When I hear someone speak of “Latin jazz,” not one person, sound, or instrument comes to mind. This genre is not ours because we are Latino, yet we make it our own because we share our testimonies and tell our stories. Chilean singer Claudia Acuña has released En Este Momento, a 10-track album that fits nicely into the little-known Latin jazz genre that listeners from all cultures can greatly appreciate.
Acuña has a mix of several signature sounds and pays homage to her Chilean roots. En Este Momento’s first track “El Cigarrito,” written by fallen Chilean political activist Victor Jara, is Acuña’s tribute to her native homeland. “El Cigarrito” is one of the “safer” songs Acuña performs vocally, however, the piano and strings that accompany her are quick and sharp. This fusion of rhythms is welcoming, especially with Acuña’s long, throaty vocals throughout the single. As one of three songs by Jara that Acuña performs, the second “Te Recuredo Amanda” is one of the longer singles on the album at about five minutes. "Te Recuredo Amanda" is where you can enjoy the sounds of her guitarist and pianist as both are featured. In addition, it’s on this track that Acuña demonstrates her storytelling abilities. My favorite Jara song Acuña performs is “El Derecho De Vivir En Paz,” the only single to incorporate the traditional Argentine drum bombo leguero. The song begins as slow and soothing, but ends in a declaration that is vibrant with Acuña speaking the title in English: “The right to live in peace.”
Blending English with Spanish lyrics, Acuña’s official Spanglish track in En Este Momento is the powerful ballad, “That’s What They Say.” While the song is a bit slower in comparison to others, she makes this musical stillness part of her trademark, which can be experienced in “Tulum” and “Vuelvo Al Sur.” In “Vuelvo Al Sur” Acuña’s singing is lower and I love it. It reminds me of a song that can easily fit into any Almodóvar film, so you know it’s smooth! En Este Momento’s fifth song, “Contigo En La Distancia,” you’ll hear more beats that are indigenous and traditional, reminding me of the limitlessness of syncopation within jazz and Latin jazz. It’s the first song that I really want to hear live to witness how the “conversation” between Acuña and the musicians plays out.
Another of Acuña’s somewhat unofficial Spanglish songs in En Este Momento is “Cuando Vuelva A Tu Lado” (What A Difference A Day Makes). What I love about this song is that it begins within 10 seconds of hearing the musical introduction. It almost surprises the listener when Acuña begins to sing. It is through this melody that we hear Acuña’s vocal range. She scats and I can tell she is having a good time. I could even hear the smile on her face! This is also where special guest soprano saxophonist Branford Marsalis joins Acuña and sets the stage for the other up-tempo singles. “Sueno Contigo” and “La Mentira” finish up the album and leave us on a high note.
What Acuña has done with En Este Momento is demonstrate that Latin jazz is far too complex to fit into any confined box or definition. Acuña has also added new additions to what is considered jazz standards with her inclusion of songs by Victor Jara. She’s a Latina jazz vocalist that gets things done!
To learn more about Claudia Acuña, click here.