The idiom of African-Latin idiom is becoming more popular, with the “sudden” discovery of so many fine artists who have contributed to making it so ever since the idiom was infused into the Jazz phraseology at the turn of the 20th Century, in a twin “attack” from several fronts. These would be Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Haiti (more African-French, but also Latin); and now, with the migration of so many from Puerto Rico into the Midwest and into the East—especially New Jersey; and from Cuba into the sun-ripe state of Florida and into San Francisco. And then there is the influx of African-Latin peoples from Brasil, but that is a whole other story. So there is no dearth of music in the Latin Jazz idiom; not all of it making strides in the realm of distinctiveness. So that when a musician such as Natalie Fernández pops up with a record she shares with the Curtis Brothers: Nuestro Tango, on their rising-star imprint, Truth and Revolution Records, it is only fitting to sit up and take notice.
The Buenos-Aires-born and Florida based chanteuse is among the more respected musicians and vocalists who have come across the Panama Canal to bring their talent Stateside. All it takes is a few bars into “Azabache” and the listener is mesmerized by the sometimes vulnerable-voiced and at other times powerful and sensuous voiced singer. Ms. Fernández is captivating with her pitch-perfect delivery, laced with a gentle vibrato, sometimes in mid-phrase and at other times at the very end of her long and perfect lines. Interestingly Ms. Fernández is also a wonderfully rhythmic vocalist. Her phrasing is something that might find her aligning with the down beat of the congas, or the upbeat of the bass, from where she drives her songs entwined with Luques Curtis as if the two were forming the proverbial double helix. Ms. Fernández can be heard performing in this manner on the beautiful and captivating “El Día Que Me Quieras,” a tango so beautiful it is even possible to feel the heat of its proximity of the sensually raw physicality of the imaginary dancers. Again, her vocal gymnastics on “Afrotangojazz” is so superlative that it takes the breath away. But Natalie Fernández is not only fixated on physical charm; the young lady is also capable of deeper emotions. Her take on the sense of longing in “Adios Nonino” is exquisite and leads almost directly into songs such as “My True Love” and “Nostalgias.”
While Natalie Fernández would have done a swell job with any ensemble, the beauty of the recording has been magnified by the presence of the Curtis Brothers. The pianist Zaccai Curtis is a wonderful partner to have on music that relies on palpable physicality as does his doppelgänger the bassist Luques Curtis, whose plump voluptuous notes infuses the music of Ms. Fernández like nothing else on the record. However the brass and woodwinds do add a wonderful dimension of colour. And the percussion keeps the primordial African elements in stark contrast to the voice until Ms. Fernández turns on the intensity and the music reaches a powerful and feverish pitch. The rattling power of both percussion and Ms. Fernández is observed in the brilliantly executed “Malena,” a tribute to the wonderfully arranged horns and the percussion colourations as well. However, at the heart of it all is the power and sensuality of Natalie Fernández, who sashays into the music carrying with her the rich tradition of African-Latin-Jazz metaphors in the beautiful lyricism of her voice and her vocalastics.
Track List: Azabache; El Día Que Me Quieras; Adios Nonino; Afrotangojazz; Malena; My True Love; Free Me; El Viaje Del Negro; Nostalgias; Un Semejante.
Personnel: Natalie Fernández: vocals, background vocals (5, 8); Zaccai Curtis: piano; Luques Curtis: bass (1 – 9); Richie Barshay: drums (1 – 9); Reinaldo de Jesús: congas, percussion (1 – 9), timbales (2), bongo (4, 9), cajón (6) ; Daniel “Deecoy” Antonetti: timbales (1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9) rap (5), tambora (8); Tokunari “Kaji” Kajiwara: trombone (1, 3, 5, 8, 9); Julie Acosta: trumpet (1, 3, 5, 8, 9), background vocals (1, 5, 8, 9), flugelhorn (6); Zach Lucas: alto saxophone (1, 3, 5, 8, 9), tenor saxophone (8); Richard Scofano: bandoneón (2, 3, 4, 9); Orlando Vega: bongo (4); Obanilú Iré Allende: pandeiro, güiro, (5); Philip Dizack: muted trumpet; Giovanni Almonte: poem (7); Chris Sanchez: güiro (8); Christian Scott: trumpet (9).
Label: Truth and Revolution Records | Release date: January 2014
Website: nataliefernandez.com | Buy music on:
Natalie Fernández and The Curtis Brothers set out to record the best Afro-Caribbean tango album and set a new standard. “There was no mistake in choosing to make this record.” says Fernández. “Zaccai and I began playing around with the sound of traditional tango songs that I knew so well and meshing them with his strong jazz Afro-Caribbean background,” she said “The seed of the “Nuestro Tango” had been laid down in my college years and there they stayed for five years, until now.”
Zaccai arranged and directed all of the music on the new album, contributing his West Indian-Puerto Rican-American jazz-Afro-Caribbean mastery, while Fernández brought her Argentine-American bilingual versatility to it. “The band on the album is an all-star lineup of the best of best,” said Fernández. Songwriter, vocal producer, bilingual vocalist, and powerhouse performer Natalie Fernández was born into a family of performers. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and raised in Miami, Florida, she is the daughter of internationally-acclaimed Argentine Tango recording artist Stella Milano. Her father is also a retired Argentine club owner/show producer and her sister is a professional break dancer/aerialist.
“I realized I could convey and impact an audience more onstage with words. So, in high school I made the decision that this was going to be my life’s work,” said Fernández. “I won many awards as a young vocalist and began performing with my mother in all of her shows around the U.S.” She went on to major in Music Business and Management at Berklee College of Music, where she had the chance to perform with masters such as Chaka Khan, Ruben Blades, Anita Baker, Juan Luis Guerra, and Sheila E. Later on, she also performed with Diego Torres and Juanes in New York City. “The most important thing anyone should know about this album is the reason we made it was to wake up a new generation of listeners and bridge the musical gap between tango and the rest of the world,” she said.
The album is a combination of tango and candombe songs with three original compositions – “Afrotangojazz,” a spoken word piece Fernández wrote explaining the album; “Free Me,” a collaboration between Luques Curtis and Fernández in which Fernández voices her thoughts on social apathy and politics; and “My True Love,” a song Fernández wrote through Zaccai’s melody and harmony, about missing your lover and wondering if they are also looking up at the same moon. Also a highlight on the album is Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera’s “El Dia Que Me Quieras,” one of the first tango songs Fernández ever learned to sing. “Each song on this record has a special meaning and was carefully chosen, composed, and arranged to leave a musical statement,” she added. “Although we had fun making this record, each arrangement has months of work put into trying to find the perfect balance of keeping the true intention of the original song while preserving the authenticity of the new genre.”