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Kindrid spirits: Elis Regina, Abbey Lincoln, Victor Jara
Show: Tuesday at Blues Alley. Shows start at 8 and 10p.m.
With her keen jazz sensibilities and improvisational finesse, acclaimed Chilean singer-songwriter Claudia Acuña personalizes pop and jazz standards with great ease. On “En Este Moment,” however, Acuña turns her attention to mostly Spanish-language material: original songs as well as contributions by Chilean poet Victor Jara, Argentine tango master Astor Piazzolla and others.
The most familiar selection, at least to English-speaking audiences, is “Cuando Vuelva a Tu Lado/What a Difference a Day Makes,” which Acuña performs in Spanish and English, delivering a pensive, soulfully yearning recital. Rada’s “Sueño Contigo,” on the other hand, is vibrantly rhythmic, a lively showcase for the singer’s fluid, scat-laced vocals. Of the two original songs, “That’s What They Say” stands out, partly for its spiritually questioning lyric and partly for its slowly unwinding arrangement. It’s also proof of Acuña’s remarkable versatility. She can use her voice for purely instrumental purposes one moment and for powerfully dramatic effect the next.
Produced by saxophonist Branford Marsalis, who performs briefly on the album, “En Este Moment” is an intimate, small-combo session that features pianist Jason Lindner and a seasoned, close-knit ensemble. Yet because the moods are colorfully diverse and the arrangements delightfully textured, Acuña’s gifts are revealed in ways that are by turns haunting, heartfelt and high-spirited.