There is a breathtaking array of music on this album Passion by Raquel Cepeda – music from an array of South American traditions as well as from the northern realm of Jazz. But it is no vanity project or publicity stunt either. Judging by the results it’s probably a given that the composers of this music would have approved whole-heartedly of Miss Cepeda’s decision to take the solo (lead) part throughout. Her uncompromising professionalism and prodigiously gifted artistry shines throughout the hour-or-so of music. It’s simply not a stretch at all for her to traverse the varied cultural topography with disparate music, making this into a journey of a myriad of soundscapes; disparate ones woven into a magical tapestry of sound.
Miss Cepeda’ uses the full range of her vocalastic skills here; her nasal voice, throat voice and her chest voice – each artfully engaged where the music demands it with such utter brilliance as to make the lyric come alive convincingly. I find her Brasilian repertoire here perhaps the most alluring, given the complexity of the imagery – which is Afro-Brasilian, syncretic-spiritual, sensual (even sexual) and secular. Her performance on “Berimbau” and “Canto de Ossanha” is thus – for me at least – the crowning glory of this album. But while that’s personal, there is much more here to cheer about than just those two songs. Miss Cepeda’s wonderful version of Ellingtonia is also quite magical. She opens and closes the album with “Caravan” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing)” respectively. The latter ends the programme with requisite joy and with a breathtaking version of “Quimbara” appended to the Jazz classic.
The vocalist is also joined here by star musicians, the collection of which amounts to a whole stellar constellation. Pianist Barry Sames, percussionist Cassio Duarte, reeds and winds master Ernesto Vega, celebrated bandoneon player Héctor del Curto (on the mesmerising version of the tango “Little Gem”), the great cuatro player and fellow Venezuelan, Jorge Glem and the great drummer and percussion colourist Marlon Simon (also a fellow-Venezuelan of Miss Cepeda) are just a few of those who have joined Miss Cepeda on this memorable album. They and others are fully attuned to her vision and artistry. And that’s the other reason why Passion is absolutely an album to die for.
Track list – 1: Caravan; 2: Moliendo Café; 3: Berimbau; 4: From Afar; 5: Mil Congojas; 6: Llorarás; 7: Dentro Dos Olhos Seus; 8: Little Gem; 9: (You’d Be So) Easy to Love; 10: Luz de Luna; 11: Canto de Ossanha; 12: Your Return; 13: It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing)/Quimbara
Personnel – Raquel Cepeda: vocals; Barry Sames: piano; Thomas Helton: contrabass; Cassio Duarte: percussion (1 – 9, 11 – 13), berimbau (3); Adriano Santos: drums (1 – 5, 7, 11, 12); Orlando Fuentes: drums (6, 9, 13); Ernesto Vega: tenor saxophone (1, 4, 9, 11 – 13), soprano saxophone (3) and flute (6); Omar Martinez: trumpet (1 – 3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 13) and flugelhorn (7); With Special Guests – Héctor del Curto: bandoneon (8); Jorge Glem: Venezuelan cuatro (10); Marlon Simon: drums and percussion (8, 11); David Cáceres: back-up vocals (13)
Released – 2019
Label – Raquel Cepeda Music LLC
Runtime – 1:07:36