It should surprise no one that Jane Bunnett should call Mujeres de Luna by Estrella Acosta “Full of thought, heart and joy”. Miss Bunnett should know and has shown she does know all about “thought, heart and joy” especially in her work with Merceditas Valdés and recent work with the all-women ensemble Maqueque that she is at the helm of. With Mujeres de Luna Estrella Acosta reaches deeper into the heart of her beloved Cuba in order to pay homage to the celebrated women of Cuban music and she comes up with a remarkable collection of songs from some of the most iconic Cuban women composers and performers. In doing so Miss Acosta also shines a spotlight on a few contemporary Cuban women musicians and performers whose work certainly deserves to be heard in a larger arena, in the realm of Cuban music.
Certainly collecting repertoire does not seem to have been a problem. María Teresa Vera – perhaps the most iconic of all Cuban women composers and musicians – who has been represented here by two songs and María Cervantes together with Margarita Lecuona and Teresita Fernández, Elda Carrillo and Marta Valdés find perfect balance with the contemporary composers and singers: Yaima Orozco, Liuba María Hevia and Lázara Ribadavia. But more than representation (you can never have enough) it is the sheer poetry of the music and the lyricism of the renditions by Estrella Acosta that capture the imagination. Miss Acosta is a frugal singer, sometimes singing with little or no vibrato – even disavowing this and refusing to stretch out the syllables at the end of key lines. Instead she relies on the colours, textures and pitch that her voice can bring to the music; that and the fact that all of these songs speak to her in a very special way.
As a result we have beautifully crafted arrangements – by Marc Bischoff, Hilario Durán and Michael Simon – of a mesmeric array and sensuousness in every, lovingly caressed phrase of Mujeres de Luna. Miss Acosta’s chosen material – with one or two notable exceptions, focuses on some of the lesser known gems associated with these composers. Listening to the way that Estrella Acosta seductively bends the notes of “Esta vez tocó perder”, and how she sculpts the long, sustained invention of “Ofrenda”, it’s clear that there’s not a semiquaver that hasn’t been fastidiously considered. Featuring her long-time rhythm section of pianist Mark Bischoff, contrabassist Samuel Ruiz and drummer Enrique Firpi, together with guests: flutist Orlando ‘Maraca’ Valle and the great Cuban drummer Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernández, heard here on percussion, as well as sleek strings musicians and Efraim Trujillo on saxophone, Miss Acosta’s musicians are completely attuned to her vision and artistry. This is an album not to be missed by listeners of superbly performed music.
Track list – Esta vez tocó perder; Dime que me amas; Dias que quiero; Ofrenda; Tus Manos Blancos; Eclipse; Canción del mar No.1; La Suerte; Canción Fácil; Canción Difícil; Razones
Personnel – Estrella Acosta: voice; Marc Bischoff: piano; Samuel Ruiz: contrabass; Enrique Firpi: drums; Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernández: percussion (1 – 10); Orlando ‘Maraca’ Valle: flute (3, 5, 7); Mirelys Morgan: violin (1, 3, 11); Claudia Valenzuela: violin (2, 4 -10); Sophie de Rijk: violin (2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 11); Jan Erik van Regteren Altena: viola (1); Maria Sofia Espiga: viola (2 – 11); Eduard van Regteren Altena: cello (1, 2, 5, 7, 10); Eva van de Poll: cello (3, 4,, 6, 8, 9, 11); Efraim Trujillo: tenor saxophone (2, 4, 6), soprano saxophone (8, 11), flute (1, 9); Ulrich de Jesus: cuatro (11); Roël Calister: wiri-wiri (11); Maria Catharina: coro (2, 8); Beatriz Aguiar Llorca: coro (2, 8); Nando Vanin: coro (11); Fabian Nodarse: coro (11)
Released – 2017
Label – Independent
Runtime – 52:25