Sep 29 2012
Two For the End of the Night: Gabriela – “El Viaje” and “Detras del Sol”
I first discovered the music of Gabriela (who forgoes her last name of Marrone) via guitarist Bill Frisell. Looking through his site, I checked out music for albums he collaborated on but didn’t have his name in the big typeface. It was one of those internet wandering sessions, just following trails of breadcrumbs from one musician site to the next, listening to music, writing down names of albums and artists on lists, with ESPN on mute and the cats dozing nearby. I’ve discovered a wonderful amount of wonderful music on nights like that. The best finds, I’ve discovered, are the albums that not only pique my interest, but also fit the mood of the exact moment I’m in.
The atmospheric, lullaby sound of Gabriela’s music was the perfect fit for late at night. Let’s talk about two of her albums…
Gabriela – El Viaje
Born in Argentina, and now living there again, Gabriela has been exposed to the music of many geographies. The daughter of a diplomat, she lived in several countries throughout Europe. And later, as an adult and traveling musician, she moved around some more, spending time in the U.S. and Europe again. The exposure to such a diverse array of music sounds to have freed her from any one influence, even that of her native Argentina, for though her music does possess a South American flavor, Gabriela’s personal sound isn’t beholden to it. It’s that shrouding of music lineage that imbues her music with a sense of mystery and individuality.
Collaborating with Bill Frisell, Tucker Martine, and Lee Townsend couldn’t have hurt either.
Your album personnel: Gabriela (vocals, guitar), Bill Frisell (electric & acoustic guitars, loops), Viktor Krauss (bass), Eyvind Kang (viola, violin), Steve Moore (keyboards), and Tucker Martine (percussion).
The melting pot of electric and acoustic guitars and loops, with additional strings via viola, violin, and bass, afford this music, atmospheric at heart, a thickness, like fog over the harbor, and that corporeality makes this music as much of the earth as the air. It means that this will get felt in the gut, even as its beauty lifts hearts up to the sky.
Gabriela has a vocal approach that isn’t afraid to accentuate words with a theatrical flair without it ever getting hammy. Opening track “La Furia” has a waltz sway to it, and it’s not an uncommon sensation throughout the album. Some tracks, like “Quedate,” float on a sea of guitar loops, words only buoys rocking back and forth against the ebb and flow. The stronger tunes, however, have an insistent tempo on guitar and a quivering tension, like “Alguien Grita, Nadie Escucha” with its ominous undercurrent that inspires wariness and “Romance,” which is far slower in tempo, but even the thick blanket of violin can’t usher away the chillier guitar tone.
But in the ways that matter most, the tension is an attractive feature, and the prevailing trait is one of ethereal beauty. And it’s perfect for sitting up late at night, when it’s just the music and the listener, with no distractions to get between the two.
As far as I can tell, this is Gabriela’s latest recording.
Released in 2006 on the Songline / Tonefield label. Released in Europe on the Intuition Music label.
You can stream three album tracks HERE, on the Songline site.
Available at eMusic. Available at Amazon: CD
Gabriela – Detras del Sol
Recorded approximately ten years before El Viaje, there is still a remarkable amount of consistency between that album and Detras del Sol. This is in no small way due to the presence of Bill Frisell on both recordings, not to mention Lee Townsend‘s touch in the role as producer. But if anything has proven true over the course of ten years and three albums (the recording Viente Rojo falls in between the two covered in this article) is that Gabriela has spent a career developing her unique sound and creative voice, and once found, that’s something that sticks. And it should. All of us, as creative people, should search for our unique voice, and once we find it, trust in it.
While possessing many of the ethereal qualities that made El Viaje so delectable, Detras del Sol has an earthier sound to it. More akin to Gabriela’s take on folk music and channeled through her unique sound. Frisell’s guitar doesn’t take flight nearly as much as on El Viaje, instead keeping close to the soil a la his own recording This Land (which was released just a couple years earlier), an album that had him delving heavily into an Americana dialect of Jazz music. Another difference in sound should be attributed to Rob Burger‘s inclusion of accordion and harmonium, which both have a from-the-dirt demeanor to their sound. Also, Bill Douglass is on bass for this recording. Viktor Krauss, the bassist on El Viaje, has a sound far more suited to taking to the air. Now, from a big picture perspective, both Krauss and Douglass have cut their teeth in the World/Folk-Jazz subgenre, with Krauss’s sound a bit more modern and Douglass’s a bit more old-school (think: ECM). But on this recording, Douglass’s bass lines sound like they’re rolling over hills, and the addition of his ocarina, this was the right choice to have him on this recording.
Actually, speaking of personnel, here you go…
Your album personnel: Gabriela (vocals, acoustic guitar), Bill Frisell (guitars), Rob Burger (accordion, harmonium), Bill Douglass (bass, ocarina), Alex Acuna (drums, percussion), and Eyvind Kang (violin).
On Detras del Sol, Gabriela’s vocals are more song-like, and constructed as straight-ahead tunes (as opposed to El Viaje, where she was more inclined to expressions of words). It works better for the music on this album, and the use of a bit of restraint with the inflections doesn’t make her voice any less compelling. The match between her deeper voice and accordion is a delight. Alex Acuna‘s percussion fits the album’s sound to a tee, with no better example of this than the chipper “Hermana Maria.” Eyvind Kang‘s violin isn’t as prominent here as it is on El Viaje, but tracks like “Duerme” will give the listener their necessary fix.
Speaking of “Duerme,” it closes out the album, and, perhaps not coincidentally, it has much of the hazy atmosphere of El Viaje. A hint of things that were to come.
Released in 1997 on the Songline / Tonefield label. Released in Europe on the Intuition Music label.
You can stream two album tracks HERE, on the Songline site.
Jan 12 2013
Two-Fer (a Winter Afternoon): Wayne Horvitz – “Way Out East” and “4+1 Ensemble”
I got pretty lucky with the music of Wayne Horvitz.
In the early 90’s, while browsing the stacks at Jerry’s Record Exchange, I’d discovered Horvitz’s Miracle Mile, recorded with his The President ensemble… one of a number of ensembles Horvitz has created over time. Pretty sure the reason I picked it up in the first place was because of the presence of Bill Frisell on the recording. It was around this time that signaled the beginning of my transition from casual jazz fan to addict. I was scooping up everything I could find, and while my purchases were almost completely classic jazz albums from past decades, I was stumbling upon a handful of modern artists that floated my boat. Horvitz was one of those lucky finds.
On his two The President ensemble recordings (Miracle Mile and Bring Yr Camera), Horvitz employed heavy doses of electronic effects and rock to create a sound that wasn’t quite Jazz but also quite was Jazz. It was different from much of anything else I was hearing. What most grabbed my ear, though, wasn’t the fission-like burn of guitar or the careening keyboard lines or the tempests of dissonance, but how Horvitz would draw sonorous sections of music out from the chaos so subtly, so casually, as if they were a natural byproduct of the music fury that dominated the albums. I found it quite beautiful. My ear waited for those moments.
Since that first lucky purchase, I’ve been following Horvitz’s career. Over the span of a couple decades, he’s formed many different ensembles and his music has taken the shape of many different sounds. One day, I’ll likely write a huge article that covers most (or all) of his recordings. Today, I’m going to write about two albums that are a perfect fit as the snow falls outside on a January afternoon.
Wayne Horvitz Gravitas Quartet – Way Out East
Wayne Horvitz created two Gravitas Quartet albums, the companion pieces Way Out East and One Dance Alone, and found just about the most compelling mix of Jazz and Classical music I’ve ever heard. Centerpiece is the trumpet of Ron Miles, whose sound is a pure distillation of heartbreak. Even when he’s turning up the temperature, Miles’s sound has a quavering vulnerability that makes each note that emits from his trumpet sound honest and sincere. In a chamber jazz setting like on Way Out East, he’s given plenty of room to express those sentiments. With Lee’s cello and Schoenbeck’s bassoon adding lovely moodiness to Horvitz’s compositional template, the quartet glides through a series of thoughtful expressions and delicate sentiments.
Some tracks, like “Ladies and Gentleman” and “A remembrance…” bubble with avant-garde bassoon gurgles, pensive trumpet sighs, sharp cello lines, and twittering piano notes. Others, like “Way Out East” and “Berlin 1914” have a slow meander as serene as a walk in the park and as a warm as a fireplace on a winter afternoon. But most, like album-opener “LB” include both of those approaches, and effect an intoxicating contrast of beauty and scar, of fresh pure snow and sharp glistening ice.
Perfect for a day watching the Winter season cast its magic over a view from a window.
Your album personnel: Wayne Horvitz (piano), Ron Miles (trumpet), Peggy Lee (cello), and Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon).
Released in 2006 on the Songlines label.
Download two free tracks from the companion Gravitas Quartet album One Dance Alone on Horvitz’s site.
Available at: Amazon | eMusic
Wayne Horvitz – 4 + 1 Ensemble
While, it’s true, that Wayne Horvitz’s 4+1 Ensemble and his Gravitas Quartet recordings both could get categorized in the Chamber Jazz subgenre, the albums have very different presences. Whereas the Gravitas Quartet toed a line of elegance and austerity, the 4+1 Ensemble shades more toward quirky dissonance and whimsical flashes of beauty more in common with Horvitz’s The President ensemble recordings.
On 4+1 Ensemble, electronics get added to the mix, both via the double-up of piano and keyboards between Horvitz and Watts, but also with the producer’s touch of Tucker Martine (who has lent his constructive use of electronics on several albums of note, including the Floratone recording reviewed on BitW). Kang’s violin brings the strings element not dissimilar in effect to Lee’s cello on Way Out East, and Priester’s trombone walks a middle line between Miles’s trumpet and Schoenbeck’s bassoon. And, yet, it sounds so different.
Your album personnel: Wayne Horvitz (piano, amplified piano, electronics), Reggie Watts (keyboards), Eyvind Kang (violin), Julian Priester (trombone), and Tucker Martine (electronics).
Opening track “Step Aside” is, perhaps, the best example of this recording’s differentiation and similarities to other Horvitz albums. The amicable chatter of electronics clashes with that of strings in between united statements of a simple pretty melody, while trombone throws some punchy notes, sometimes in defense of keys, sometimes as harmony to violin.
Tracks like “Up All Night” evoke the elegance of the Gravitas Quartet recordings by creating an ambient drone counteracted by spry piano lines, whereas “Trouble” embraces a similar jumbled interplay, though presenting it with a whimsical touch. The compelling “AFAP” begins as violent cross-currents of notes that suddenly coalesce into a droning swell of harmony… it doesn’t really sound like anything on the Gravitas Quartet recordings, but it possesses the same graceful touch.
Tracks “Colder/Snake Eyes” and “Exit Laughing” is reminiscent of the folksy electronica of Horvitz’s The President ensemble recordings, with a pulsing tempo, an electric buzz of effects, and rustic percussion. Subsequent track “Take Me Home” is a slow lovely tune featuring heartbreakingly delicate harmonies between trombone, piano, and violin, and really exemplifies one of this recording’s primary strengths… the ebb and flow of one track to the next, evincing a captivating series of emotional shifts that leaves this album being much more than a collection of tunes, but instead a paradigm of creative shadings and brush strokes that, often, is quite breathtaking to experience.
Released in 1998 on the Intuition Music label.
Download a free album track at Horvitz’s site.
Available at: Amazon
By davesumner • Jazz Recommendations, The Two-Fer Review series • 0 • Tags: Best Jazz of the 90s, Jazz - Best of 2006