Chip Boaz, Latin Jazz Corner

Album Of The Week: A Song Of Love’s Color, Gabriele Tranchina

The idea of “world music” has always seemed like a bit of a facade – all music comes from somewhere in the world; just because we encounter a different musical culture doesn’t place it in a vague and exotic category.

This idea highlights the differences between musical worlds and creates a mental block around artistic exchange between cultures. It distracts musicians and listeners from finding the similarities between musical traditions and ultimately it hinders the active sharing of artistic ideas and aesthetic concepts. If we get past the boxed-in notion of “world music” as a genre unto itself and start look at the beauty in the cultural tradition of each region’s traditional music, we find a wealth of inspiration and possibilities.

At that point, wonderful collaborations emerge, musical boundaries are stretched, and new ways of looking at music are discovered. This moves beyond the fluent exchange between music from the Americas and the Caribbean, reaching into Europe, Asia, Africa, and beyond. Lyrical, rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic combinations rise into the forefront that we’ve never imagined, sparking only creativity and goodwill. When musicians re-imagine the “world music” category and explore music of the world, true artistry can emerge. Vocalist Gabriele Tranchina gathers a group of top-notch musicians around this perspective on A Song of Love’s Color, producing a colorful set that fluidly brings together a variety of cultural traditions.

Exploring Musical Worlds With Original Compositions

The group explores a variety of different musical worlds with several original compositions, smartly arranged by the group. A thick collection of intertwining overdubbed vocal scat from Tranchina floats over a steady cha cha cha groove on “A Song Of Love’s Color,” leading into a dramatic English vocal with a tightly wrapped rhythm section accompaniment.

Pianist Joe Vincent Tranchina maintains the serious minor mood of the piece with airy lines that drift through the solo with a defined sense of melodic integrity. Santi Debriano’s bowed bass creates a a broad sonic foundation beneath Tranchina’s return to the main melody, which takes the vocalist into a series of defined scat lines. Vincent Tranchina takes his time creating a gripping unaccompanied introduction to “Solamente Pasion,” stretching the boundaries of strong themes with flowery embellishments. A strong clave and forceful abinico from drummer Bobby Sanabria sends the band storming into a memorable bass vamp, a catchy coro, and a full force Cuban descarga. Once the group settles into a driving son montuno, Tranchina opens into some nice pregones, sending the descarga into an exciting climax. Vincent Tranchina stretches broken chords across a vast expanse, setting the stage for Tranchina’s rubato vocal on “Today,” which gains a pleasant motion through a variety of rhythm section feels. Traces of the vocal melody peek through Vincent Trancina’s improvisation, evolving into an engaging statement as the pianist twists lines through swing, samba, and more.

As Tranchina returns for the vocal, the group pushes the song into a higher dynamic with improvised commentary from Vincent Tranchina. The rhythm section provides a strutting combination of Brazilian swing and funky groove behind Tranchina’s scatted melody on “Voz,” cleverly finding a locking point through common accents. Debriano flies into an impassion solo, storming through quick melodic runs and rhythmic figures, trading ideas with Vincent Tranchina’s understated piano response. After an extended scat and piano interlude, the group falls into a slow groove behind layers of overdubbed vocals, setting the stage for Tranchina’s well constructed scat solo. These pieces allow the group to explore Vincent Tranchina’s compositional voice, utilizing a variety of musical settings.

Lyrics From Creative Sources

Tranchina brings several worlds together by taking lyrics from creative sources and adding inventive musical accompaniment and arrangements. Talking drums assertively converse over a 6/8 groove on “Asato Maa (Sat Chit Ananda),” leading into Tranchina’s melodic interpretation of a traditional Hindu prayer.

Tranchina fills between pieces of the vocal with an inspired flair that combines the minor mood of the key center and the syncopated tension of the rhythmic foundation. Debriano establishes a steady bass line over a sparse percussion background as Tranchina offers a spoken English statement that explodes into a massive wave of thick vocals and explosive percussion fills.

A gentle piano vamp and sparse bass notes open the door for a German vocal on “Siehst Du Mich,” until Sanabria provides sensitive brush work, allowing Tranchina to broadly interpret the melody. Debriano imbues the song with a sense of delicate beauty, creating a touching bowed statement filled with emotional power. Vincent Tranchina follows with a carefully crafted improvisation built upon a light touch and resonating colors that flow smoothly back to the gripping vocal.

After a brief piano preview of the melody, Tranchina drifts into a heartfelt melody on “Duermete Mino Bonito,” gracefully moving between Spanish and English lyrics. Maintaining the mood, Debriano leaps into an introspective statement that dramatically weaves melodies through the rich chordal structure.

Vincent Tranchina briefly runs assertive themes over the bolero rhythm, before Tranchina stretches and twists the melody through smart and affecting variations. While each of the pieces draw their lyrics from unexpected sources, the group incorporates them into a Latin Jazz context with a seamless fluidity.

Staying Connected To Standard Repertoire

Tranchina and her group stay connected to standard repertoire from several styles with creative arrangements of several pieces. Sanabria establishes a rock solid samba groove underneath the rhythm section on “Chante Comme Si Tu Devais Mourir Demain” as Tranchina insightfully wraps a French lyric around the Brazilian structure.

After Tranchina skillfully works through the lengthy melody, Vincent Tranchina jumps into a lively improvisation that bounces around the rhythmic feel with vitality. Tranchina again finds a place over the addictive groove, layering thick harmonies as Sanabria and percussionist Renato Thoms build into a rhythmic frenzy. Vincent Tranchina enthusiastically pounds rhythmic chords over Sanabria’s racing samba rhythm on Jobim’s “Samba De Uma Nota So” while Tranchina moves through the familiar melody with character and style.

The group breaks down to only Sanabria and Thoms, giving the song a batucada setting while Tranchina speaks the lyrics rhythmically. As the group reaches the bridge, Sanabria and Thoms drop into a half time combination of reggae and funk while Tranchina raps, only to burst into the original tempo for the last bit of the melody. Vincent Tranchina improvises with a slow lyricism over an airy bossa nova on Jobim’s “Inutil Paisagem” until Tranchina enters with a reflective vocal that drifts over the rhythm section. Debriano moves into an inventive solo that both reflects the song’s melodic openness and pushes the song forward gently with an underlying rhythmic momentum.

Tranchina returns to the melody with liberal amounts of space, giving Vincent Tranchina the opportunity to improvise through the silence with a sensitive touch. These tracks provide the opportunity for Tranchina to show her respects to the standard repertoire, but to also flex her creative muscles with unique arrangements.

Breaking Out Of The “World Music” Box

Tranchina’s genre-crossing mixtures stretch our concept of individual musical traditions on A Song of Love’s Color, pushing things outside the “world music” box into an exploration of music of the world. Most of the album’s rhythmic content stays firmly planted in the Latin Jazz realm, with the arrangements more specifically focused upon Cuban and Brazilian genres.

Tranchina’s clever use of multiple languages starts exploring the grey area between stylistic specificity though, integrating lyrics in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Hindi, and German. The vocalist integrates this multitude of languages with ease, showing a skillful handle on vocal technique. The use of poems, lullabies, and more connect cultural traditions, giving the material some weight and integrity.

Smart arrangements from Vincent Tranchina and Sanabria fluidly marry these diverse cultures with Latin Jazz, creating comfortable and interesting musical contexts. Whether the arrangement combines a French text with a Brazilian samba or a Hindi poem with an Afro-Cuban 6/8, everything flows smoothly.

Consistent outstanding rhythm section work serves as the glue that holds the album together, ensuring musical excellence. Sanabria controls each stylistic shift with an addictive swing and a commanding presence while Debriano colors the music with rich sonic textures and interactive spontaneity.

The combination of these pieces results in a thought provoking musical mixture on A Song of Love’s Color, shifting our attention once again from music of the world into a whole new world of music.