Review written by: Raul da Gama
This extraordinary trio distills the essential emotions of the music they make to such an extent that only the absolute purity of each remains to adorn each song on La Voz de Tres. If it were possible to attribute one reason for this—and it is near impossible—that would be the singular voice of Natalia Bernal. The vocalist has an air about her. This is not arrogance, nor abject humility, but rather a supreme confidence that hers is the most perfect way to tell each story that each song brings. With purity of diction and classic enunciation in both Spanish and Portuguese—and English—Bernal is able to inhabit the characters in each song as if it were second nature to her. Her easy delivery is marked by exquisite expression, a gentle vibrato—just enough to keep the last note in key lines alive and tantalise the heart that awaits resolution. This is left to the equally brilliant pianism and guitar virtuosity of her associates, Mike Eckroth and Jason Ennis, both of whom are virtuoso musicians of the highest order.
As a trio the musicians have perfect empathy for each other. Soli flow absolutely naturally—one into the other as if they were predestined to do so. The amazing manner in which they do at great and unbroken pace on “Tenderly” with not even a quarter of a measure missed is the epitome of perfection. And when these soli are done the ensemble take over mellifluously. The beauty of flawless continuity continues unabated from song to son; end to end. It also bears mention that Bernal’s voice is ethereal glue that binds guitar to piano and vice-versa. The pristine quality provides an extraordinary transparency to the music that is, in turn, magnificently and elementally sad and joyful all at once. In fact such naked emotion is barely present in some of the originals that are re-created in trio format. Such is the power of each instrument, especially the human voice.
Bernal is also an accomplished composer and her extraordinary skills are evident in such beautifully-cut gems as “Estrella de Mar” (what a superb way to describe the sparkle of the ocean—of sound) and on “El Borde de Mi Tierra” (Bernal appears to be a child of the earth and glorifies each aspect of nature with perfection). Then there is the sublime ballad, “Sofia,” which simply soars with elegiac beauty. There is also that small matter of rendering the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim: deceptively simple, yet actually extraordinarily nuanced and complex in the structure and emotion of his music. But the manner in which the trio re-imagines “Fotografía” and deeply brooding “Meditation” and “Inútil Paisagem” is highly creditable. Two Baden Powell classics “Berimbau” and “Samba Triste” are also magnificently re-created. So also is possibly one of the greatest Latin American classics, “Inolvidable”.
This is a flawless record in every aspect, including the recording that captures the natural sound of the human voice as well as it does the rich sound of piano and guitar—and remarkably—the Fender Rhodes, notoriously difficult to render with its ringing tones and unusual palette. Here the ingenious engineering of Travis Stefl also merits mention, especially as it enhances the subtle dynamics used by the pianist and the guitarist.
Track Listing: 1. Ojos Azules; 2. Berimbau; 3. Estrella de Mar; 4. Tenderly; 5. El Borde de mi Tierra; 6. Fotografía; 7. Inolvidable; 8. Cuentame tu Pena; 9. Meditation; 10. Inútil Paisagem; 11. Samba Triste; 12. Sofia.
Personnel: Natalia Bernal: vocals; Mike Eckroth: piano, Rhodes (6); Jason Ennis: 7-string guitar.
Bernal-Eckroth-Ennis’ website: www.bernaleckrothennis.com
Label: Self Produced
Release date: May 2010