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Claudia Acuña
Biography, CD and concert review. Wind From The South.
Article added in November 2000

Biography and CD Wind From the South
 
Wind From The South is Claudia Acuña's debut album as a group leader. The singer was born in Chile and was first introduced to the folk and popular music of her native country, later to pop, rock, fusion and opera. Her first musical model was Frank Sinatra. There were very few possibilities for jazz encounters in Chile. As musicians told her that she was a born jazz singer, she tried singing with foreign jazz stars touring Chile. Among them were Wynton Marsalis, Joe Lovano and Danilo Perez (with whom she recently sang on his album Motherland, Verve, 2000).
 
In the autumn of 1995, Claudia Acuña moved to New York were her idols such as Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Etta Jones and Dianne Reeves encouraged her to continue on the road to become a jazz singer. It was not always easy. She had to make a living partly as baby sitter and partly as a dish-washer. As she was working at the tourist shop of the Blue Note, one evening, she got the chance to sing in a jam session at the famous club. In the mornings, she began to appear at the jam sessions at Smalls, a Tenth Street Club which gives young talents a chance. There, she regularly played with Jason Lindner's Monday Night Big Band, but also with Avishai Cohen, Jeff Ballard and Abi Leibovich. On Sundays, she began to perform together with Roberta Flack's former pianist Harry Whitaker at Arturo's. Claudia Acuña also sang at the Zinc Bar, at the Metronome, at Sweet Basil's and in the Up Over Jazz Café in Brooklyn.
 
Together with bassist Avishai Cohen and pianist Harry Whitaker, Claudia Acuña recorded a demo tape which led to a contract with the prestigious Verve label. Her debut album Wind From The South is an homage to Chile, with the three Spanish song titles Viento Del Sur (which gave the record its title), Gracias A La Vida and Alfonsina Y El Mar as well as a tribute to great composers such as George and Ira Gershwin (My Man's Gone Now), Duke Ellington (Prelude to a Kiss), Irving Berlin (What'll I Do) and even Stevie Wonder (Visions, with David Sánchez on soprano saxophone). The Spanish titles are sung with too much pathos, they are too pretentious. Claudia Acuña's voice (still) lacks a certain individuality, depth and color. Her swinging and partly Latin-flavored album is not breathtaking. She has still a long way to go. But at the same time, Wind From The South shows an emerging talent to watch in the future. The debut of Diana Krall were not all glorious either. Let's not forget that some of Claudia Acuña's songs are very promising: Prelude To A Kiss, The Thrill Is Gone, the elegant Pure Imagination as well as Stevie Wonder's ballad Visions (get the CD from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.de).


 
Concert at the Widder Bar, Zurich, October 10, 2000
 
On October 10, 2000, at her concert at the Widder Bar in Zurich, Claudia Acuña was accompanied by pianist and bandleader Jason Lindner. Acuña had played with him at Small's and he was also part of her debut album Wind From the South. At the Widder Bar, the bass was played by Omer Avital, one of Lindner's band members. He was also part of Lindner's modern big band jazz release Premonition (July 2000, on Chick Corea's Stretch label, get the CD from Amazon.com). The fourth musician completing the quartet (and joining them at the last moment) was Jorge Rossy, the drummer of the sensational Brad Mehldau Trio.
 
The intimate setting of the Widder Bar with just 200 guests was the ideal place to discover the music of Claudia Acuña. The quartet began the evening with Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's Pure Imagination, the first song on her debut album. Her invitation, "come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination", was irresistible. Her voice proved to have more character than expected from listening to her album while her enunciation, as on Wind from the South, is so clear that all the words were understandable. Her timbre created a warm and jazzy atmosphere. The songs were normally divided in three parts, with a long - sometimes very long - instrumental middle section. Jason Lindner shone from time to time on piano. Unfortunately, the interplay between the musicians was far from perfect. In Cole Porter's Every Time We Say Goodbye, Claudia Acuña proved that she has not only a pretty face but also a notable voice, less awkward than it sometimes seemed on her debut album. Before she sang Wind From The South in its Spanish version, Viento Del Sur, she explained that the song, with lyrics written by herself, was about a dream she once had. Omer Avital on bass was less convincing.
 
After the break, Claudia Acuña's rendering of Alfonsina Y El Mar, also on Wind From The South, was pale, without strength. Much better was her live version of The Thrill Is Gone. The same can be said of Violeta Parra's Gracias A La Vida. Although Claudia Acuña cannot scat, her wordless singing in the end was sensational. As Claudia Acuña explained, Gracias A La Vida was the second song she learned in her life, the first being Alfonsino Y El Mar. Overall, the concert confirmed the impression one gets from listening to her debut album: she is a talent to watch.




New from Claudia Acuña in 2009: En este momento. Order the CD from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de.



Claudia Acuña: Wind From The South. Verve, 2000. Get it from
Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de.
 

Added on August 17, 2002: Claudia Acuña's follow up CD, Rhythm of Life, although recorded with jazz artist's like Dave Holland, gives the impression that her future lies in pop music. Everything is a touch too smooth, too superficial. There is no profound jazz feeling in her voice. Get Rhythm of Life, Verve, 2002, from Amazon.com, Amazon.de, Amazon.ca, Amazon.fr.





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