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Annette A Aguilar & StringBeans: In The North

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American Nicaraguan percussionist, bandleader, and music educator Annette A Aguilar
American Nicaraguan Percussionist, Bandleader, and Music Educator Annette A Aguilar

Annette A Aguilar has a formidable standing as a musician and a bandleader and his links to Afro-Cuban, Puerto Rican and Brasilian music are writ large in all of her superb recordings. All of these have proved that she is one of the leading interpreters of that music. With the interpretations of that music on her 2024 recording, In The North, Annette A Aguilar has only strengthened that reputation.

This recording crackles with vivacity and excitement, like that of a live performance. Indeed, Annette A Aguilar presents seven authentic Afri-Centric charts in a performance that demonstrate she [and the members of the StringBeans] an innate love and understanding of this music, with its complex dance rhythms, in performances of extraordinary vivacity and insight.

Annette A Aguilar & StringBeans: In The North
Annette A Aguilar & StringBeans: In The North [album cover]

All that hardly needs saying. However, listeners of benchmark recordings of so-called Latin-Jazz and Afro-Brasilian music may wonder why another recording is warranted. The answer has to be a confident and unwavering ‘yes!,’ given Annette A Aguilar & StringBeans sleek and highly individual approach and response to the demands of these complex dance rhythms.

The opening Brasilian number that leaps right out of the gate, is a launch-pad for further explorations [into the world of the irresistible Afri-Centric rhythms] of ornamentation and harmonic variation. In both aspects, the performers adopt the same outlook of curiosity as to extreme elasticity of possibility that this music proffers those who are willing to take risks.

This is true of the Brasilian pieces – Tarde de Chuva by Paulo Mauro and Keeper of the Flame by the [late] inimitable Mark Levine, clearly meant to be a tribute to his mentor Moacir Santos – the latter features husband and wife Randy Brecker and Ada Rovatti on trumpet and soprano saxophone, respectively. The same holds good for the iconic composition Adoración [Eddie Palmieri], and – especially – Meadows, which features batá drums to invoke the blessings of the Lucumi.

It is also well worth mentioning that both Laura Dryer and Nicki Denner, composers of Vendo a Verdade and Llanto [with luscious cello solo by Jennifer Vincent] have both assimilated the nuances of the folkloric rhythms and the idiomatic motifs of the music and composed eloquent songs for this formidable ensemble. The performers, for their part, have interiorised the music in the grand manner.

The balladry of the two songs in question is highly imaginative and the musicians respond to the need to slow down of the frenetic pace from the other charts to honour the gliding romance of these originals. Even the percussion colouring is more subtle, awash in muted hues and rolling tone textures. Overjoyed, a classic Stevie Wonder chart gets a refreshing Latin interpretation too.

But make no mistake, this is Annette A Aguilar’s recording. Her flawless rhythmic rhetoric – whether she is playing conga or minor percussion – reveals the power of her formidable attack on the conga. Her superbly attentive and disarmingly spontaneous handling of the powerfully communicative instrument is evident on both, power of her slap and the – often – conspicuously lissom, glowingly affectionate stroking of the skins.

With a leader as formidably inspirational as Ms Aguilar its no wonder In The North joined the ranks of benchmark recordings of Afri-Centric Latin recordings in 2024.

Deo gratis…

annette a aguilar & stringbeans: adoración

Music – 1. Tarde de Chuva; 2. Adoración; 3. Meadows; 4. Keeper of the Flame; 5. Overjoyed; 6. Vendo a Verdade; 7. Llanto.

Musicians – Annette A Aguilar: conga, percussion, vocal and bandleader; Nicki Denner: piano; Laura Dreyer: alto saxophone; Karen Joseph: flute; Benny Koonyevsk: drums; Mena Ramos: batá [SF]; Deborah Resto: lead vocals; Ruben Rodríguez: bass; Steve Sandberg: piano [1, 5]; Lisette Santiago: batá [NYC]; Renato Thoms: bongo, percussion and chorus; Rob Thomas: violin; Eddie Venegas: violin and trombone; Jennifer Vincent: cello. Special Guests – Randy Brecker: trumpet; Ada Rovatti: soprano saxophone [4] and tenor saxophone [6].

Released – 2024
Label – Independent
Runtime – 46:37

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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