Spotlight: Alma Y Luna, Sofia Tosello

by chip on October 21, 2009

The Spotlight Series highlights upcoming Latin Jazz musicians that have yet to reach national recognition. Many of these musicians thrive in local scenes and some tour in support of releases. All these musicians contribute greatly to the overall Latin Jazz scene, and they deserve our “spotlighted” attention.

Alma Y Luna
Sofia Tosello
Sunnyside Records

The use of folk forms as a basis for Latin Jazz results in a powerful structure for an artist’s vocabulary. Folk music reveals an honest reflection of the artist’s heritage and exposes many deeply ingrained cultural aesthetics. Specific songs provide special meaningful to the artist, reflecting their childhood or reminding them of a certain time or place in their lives. Latin Jazz artists can completely re-harmonize folk songs and add extensive improvisation, taking bits of culture into another world. Other musicians stay true to the roots of folk songs and add limited jazz embellishments and improvisational flights. An artist with a deep connection to the music may compose their own songs based upon folk forms. Whichever path the musician chooses, the inclusion of folk forms becomes an important piece of their artistic identity. It adds a flair of authenticity to their work and sets them apart from the exclusive integration of dance styles into jazz harmonies. The use of folk forms provides contrast against the use of more jazz oriented or popular settings. Folk forms add a good deal of tradition, depth, and culture into an artist’s work and always provides a fascinating background to the music. Argentinean vocalist Sofia Tosello reaches deeply into her country’s folk music on Alma Y Luna, while making rich connections with jazz, funk, and popular styles.

Staying Close To Tradition
Tosello stays close to tradition with several pieces that reflect folk interpretations. Guitarist Miguel Rivaynera’s steady finger plucked creates a steady flow as Raul Lavadenz’s acordeón provides a lush melody on Ana Robles’ “La Seca,” giving way to Tosello’s strong vocal. As the rhythm section alters textural ideas with the entrance of percussion, Tosello wraps her rich tone around the melody, interpreting the song with a clear and defined presence. The commanding nature of Tosello’s vocal brings this piece into full stride, as she precisely expresses herself with a wide dynamic range and multiple articulations. Rivaynera cleverly overdubs himself into a richly arranged layer of guitar foundation on Chato Diaz and Hugo Rivella’s “Nacida en Agua De Guerra,” utilizing intertwining rhythmic ideas and harmonized melodies. Tosello plays off Rivaynera’s assertive forward motion with a powerful momentum, capturing the song’s essence with a bold vocal. An arranged guitar interlude from Rivaynera embodies the beauty of the track, as his combination of arpeggiated chords and brief licks flow perfectly into Tosello’s featured vocal. Guitarist Aquiles Baéz thoughtfully moves through a chordal introduction on “Zambita Pa Mi Coyita” while Hector del Curto’s bandoneon wanders through subtle improvised lines. Percussionist Yayo Serka pushes the song into a rhythmic momentum with a bomba legüero while Tosello skillfully builds the lyric into a powerful statement. The interplay between Tosello and del Curto adds a special depth to this track as the bandoneon consistently comments upon each vocal phrases, reflecting Tosello’s emotive reading. Rivaynera establishes an introspective mood with an understated introduction to José Dames and Horacio Salguinetti’s “Nada,” pulling a strong emotional effect from dramatic single note lines. Tosello thrives in this setting, as her fully exposed voice guides the musical shape with a beauty, ease, and confidence. She delivers a personal interpretation here, building a touching statement upon Rivaynera’s supportive and responsive accompaniment. These pieces display a deeply rooted connection between Tosello and Argentinean folk music, providing a perfect setting for her strong vocal skills.

Leaning Towards Jazz
Tosello leans towards jazz in other pieces, mixing Argentinean roots with space for improvisation. Serka’s assertive bombo legüero provides a steady pulse while guitarist Julio Santillan intertwines chordal patterns into the introduction on “La Clarosa Cruz.” Tosello firmly states the melody through bold phrases, separated by short complementary improvisations from bassist Jorge Roeder, violinist Pablo Farhet, and Lavadenz’s acordeón. Roeder enthusiastically steps into the spotlight with an energetic solo that cleverly plays around the rhythmic structure. A rich series of plucked arpeggios from Baez leads into a gently understated vocal from Tosello on Alberto Rojo’s “Que Bonito.” As the rhythm section joins the group, Tosello builds her vocal into a strong presence, reflecting virtuosic accompaniment from Baez. Clarinet player Anat Cohen slides into an enchanting improvisation, walking the line between bluesy licks and playful rhythmic phrasing. The wandering sound of Yosvany Terry’s soprano sax provides a haunting contrast against Rob Curto’s effects-laden acordeón on “Alma Y Luna.” The drastically different texture brings a new vocal approach from Tosello, who offers flowing phrases and long legato articulations. Scatted syllables in unison with Terry begin an upward rise for the track, which builds into an intensive climax with clapping patterns, improvisational flurries from Terry, and a thick layer of voices. Baez provides a rubato unaccompanied introduction on “Mi Musita Salteña” until Tosello transitions into the pulse with a gentle scat. As Tosello travels through the lyrics, the band builds into a more jazz oriented context with the addition of drum kit sounds and strong bass lines from Pedro Giraudo. As Tosello reaches the end of the lyrics, Ignacio Freijo’s Quena and Ramiro “Capi” Nieva’’s Zampoña move through winding lines filled with improvised embellishments. These pieces allow Tosello to build upon her roots, combining folk music ideas with bits of jazz improvisation and harmony.

Moving Into Popular Styles
Tosello steps away from folk music completely on other tracks, moving towards popular styles. A combination of funky keyboard sounds and guitar licks lead into a thick chorus from Tosello on “La Verdadera Llama,” referencing Latin pop sounds. Pavel Urkiza’s clever arrangement draws upon a verse-chorus form, allowing Tosello to skillfully build contrast and shape around the structure. Trombonist Dyan Abad interjects brief licks with an energetic abandon, asserting an aggressive personality into the song’s upbeat mood. Pianist Osmany Paredes creates a rhythmic drive with steady chords as Terry improvises on “Me Falta La Imaginación” until the band abruptly falls into a soft bolero. The group creates a classic feel as colorful chords move beneath Tosello, who winds through the lyrics with a coy playfulness. Terry indulges in severe understatement on his feature, placing long notes over the band and letting them shimmer against Paredes’ rich chords. A catchy melody from a full horn section leads the group into a strong salsa arrangement on “Sentirme Libre Contigo,” filled with a distinctly Cuban flavor. Tosello displays a strong flexibility on this track, skillfully wrapping phrases around the clave and confidently spinning pregons. Paredes grabs the band with a syncopated improvisation that transitions seamlessly into a burning timba montuno for more pregones. Byron Ramos’ lays sparse single note lines over Urkiza’s moving acoustic guitar on “Caminos Del Cielo” as Tosello carefully travels into a delicate vocal line. Bassist Yunior Terry and Ramos improvise freely until Urkiza joins Tosello on vocals, pushing the group into a more open sound. A group explodes into a wall of percussion, electric guitar, saxophone, and thick chorus textures, moving the song into an engaging climax. These tracks allow Tosello to display a different side of her musicianship, showcasing her vocals in a more commercially accessible setting.

Blending All The Right Elements
Tosello displays an interesting and meaningful musical personality on Alma Y Luna that draws strongly upon folk music while exploring a variety of avenues. There’s an inherent familiarity and pride embedded in Tosello’s performance of Argentinean chacareras and zambas. She imbues each song with a commanding presence that cements her connection to genre. At the same time, Tosello’s journeys through Cuban music and popular styles benefit from her deep musicality, allowing her to assert a defined voice in each context. Tosello’s vocal skills radiate from the recording with a clear power and honest beauty, letting her guide the group with a commanding personality. Her thorough ability to apply a broad range of dynamics, a diverse set of articulations, stylistically appropriate phrasing, and a bold tone results in a captivating performance that holds your attention consistently through the album. She finds outstanding support in a large group of outstanding musicians with stellar contributions from guitarists Miguel Rivaynera and Aquiles Baez, bassist Jorge Roeder, Pedro Giraudo, and Yunior Terry, and saxophonist Yosvany Terry. Tosello blends all the right elements into traditional music on Alma Y Luna, showing us that folk music can be familiar and personal while retaining a sense of excitement and creativity.

Check Out These Related Posts:
Weekly Latin Jazz Video Fix: Sofia Tosello
Spotlight: Afroperuano, Yuri Juarez
Latin Jazz Photo Album: Sofia Rei Koutsovitis
Spotlight: The Gardener, Darwin Noguera’s Evolution Quintet

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CRISTINA CONEJERO December 11, 2009 at 2:48 pm

es el mejor c.d. que he escuchado !!!!

jeff December 20, 2009 at 3:28 pm

very nice music n production!

Hernan Chamut December 22, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Excelente musicalidad acompaniada con estilo, frescura y dulzura mas un perfecto balance en la combinacion de diferentes estilos musicales se pueden encontrar en este maravilloso disco. Mis mas sinceras felicitaciones. Excelente!

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