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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Review: Corina Bartra - Afro Peruvian Jazz Celebration

Corina Bartra - Afro Peruvian Jazz Celebration
2009, Blue Spiral Music

Corina Bartra has spent years studying many styles of music. As a music educator and performer, Bartra's love of music and search for new styles goes well beyond being an academic pursuit. The Peru native and part-time New York City resident combines elements of Afro-Peruvian styles with American Jazz for a rich a vibrant hybrid that's traditional enough to appease fans of Latin Jazz and with enough spark and newness to draw in a new generation of fans. Bartra recently released her fifth CD, Afro Peruvian Jazz Celebration, a culmination of years of teaching, studying and developing these distinct styles into a transcendent sound that is the mark of a master.

Afro Peruvian Jazz Celebration opens with La Flor De La Canela, a mid-tempo that will get you on the dance floor for a charged slow dance. Bartra projects a smooth and cultured sensuality here that drives the song. Chacombo is a bit more upbeat, urging your feet to move a bit faster. You Took Me By Surprise is a Bartra original, borrowing heavily from "small band" styles but with a rhythm section that plays on the edge of the fires of funk. Stella By Starlight is done in an interesting flute-driven arrangement with a bass line that will tie you in knots. Camaron sounds like something out of an old MGM film or a private detective story set in the 1940's (You can almost picture Mike Hammer sitting back, enjoying a drink and listening to Bartra sing).

A Saca Camote Con El Pie stood out on the CD for me as the least enjoyable track. I am not quite sure what happened here, but Bartra's opening vocal line just didn't come across that well and I couldn't get it out of my head for the rest of the song. You Don't Know What Love Is gets things back to normal, with a strong performance from Bartra and a distinctively well played arrangement. The highlight of the disc is Afro Peruvian Folk Song, played with the aggressive rhythms of South American music and a lively if compact jazz piano lead. Be sure to also check out Yambambo and I Won't Regret A Moment.

Corina Bartra has put together a strong ensemble in Her Azu Project. The musicianship here is outstanding. Vocally, Bartra is excellent within a selected range; she occasionally has some issues in the upper part of her range around pitch and tone, but she is generally a pleasure to listen to (and she can scat like nobody's business). Afro Peruvian Jazz Celebration is uneven and unpredictable but fun nonetheless. I imagine a live performance from Bartra and Her Azu Project would be a lot of fun. Check out Afro Peruvian Jazz Celebration. You'll find a few flaws, but underneath it all it's still a gem.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Corina Bartra at You can purchase a copy of Afro Peruvian Jazz Celebration at, or you can download the album from iTunes.

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