Claudia Acuña: Duo

Rich-voiced Chilean singer duets with such distinguished instrumentalists as Kenny Barron, Fred Hersch, Christian McBride and Arturo O’Farrill


Coming to prominence in New York in the 1990s, Chilean singer Claudia Acuña recorded some well-received albums before leaving the music scene to raise her son. She returned to music in 2019 with Turning Pages (Plaza IM), an album of her own compositions, which was nominated for a Latin Grammy.

Now comes Duo, on which Acuña performs nine Latin American songs, on seven of which she sings with a single accompanist, each of them of international stature in the jazz world. Four of these are pianists, all of whom are stylistically different.

On the long opening track, Medianoche (by Chileans Patricio Manns & Horacio Salinas), Acuña’s rich and compelling voice is accompanied by pianist Kenny Barron whose playing is expectedly excellent. For Eclipse De Luna, by Cuban songwriter Margarita Lecuona, the singer pairs with bassist Christian McBride, who is not only a rock-solid accompanist but also a skilled soloist. Colombian pianist Carolina Calvache performs with flair on Razón De Vivir, which is the work of Argentine composer Victor Heredia.

The Mexican songwriter Maria Grever is represented here by Jurame on which Acuña teams with pianist Fred Hersch, a noted accompanist of singers who is also an accomplished soloist. The composer of Manifiesto is fellow Chilean Victor Jara and here the singer is accompanied by the violin of Regina Carter, perhaps the foremost jazz violinist of the day.

Another Mexican songwriter is Agustin Lara whose Verdade Amarga is a delight, with a sparkling solo from guitarist Russell Malone. On Lara’s Piensa En Mi the singer is backed by Mexico-born, USA-raised pianist Arturo O’Farrill, playing here with his customary intricate skill.

Of all the composers whose work is performed here, Chick Corea is the only non-Latin American but his Crystal Silence fits in well. The singer is unaccompanied on this song, and on the closing track, Yo, her own composition, she is again on her own, this time not singing a capella but accompanying herself on bombo legüero and also providing a backing vocal track.

This is an ideal album for all who enjoy Latin music while the presence of the accompanists, all of whom are featured in extended solos, make it also of interest to the jazz audience.

(1) Medianoche; (2) Eclipse De Luna; (3) Razon De Vivir; (4) Jurame; (5) Manifiesto; (6) Verdad Amarga; (7) Piensa En Mi; (8) Crystal Silence; (9) Yo (35.50)
Acuña (v) with: (1) Kenny Barron (p). (2) Christian McBride (b). (3) Carolina Calvache (p). (4) Fred Hersch (p). (5) Regina Carter (vn). (6) Russell Malone (g). (7) Arturo O’Farrill (p). (8) a capella. (9) Acuña (v, pc). NYC, 12 & 13 August 2021.
Ropeadope CA2022