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In the music business, five years without a new CD is practically an eternity.
But radiant jazz singer Claudia Acuña has come back strong, with a startling release that — typically, for her — cuts against convention.
For starters, she sings almost entirely in Spanish on her superb new recording, “En Este Momento” (Marsalis Music), which translates to “At This Moment.” That’s clearly not a quick-and-easy way to re-establish yourself in the marketplace, concedes Acuña, who opens Thursday night at the Jazz Showcase.
Nevertheless, “I kind of made a promise to myself that I was always going to honor my roots,” says the Chilean-born singer, who moved to America in 1995 and has included a touch of South American repertoire on previous recordings.
“This time, I thought I would do the opposite — have just one [song] in English, and even that one is not all in English. I wish to pay tribute to my mother tongue.”
But Acuña’s singing on “En Este Momento” proves so vibrant in tone and profound in delivery as to practically transcend barriers of language. Anyone who has followed Acuña’s work will recognize that she sounds more imploring and emotionally accessible than ever. Those who haven’t yet encountered her should be struck by the ardor of virtually every track.
Perhaps the most magical cut is “Tulum,” which Acuña wrote a few years ago, naming it after the spot in Mexico where she took a retreat when she was facing a personal crisis. The song’s sense of wonder and reverie suggest rejuvenation.
“I was going through a lot of questions about life and music [at the time], and things were not quite what I wanted,” recalls Acuña. “I had some disappointments, like all of us, and I was sort of gathering my thoughts and my strength.
“And one night I saw this symphony of situations between the ocean and the moon and the shooting stars. I realized I was by myself, and I stopped thinking about what I didn’t have and started thinking about what I did … and this melody came. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had.”
That sense of awe permeates “En Este Momento” and seems to sum up Acuña’s frame of mind, a welcome development for anyone who values that rarest of artists: the young jazz singer with something to say.
Claudia Acuña plays Thursday through Sunday at the Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct.; $20-$25; 312-360-0234
Cruising for jazz More than 20 Chicago musicians will perform on a ship to raise money for jazz students. Neal Alger, Eric Schneider, Mike Frost, Ava Logan, Libby York and others will perform on a Chicago Jazz Cruise for a Cause, with all proceeds donated to the Community Music Program of Chicago’s VanderCook College of Music.
The Chicago Jazz Cruise for a Cause, which is organized by Chicago Jazz Magazine, will run from 6 to 10 p.m. Oct. 19; dinner included; price ranges from $80 to $140, depending on ticket availability; phone 773-927-0396 or visit chicagojazz.com/cruise.php