MAKING A SCENE
by Jim Hynes
Passion – Latin Jazz
Houston-based jazz vocalist and songwriter Raquel Cepeda is a multi-talented artist with an interesting story and an auspicious debut. She uses the word ‘passion’ liberally. It’s the name of her band, her album, and her life force. From the liner notes, these excerpts from Cepeda will provide a framework – “In 2015 I left a lucrative, 15-year career as a geologist in the oil industry to devote myself to music. I was drawn to music’s power to touch every human being regardless of origin or language…By leaving distraction behind, I found myself immersed in the flow of the universe. A state where trust and discipline are key. In this state, time and space disappear when I am engaged in the act of either singing, composing, or crafting a concert, and miracles are granted to me on a daily basis…Finding my passion required knowing myself intimately. Listening to my heart. Taking risks. Pushing boundaries. Cultivating and developing talents. And trusting.”
Originally from Venezuela, she grew up in a family of musicians and was recognized as a vocalist early on, garning first place at the prestigious Ucevista Voice Festival in 1995. Her first jazz recording project was 2001’s Juegos de Playa and her debut as a leader in 2013 was I’m Confessin.’ Cepeda is unique because of her multi-cultural , multi-linguistic approach as she loves languages (another ‘passion’) and has had long exposure to Latin, Brazilian, and American cultures.
These 13 pieces contain five originals and come from both North and South American repertoires. American swing elements (Ellington tunes bookend the album) blend with Afro-Cuban, and Afro-Brazilian rhythms as one can clearly hear influences from Argentina and Venezuela. This generous 67 minutes of music presents a wide array of styles and represents her debut as a producer. She also has her hand on every arrangement.
As you might expect her band represents several geographies too. The Americans are Barry Sames (piano) and Thomas Helton (double bass). Brazil has two members – Adriano Santos (drums) and Cassio Duarte (percussion) as does Cuba – Orlando Fuentes (drums) and Ernesto Vega (sax and flute). Trumpeter Omar Martinez hails from Puerto Rico. The guests come from several countries too, including Argentinean Grammy winner Hector del Curto on bandoneon (“Little Gem”), along with Venezuelans Jorge Glem (cuatro) and Marlon Simon (drums/percussion) (“Luz de Luna”); and American David Caceres on backup vocals (“It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)/Quimbara). Configurations range from 6-8 on tracks as detailed beautifully in the very classy, professionally rendered CD jacket.
Immerse yourself in Raquel Cepeda’s Passion. It’s refreshing and rewarding.