guitar (5, 6, 8); Victor Marten: vocals; Randy Tico: bass (5); Kevin Winard: percussion (5); George Friedenthal: piano (6); Claudia Acuña: lead vocal (8).

Title: VOZ | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Pellin Music

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