There is a story that bears telling about Brasilian musician and multi-instrumentalist, Egberto Gismonti and his legendary teacher, Nadia Boulanger. Upon hearing him and evaluating his technique and his knowledge of harmonic devices, the story goes that Madame Boulanger said to Gismonti, “Go back and master the music of your country. This will unlock your voice and the world will then hear you.” Gismonti returned to Brasil, spent years in the remotest parts of that country and has produced some of the most memorable music.
The same celebrated teacher did not give Sophia Tosello the same advice, but she may have had a celebrated learning regimen of her own. In addition, the benefit of Sheila Jordan – a great vocal musician and teacher in her own right. Alma y Luna is a result of all of that – a by-product of all the music that came before her and poured itself into her soul. Tosello grew up listening to her parents’ collection and this consisted of significant Brasilian artists: Cataeno Veloso and Gal Costa. Then there the great Chilean, Mercedes Sosa, the American legend: Duke Ellington, and soul brother, Luthor Vandross and no doubt a host of others. Then Tosello had instruction from Sheila Jordan, a legend, if ever you could call a living vocalist that. Jordan did not simply unlock Tosello’s voice; she woke up the young singer’s soul.
Jordan must have taught her how to control breath, how to recognize sorrow and joy – and how to express them separately or in shades of both, together. With deep blue indigo quarter tomes, Sofia Tosello is heard to be doing just this on “Me Falta la Imaginacion.” Tosello shreds the emotion with such sadness and so sharply that the words cut right through the heart. “Mi Musita Salteña” picks up the mood slightly as here the zamba demands a brighter, more confident mood and Tosello delivers this in a dizzying, spiral kind of dancing manner that is edifying and resonant.
Sofia Tosello can manipulate her voice—bend it and hold it back, choke and uncoil with tremulous ferocity (“Sin Piel”) and this stands her in good stead throughout the record. When addressing theses that may be slightly beyond her age, she digs deep into her lungs and delivers words with sublime authority and ravishing sensuality. The instrumentation –especially the guitars of Miguel Rivaynera, Pavel Urkiza and the great Aquiles Baez—add superb color and majestic timbral values to the soaring voice of Tosello.
It is entirely possible that Sofia Tosello will choose to explore more contemporary song forms. Alma y Luna, despite its edgy intent, stays in the relatively safe confines of folk classics in a realm that echoes Afro-American musical idioms. The choice is one a maturing Sofia Tosello will have to make. Whatever she chooses to do the music is certain to be edgy, graceful and brimming with thrilling highs.
Tracks: La Clarosa Cruz; La Seca; La Verdadera Llama; Que Bonito; Me Falta la Imaginacion; Mi Musita Salteña; Sin Piel; Nacida en Agua de Guerra; Alma y Luna; Zambita Pa Mi Coyita; Nada; Sentirme Libre Contigo; Caminos Del Cielo.
Personnel: Sofia Tosello: lead vocals; Julio Santillan: guitar, background vocals; Jorge Roeder: double bass (1, 4) Yayo Serka; bombo leguero (1, 6), drums (3, 5, 6, 7), darbuka, Cajon (7). palmas; Raul Lavadez: accordion, palmas; Pablo Farhat: violin (1); Miguel Rivaynera: palmas (1), guitar (2, 7, 8, 11); Raul Lavedenz: accordion (2), palmas (1); Pedro Giraudo: double bass (2, 6, 10) Franco Pinna: percussion set, bombo leguero (2); Pavel Urkiza: guitar (3, 9, 10), vocals (13), background vocals 3, 9), palmas (9); Yunior Terry: double bass (3, 9, 12, 13), vocals (12), Yayo Serka: drums, darbuka; Mauricio Herrera: congas; djembe, guiro, timbales (12), congas, Darburka; Ramiro ‘Capi’ Nieva: Zampoña; Dyan Abad: trombone (3, 13); Byron Ramos: electric guitar; Aquiles Baez: guitar (4, 6, 10) Anat Cohen: clarinet (3); Jair Salas: cajon; Yosvanny Terry: soprano saxophone (5, 9), alto saxophone, chekere (13): Osmany Parades: piano (5); Ignacio Freijo: Quena; Rob Curto: accordeon; Hector del Curto: bandoneon; Rafi Michale: trombone (11); Albert Leusink: trumpet (11); Axel Tosca: piano, Wurlitzer; Byron Ramos: electric guitar (12).