“… all this material represents my childhood listening to my father and his guitar in my parents’ living room.” –Magos Herrera
Magos Herrera can sing the alphabet — in Spanish, Portuguese, and English — and it would sound like a Grammy-award-winning masterpiece of epic proportions. Her deep, rich contralto takes over a song and gives it exotic depth. In her latest CD, Mexico Azul, Herrera takes the music of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema (1930–1940s) and translates it into something very special.
Released May 31, 2011 with a May 30th Lincoln Center concert for the occasion, the CD was commissioned by Sony specifically to celebrate Mexico’s independence bicentennial. Herrera immediately had a theme in mind, besides the obvious: showcase the tremendous influence of African music in Mexico in the soundtracks of some famous 1930s and 40s movie composers, including Agustin Lara and Álvaro Carrillo.
Both composers loved to use African culture in their music. “You can see that [Lara] had a very strong view and acknowledgement of blackness in Mexico, and how we were influenced by Africa in our culture,” Herrera told PRI’s The World in a June 7, 2011 interview. “We can hear that in Brazilian music, in Peruvian music, in Venezuelan music but in Mexico, it’s not that obvious.”
It is now.
What you’ll hear in Herrera’s gentle take is Latin-jazz mixed in with a little pop, mestizo scatting, bossa nova, torch, and the exquisite balladry of Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Africa in the standard compositions of Agustin Lara, A. Eloy Blanco/M. Álvarez, Pedro Flores, Alvaro Carrillo, Isolina Carrillo. You’ll also hear Herrera’s own tribute in “Voz Antigua (Ancient Voice).”
Mexico City-born Magos Herrera captured the Latin-Jazz world in the late 1990s-early 2000s with her Latin-Andalusian phrasing, hypnotic Spanish scatting, and curvaceous, sultry understanding of song performance and interpretation. After moving to New York in 2007, Herrera earned kudos for her work with saxophonist Tim Ries (The Rolling Stones Jazz Project II) and composer Paola Prestini’s Traveling Songs “VIA project,” as well as her stunning 2008 New York Winter Jazz Festival concert. She has many albums to her name. Mexico Azul is her second under the Sunnyside Records label.
She continues on with her band at Boston’s Scullers Jazz Club, September 14.
Review first appeared in Examiner Aug. 8, 2011.