The loneliness of the social isolation during the two-year-old global pandemic may have been soul-destroying for some – indeed most of us who lived through it because it seemed to take away our very humanity when it took away our sense of community. However, there are exceptions, especially among artists, who used the time in splendid isolation to create. In the case of the vocalist Claudia Acuña, this resulted in the album Duo, in which this very special musician is heard in the near-secrecy of duets with some very fine musicians.
Miss Acuña not only reached down into the soul, but also into the heart of her Chilean musical heritage to hold the bitter-sweetness and turbulence of recent Chilean history to reflect – in a mirror of her soul – the existential angst that she felt in the months of isolating without connecting with her community of loyal and always ecstatic fans.
The repertoire on this album seems to have suggested itself. However, one could have imagined how heartachingly meaningful is the music of the beloved Chilean political martyr, Victor Jara, [whose] music echoes from the very soul of Miss Acuña in her interpretation of “Manifesto”, a duet with violinist Regina Carter, who also digs deep during the long inventions that she explores with the singer. Agustín Lara’s “Verdad Amarga” is another one of those songs that one could not imagine this album without. The sculpted phrases enunciated by guitarist Russell Malone make it so much more so irresistible.
Of particularly great expectation is the music that Miss Acuña unravels with the rippling harmonies of the several pianists who help her unpack the emotions of each of the songs on which the expressions of their hearts and souls are tested to the maximum. But one simply cannot imagine a pianist more suited to each of these duets – the great Kenny Barron for “Media Noche”, while on “Razón de Vivir” Carolina Calvache becomes rolling pulse of the vocalist – just as Fred Hersch gives “Júrame” wings, while Arturo O’Farrill goes beyond the pale as he digs into the depths of the song “Piensa en Mí”.
For his part the magnificent contrabassist Christian McBride becomes the darkened rhythmic penumbra of “Eclipse de Luna” as Miss Acuña unpacks the emotion of the song by stripping it of sentimentality before giving it her all. And, of course, what would an album about isolation be made from without the nakedness of two soli: “Crystal Silence” by Chick Corea and Miss Acuña’s spectacular original “Yo”…? It doesn’t get any better than this album which highlights the sultry nature of Miss Acuña expressed in the compelling, liquid power of Claudia Acuña’s mezzo-soprano voice.
Tracks – 1: Media Noche; 2: Eclipse de Luna; 3: Razón de Vivir; 4: Júrame; 5: Manifesto; 6: Verdad Amarga; 7: Piensa en Mí; 8: Crystal Silence; 9: Yo
Musicians – Claudia Acuña: vocals; With – Kenny Barron: piano ; Christian McBride: bass ; Carolina Calvache: piano ; Fred Hersch: piano ; Regina Carter: violin ; Russell Malone: guitar ; Arturo O’Farrill: piano 
Released – 2022
Label – Ropeadope [RAD 68 8]
Runtime – 41:49