Carolina Calvache: Vida Profunda

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Carolina Calvache - Vida Profunda
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Editor’s Pick · Featured Album

After she produced Sotareño, her first Sunnyside recording, Carolina Calvache left no doubt that an artist of the first order had arrived, a gift from Colombia to the world. But even that incredibly strong debut could not have prepared us for a recording such as this. Vida Profunda has not only completely redefined the scope of Miss Calvache’s gifts and written a new palimpsest for all her own future music, but it has very likely set the bar for all recordings of contemporary recordings in Spanish or English. And that’s not only as far as composition is concerned, but also as far as performance goes.

To begin with, Miss Calvache has excelled herself as a pianist. Underlining her fierce virtuosity is uncommon delicacy of touch and expression. Her dedication to musicality above vain ornamentation is quite superb and she is able to convey the greatest depth of emotion in rather a few bars of solo piano; something that graces each song in this repertoire. Such pianism may lend itself to adapting poetry to music, but being able to restrain herself in order to let the story, or characters and their feelings and emotions shine takes skill and determination to make musicality the centre of everything. Of course there is more.

Miss Calvache’s choice of producer on this recording is inspired. Achilles Liarmakopoulos – a trombonist and composer in his own right – has pulled off a miracle. Musical arrangements are flawless throughout. Mr Liarmakopoulos’ understanding of Miss Calvache’s music is deep and this results in the optimum kind of instrumentation for each song. The use of strings for “Pájaro Yo” [Pablo Neruda’s poem], adds perfectly silken harmonics which underscore the delicious tenor of Rubén Blades, for instance. Elsewhere, on “Sin un Despido” it’s not only strings, but reeds and brass that embolden the feminine grace of Claudia Acuña’s extraordinary vocalastics. The result is uniquely idiomatic performances of both – moodily very different – songs.

Examples like that abound throughout this repertoire and that comes down to the vocalists, of course. As listeners we may not be privy to the inner workings of the production, but it seems that there was a conscious attempt to pair vocalist and song. What kind of emotion did they want? How best to convey the story of each, the landscape and background of each song as a perfect marriage of words and music? These and every other query become moot points as the recording unfolds one perfect song after the other.

Some vocalists may be familiar, but new names such as Aubrey Johnson are revelations. Miss Johnson’s rendering of “Childhood Retreat” is spine-tingling, especially when she reaches effortlessly for the notes in the high register. Likewise Sara Serpa’s rendition of “Hope” breathes a kind of trembling beauty into James Weldon Johnson’s words from “Lift Every Voice and Sing” [on which the lyric is based]. Of course, you realise that breathtaking beauty is before you immediately when Marta Gómez starts things off with “Vida Profunda”. And not just vocalists, but every musician is at the top of their game throughout from bassist Peter Slavov, Ricky Rodríguez and Petros Klampanis to percussionists Keita Ogawa and Samuel Torres, the brilliant drummer Johnathan Blake [who is sublime on “Te Conocí de Nuevo“]. So, if reliving the profound life was the brief of this recording then every aspect of the production plunges deep so that when the music surfaces for air it does so with an air of profound beauty.

Track list – 1: Vida Profunda; 2: Pájaro Yo; 3: Te Conocí de Nuevo; 4: Sin un Despido; 5: Hope; 6: Childhood Retreat; 7: Stella; 8: El Rastro; 9: No te vi Crecer; 10: Let me Come With You

Personnel – Marta Gómez: vocals [1]; Sofia Ribeiro: vocals [2]; Rubén Blades: vocals [3]; Claudia Acuña: vocals [4]; Sara Serpa: vocals [5, 8]; Aubrey Johnson: vocals [6]; Haydee Milanes: vocals [7]; Lara Bello: vocals [9] and background vocals [2]; Luba Mason: vocals [10]; Carolina Calvache: piano and background vocals [8]; Petros Klampanis: contrabass [1, 10]; Ricky Rodríguez: contrabass [2, 4, 7, 8]; Peter Slavov: contrabass [3, 5, 6]; Johnathan Blake: drums [3, 5, 6]; Keita Ogawa: drums [7] and percussion [1, 2, 4, 8, 10]; Samuel Torres: bongo [3]; Tomoko Omura: first violin [1, 10]; Leonor Falcon: second violin [1, 10]; Allyson Clare: viola [1, 10]; Brian Sanders: cello [1, 10]; Ben Russell: violin [2] and first violin [4]; Annaliesa Place: first violin [6, 8]; Adda Kridler: second violin [4, 6, 8]; Jocelin Pan: viola [4, 6, 8]; Diego Garcia: cello [4, 6, 8]; Gregoire Maret: harmonica [7]; Hadar Noiberg: flute [2, 4]; Katie Scheele: oboe [4]; Paul Won Jin Cho: bass clarinet [4]; Michael Rodríguez: trumpet [6]; Achilles Liarmakopoulos: trombone [7]; Adriana Ospina: background vocals [2]; Juan Andres Ospina: background vocals [2]; Michell Palmieri: background vocals [2, 8]

Released – 2020
Label – Sunnyside Records [SSC 1587]
Runtime – 42:09

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