Lucid Culture


CD Review: Kat Parra & the Sephardic Music Experience – Dos Amantes

Chanteuse Kat Parra made a splash a couple of years ago with her Birds in Flight album, a groundbreaking blend of latin jazz and Middle Eastern-inflected Spanish Sephardic music. This cd, her third, maintains the alternately haunting, rousing and seductive sound that’s become her signature. Backed by an inspired latin band led by pianist Murray Low and featuring Stephanie Antoine on violin, Masaru Koga on sax and flute, Peter Barshay on bass, Paul van Wageningen on drums and Katja Cooper on percussion, she makes her way through a diverse mix of traditional Spanish Jewish songs from across the years, piquantly rearranged with a salsa groove. Parra sings in Ladino, which is to Spanish what Yiddish is to German, the language of the Andalusian Jews dating back to the eighth century.

The arrangements here may be latin, but the melodies are indelibly Levantine. In places, the band will go off on a latin tangent, but they always come back to the hook that gives the songs a foundation, as with the opening track, Los Bilbilicos (The Nightingales). There’s a big Middle Eastern flute flourish to kick it off, then the vocals follow in the same vein, but then its terse latin arrangement gets breezy with a big percussion break straight out of Spanish Harlem. The title track could be a Rahbani Brothers hit from Lebanon, 1955 with some extra soul and rhumba rhythms. En La Mar (In the Ocean) is a flamenco jazz number driven by Jason McGiure’s acoustic guitar and vivid flute accents.

Somewhat incongruously titled, Fiestaremos (Let’s Party) is big and gospelish with its massive choir of voices standing in contrast against a carefree flute melody. Avrix Mi Galanica (Open the Door, My Dear Girl) is the most modern of all the tracks here, flute contrasting with electric piano for an Egyptian pop ballad feel. The absurdly catchy La Vida Do Por El Raki (I’d Give My Life for Raki) is a traditional drinking song with a dark undercurrent – evidently the Balkan apple brandy known as rakija further east made its way to Spain. The last song is a contemporary Hanukah number, a children’s song actually, but it’s irresistibly infectious and fun for all ages. This album ought to resonate equally well with adventurous latin music fans as well as devotees of Levantine music of all kinds. Bay Area fans can catch Parra’s cd release show for this one on January 18 at 8 PM at Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore St. in San Francisco.

January 13, 2010 - Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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