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Saturday, August 10, 2019

CD Review: Lauren Henderson - Alma Oscura

(Review by Ann Alex)

A CD of original songs that turned out to be a sheer joy to listen to! Songs with hooks both lyrical and musical, even on the three tracks which were in Spanish, which I cannot speak! I'm so enthusiastic that I'll begin with a rundown of the tracks, which were very Latin influenced, yet jazzy as well, sung in a pleasing, soft, smoky voice.

From The Inside Out (Sidran and Alex Cuba): A sensual song with a Latin beat, about the connections between lovers,  sung in both Spanish and English by Henderson and Sidran, with strings added to the mix to enhance the romance.

Something Bigger (Thurber): Interesting lyrics about things being bigger than the sum of their parts, such as the human body and the various parts of nature.

Alma Oscura (Henderson, Thurber) means 'dark soul', about someone trying to find her own lost heart, sung in Spanish. This may sound obscure but it works well musically, a slow song. The CD cover illustrates this well, a very dark cover on which you can only just make out the figures.

El Arbol (Henderson): 'The Tree', in Spanish, is about an interracial couple who are lynched because of their love. Very expressive, low, dramatic piano chords played to fast percussion beats illustrate this.

Ven Muerte (Thurber): 'Come Death' was written for a production of Shakespeare's Macbeth. A tango rhythm is used and a clarinet solo adds to the drama.

Where Are You Now? (Thurber):  About a man whose actions have caused him to be alone. A haunting ballad with low pitched strings accompanied by a steady harp riff. Lyrics say 'you bit the apple, you lost your soul'.

Protocol (Henderson): A love affair that is crumbling, a tango rhythm.

Dream (Henderson): A surprise, unlisted, track about a love which is surviving only in a dream. A touching song done with voice and piano only.

It may all sound rather sombre and earnest, but take my word - it works.

This is Ms Henderson's sixth CD since 2011 and she is based in New York where she performs regularly as well as in Miami, Europe and South Africa. A student of music, Hispanic culture, jazz and flamenco, with a truly multicultural background - her mother has roots in Panama and Montserrat and her father has Caribbean connections.
Ann Alex

Released on June 28 by Brontosaurus Records.

Lauren Henderson (vocals); Michael Thurber (bass, producer); Sullivan Fortner, Damian Sim (piano); Gabe Schneider (guitar); Mark Dover (clarinet); Emi Ferguson (flute); Jon Lampley (trumpet); Allan Mednard, Joe Saylor (drums); Moses Patrou (perc); Tessa Lark (violin solo); Lavinia Pavlish, Brendan Speltz (violins); Charles Overton (harp); Rose Hashimoto (viola); Tara Hanish (cello); Leo Sidran (guest vocals).

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