The fusion of jazz and cultural music traditions often travels beyond Latin influences. Musicians freely explore world ideals and then combine newfound concepts with jazz. This venture potentially benefits artists with an intriguing new musical mixture. They also risk a washed-out musical blend that disregards the stylistic integrity of each influence. Walking the line between creativity and disregard requires a brave, educated, and humble artist that carries a personal vision into each new destination. Vocalist Alexa Weber Morales confidently balances these ideals on Vagabundeo/Wanderings, melding influences into a strong musical statement.
Latin Foundation With Surprises
Morales maintains a Latin foundation on several tracks, always including a unique twist beyond standard expectations. Bizet’s popular “Habanera” opens the album, bringing together Morales’ classical training, jazz background, and Cuban foundation. The aria’s French lyrics float over a Pilón rhythm before breaking into a Salsa montuno, complete with Spanish language coro-pregón. Morale’s insightful vocal performance contains stylistic subtlety with tone changes between classical references and Salsa attack. Ruben Blades’ “El Cantante” brings a taste of authentic Salsa to the album with a modern arrangement. Morales’ deftly interprets around clave, and then creatively brings her voice into the Mambo’s interlocking horn lines. The Jobim medley “Agua de Beber/Aguas de Marco” respectfully pays tribute to the composer’s work. Rich vocal harmonies sung in Portuguese complement the bossa nova rhythm over “Agua de Beber” until a Samba break changes the feel for “Aguas de Marco.” Morales interprets this classic first in English, then moves into Portuguese before Frank Martin’s tasteful piano solo. Morales’ “Asi Es El Amor” weaves a beautifully shaped melody through a traditional Salsa feel before seamlessly moving into Samba. Pianist Murray Low kicks the song into high gear with a Timba montuno, bringing the song to a funky close. Morales’ flexible view of Latin rhythms opens a world of arranging possibilities, offering many pleasantly surprising moments.
Pop References and Outstanding Musicianship
Morales broadens her horizons further with a strong reference to American pop forms on several songs. The introduction to “Ave Rara” recalls Pat Methany’s smooth Brazilian influenced albums, and then moves into a synth filled Yellowjackets influence. The extensive background vocal harmonies build a lush texture, gliding into Rick Vandivier’s melodic guitar solo. The colorful a cappella arrangement of “Calling You” frames a well-written pop song with a sparse and personal texture. The overdubbed voices bathe Morales’ melody in warmth, moving into an emotional scat solo from Kenny Washington. An authentic Cha Cha Cha rides beneath the English lyric to “Her Ways Wander.” The synthesizer pads along with the verse-chorus form lean towards a cross between smooth jazz and Latin pop. African bells give way to a slap bass, funk guitar, and disco drumbeat on the 70s influenced “The Goddess of War.” A Chick Corea influenced synthesizer sound drives solo licks from Martin, providing some fire against Morales’ assertive vocal. Morales adds these tastes of pop music into her musical foundation, maintaining her concept while opening her work to a wider audience.
Several outstanding musical performances support the album’s overall vision. Morales regularly looks beyond the voice’s traditional roles, exploring a variety of instrumental possibilities. The gradual overlap of voices at the end of “Agua de Beber/Aguas de Marco” utilizes vocals percussively, building into a unique Batucada. Morales also deeply understands the ability of the voice to express moods, feelings, and stylistic factors. The nuanced tone and aesthetic approach to “Angelitos Negros” expresses a wide emotional palette, while referencing the inner soul of gospel music. Wayne Wallace’s arrangements add a creative musical presence, full of solid horn writing and rhythm section guidance. Wallace presents an expansive musicality – professional and refined, but always in line with Morales’ diverse vision. Michael Spiro and John Santos expertly groove through the variety of percussion feels, while bassist David Belove and drummer Paul van Wageningen provide a powerful foundation. These four musicians drive the album, creating a cohesive feel throughout the diverse ideas. Morales and her band’s ability to walk through different musical genres while maintaining professional performances reflect a high level of musicianship.
A Strong Musical Traveler
Morales brings integrity, grace, and style to each musical style she visits on Vagabundeo/Wanderings. She wanders through a variety of musical and linguistic traditions, unifying disparate ideas smoothly. The lines between salsa, samba, gospel, and American pop meld into a musically satisfying sound. The musical output weathers all these influences easily, based on the strength of Morales’ artistic vision, defined musical personality, and worldview. The result moves beyond the concept of a jazz-fusion; instead, Morales offers an insider’s view into her musical journey, sharing in her respect and admiration of each stylistic change. Morales’ strong musicianship and cultural understanding ensure that each musical journey will explore new territories while maintaining the original beauty of the traditional landscapes.