It is highly unlikely that when Gabriel Palatchi set off on his travels, out of Argentina, he thought he would be undertaking a musical excursion so vast and exciting. But the fact is that it ended up that way. Palatchi, now living in Canada—at least for now—has produced a fine album marking his musical sojourn entitled, Diario de Viaje. Leading a fine ensemble of musicians from various parts of South America, Palatchi works the idioms and metaphors of various not-so-disparate cultures into a fine homogenous mixture that is both delightful and also quite full of surprise. As a result he is able to create a fresh look at the popular musical motifs of Argentina, Perú, Colombia, Mexico and Cuba.
Palatchi is a skilled pianist, who plays with refreshing virtuosity. His mastery of the keyboard does not detract from his ability to play with nuanced expression. His style is so adaptable that he can play with fine tumbao, holding forth with some of the better known pianists of Cuba and other parts of South America. His grasp of musical form is exquisite—especially with the song-form of the tango, as well as cumbia and son montuno. However, he is innovative as well—not just with the way he calls/classifies the melodies, but also how he sometimes turns these inside out. “Cumbia Rabiosa” is a fine example as is “Exodo” and “Tansongo.” Best of all, Palatchi knows his place in the tradition and this creates a fine continuity of form and expression, and nowhere is this better evidenced than in “Tansongo,” a beautifully crafted tango that reaches deep into the roots of both European dance form as well as in the African influences on all South America that came with the Spanish occupation.
The brightest aspect of Diario de Viaje is the manner in which the ensemble melds together with Palatchi. Outstanding contributors—apart from the percussionists, Chema and Manuel Gonzalez, are the steaming hot brass and woodwinds as well as the reeds. Gabriela Rivera is also superb in her interpretations of both traditional and modern music on “Tansongo” as well as “Mi Realidad.” The clever reworking of form and content of Argentina’s great song form—the tango—is once again masterfully re-imagined on “Chilangotango,” where Palatchi also fuses zamacueca, nueva canción and the tango in a luscious blend so refreshing that it takes the breath away.
The real stand out work on this album is how Palatchi re-imagines traditional musical art forms, and this can only come from a grassroots expedition through the Southern part of this great continent, and an intermingling with musicians who are deeply committed to keeping the folklore alive, yet not in a stale and stagnant way, but alive and breathing and growing. The beautiful manner in which Palatchi melds old segments of folk music in to the transitions from one of his compositions to the next provides just the right contrast between old and new. It also shows playful ingenuity with the tradition of South American music that is evolving and growing in popularity, thanks to the spiritedness of young musicians such as Gabriel Palatchi.
Tracks: El Paisa; Exodo; Cumbia Rabiosa; Por Voz; Inspiración Tulumeña; Tansongo; Mi Realidad; Chilangotango; Electroshock; Raíces.
Personnel: Gabriel Palatchi: composition, arrangements, direction, piano, Hammond B3, synthesizers; Chema Gonzalez: drums, timbal, bongo, batas; Manuel Gonzalez: congas, percussion, batas; Gabriel Gonzalez: Electric and fretless basses; Gerry Lopez: alto saxophones; Alfredo Pino: trumpet; Rey David Alejadre: trombone; Daniel Zlotnick: baritone saxophone; Rafael Perez: bandoneón; Camilo Nu: flamenco guitar; Juan Manuel Ledezama: electric guitar; El “Bola”: flutes; El “Roli”: chorus; Jorge Brauet: baritone saxophone (1, 5); Alex Guardiola: trumpet (1, 5); Bulmaro Borja: vocals (6); Gabriela Rivera: vocals (6, 7); Benny Swartz: viola (2); Adrian Challiou: soprano saxophone (10); Allen Weitz: programming and additional production; Ramon Arcos Bouchez: programming and additional production.
Gabriel Palatchi on the web: gabrielpalatchi.com