Susan Alcorn: Canto

Chile-inspired music from the pedal-steel guitarist largely lies outside the jazz brief but improvisation plays a large part in its success


Pedal-steel guitarist Alcorn has diversified widely both on record and otherwise and this album, which embraces Chilean folk music to such an extent that it could at times easily be filed under the world label, is another mark along the way. This is a good thing, not least because it’s indicative of a musical intelligence that acknowledges no borders and is thus indicative of the fact that music is a product of deeply, prevailingly human making.

For this reviewer at least, a recurring four-note motif in the opening of Suite Para Todos is highly reminiscent of a similar motif in The Fall’s Mansion, from the album This Nation’s Saving Grace. But that thread is soon cut by the evolution into a state of near free improvisation before the establishment of an overtly folk feel, then the cohabitation of the two. These are no small steps, considering the piece ends just above the six-minute mark.

At almost 13 minutes Canto II. Presente: Sueño De Luna Azul is by some distance the piece of longest duration. It’s also indicative of how this band is a meeting both of minds and sensibilities. Without a hint of contrivance the music again takes in what on the surface at least is a disparate range of forms, with no single musician leading. Instead, the collective effort is what counts and it brings to fruition a music which in some respects falls well outside of the “jazz” brief. However, the chances of it succeeding to the extent that does could be considerably diminished by the absence of improvisatory input.

Suite Para Todos; Canto I. Donde Estan?; Canto II. Presente: Sueño De Luna Azul; Canto III. Lukax; Mercedes Sosa; El Derecho De Vivir En Paz (43.37)
Alcorn (pedal-steel g); Luis “Toto” Alvarez (g); Danka Villanueva (vn, v); Rodrigo Bobadilla (f, quena, zampona, g, v); Amanda Irarrazabal (b, v) Claudio “Pajaro” Araya (d, cuatro); Francisco “Pancho” Araya (charango, quena). 19-20 November 2022. No location(s)
Relative Pitch RPR 1170