Every once and a while a recording comes across your desk, the moist eloquence of which music leaves you quite breathless. It is even rarer that such a thing should happen to you when the recording in question is a musician’s debut. The excitement is heightened when the musician – in this case Taisha Estrada – who comes from the tiny island nation of Puerto Rico is so young, and yet whose compositions belie an erudition beyond her years.
Perhaps best of all, as a composing musician Miss Estrada establishes herself at once as the ultimate, unstagey ingénue — simple, unspoiled, unacquainted with the formulas and formalities of the world. This shows in the brilliant simplicity of her music. It is as if the waves of the Caribbean from distant shores splash, each with their singularly unique rhythms, turn up on the proverbial beaches some part of the island where she dreams her music before she enters the studio to write and record it to perfection.
It would seem that this debut recording in question – Nostalgia Ajena – is not so whimsically entitled. The meaning of the word ajena [alien] suggests existential angst. Miss Estrada has, however, turned her feeling of profound otherness into an art that establishes her as a craftsman of extraordinary ability. Her instrument is gorgeous; luminous and high-sprung. And this shows throughout, especially on the sculpted phrases of La Textura de Ti and Delirio Amor, and in the long inventions of Zúmbate and Pajarito Mañanero.
Her lyricism is sublime. She seems to dig into the meaning of words, to bring subtle dynamics to her every phrase, and brings ceaseless variations in tonal colours that seem to perfectly match the emotion of the lyric. All of this is extremely rare to find in a songstress so young. And yet songs are sometimes sad, commentaries or – in other cases – happy and affectionate life studies. But everywhere there is something meaningful said and beautifully sung, and therefore breathlessly enjoyed.
The musical crew here comprises some Stateside heavyweights, such as pianist Joshua Jenkins, contrabassist Stephen Arnold, drummer Lucas Ashby and most certainly the incomparable percussion colourist Fran Vielma. These, and other musicians have each interiorised Miss Estrada’s music and perform it with uncommon idiomatic grace. The result is a stunning album – brilliantly recorded by Thomas Tyra – where all the pieces fit because each performer is so superbly attuned to the leader’s prismatic vision and sublime artistry. ‘Nuff said…
YouTube Playlist – Taisha Estrada: Nostalgia Ajena
Music – 1: Zúmbate; 2: La Textura de Ti; 3: Descalza de Nuevo; 4: Pajarito Mañanero; 5: Delirio Amor; 6: Latigazos; 7: Caribeña: 8: Atardecer; 9: ¿Pa’ Qué?.
Musicians – Taisha Estrada: compositions and vocals; Joshua Jenkins: piano; Stephen Arnold: contrabass; Fran Vielma: percussion; Andrew Valez: trumpet; Cristian Perez: music director and guitars; TJ Turqman: electric bass; Lucas Ashby: drums; Connor Holdridge: guitars. With – Thomas Tyra: sound engineer.
Released – 2023
Label – Independent
Runtime – 37:17
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