Denyce Graves - Lost Days
This seems to me an unusually successful example of a crossover CD, with Denyce Graves applying the sultry mezzo of a Carmen to songs that demand precisely that Latin heat and passion. Piazzolla is the starting point of the collection, in the shape of the heroine’s sensual song from María de Buenos Aires; but the tone for the CD is set by its arranger, Pablo Ziegler.
One of Piazzolla’s most faithful disciples, Ziegler is responsible also for the arrangements of songs by another leading 20th-century Argentinian composer, Carlos Guastavino. Though a veteran of the Buenos Aires jazz scene, Ziegler is classically trained, and it is classical textures that are the most striking feature of his instrumentally varied arrangements for four or five musicians.
Perhaps the jazziest number in the whole collection is Villa-Lobos’s Estrella é lua nóva, arranged by the composer’s New York-based fellow Brazilian Eliane Elias. She uses a trio comprising piano, acoustic bass and percussion. For performances of their own works by two Cuban musicians, José María Vitier has a quintet, while Chucho Valdés simply accompanies at the piano.
The original challenge was to synthesise classic, jazz and Latin music, to present graceful melodies in uncluttered arrangements. This has been achieved extraordinarily successfully. Nothing conspires to destroy the atmosphere of relaxed sensuality and eroticism that pervades the whole collection. Piazzolla’s Milonga sin Palabras, performed as a wordless vocalise with piano, bandoneon, bass and flute, is perhaps the most haunting item in an altogether beguiling collection.