Californian Natalie Cressman is a 30-year-old trombonist. Her partner is Brazilian acoustic guitarist Ian Faquini, aged 31. He emigrated to the US when a child. Auburn Whisper is their second album, following Setting Rays Of Summer in 2019. Faquini composed all the melodies on the current release and Cressman did the arrangements.
The pair both sing individually and together in English and Portuguese. Three of the four English lyrics – Auburn Whisper, Already There and Rear Window – where she sounds like Kate Bush – were written by Cressman. The majority of songs are in Portuguese and written by Iara Ferreira – a colleague of Faquini’s.
Cressman’s father is Jeff Cressman who was Carlos Santana’s trombonist for 16 years and during the lockdown he provided the duo with use of his home studio to record and produce the songs. Cressman plays tenor and bass trombones and carries out multiple roles in supplying the melody line, adding nuanced trombone parts and providing harmonies to vocals and guitar. To illustrate this, if you listen to the instrumental number Doutor Escobar, where Cressman plays just tenor, you can hear how she’s layered other trombone parts later in the production process, giving the music unexpected depth. Facquini comes in on guitar after one minute.
While at times the sound of the album brings to mind Gilberto and Getz’s Girl From Ipanema and the like, the lyrics often reference Brazilian folklore. For example, the track Afoxé has a chant to Oxum, the Brazilian deity of rivers and waterfalls. Similarly, Benção De Lansa concerns the goddess of storms and fire and Curandeiro has the duo singing about a healer who cared for a native Amazon tribe in years gone by.
Overall, there’s a distinctly wistful feel to the album but there are occasions of contrast together with less “spiritual” themes. For instance, try the complex Brazilian rhythms of Ralando Coco where trombones, guitar and vocals are delivered at speed.
Afoxé; Rear Window; Canaã; Auburn Whisper; Benção De Lansa; Segredo De Dadá; Cazadero; Curandeiro; Already There; Ralando Coco; Hood River; Doutor Escobar; Madrugada (50.18)
Natalie Cressman (tb, btb, v); Ian Faquini (g, v). San Francisco, 2020.