Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: The Chicana Gypsy Project at Drom, NYC 1/11/09

Casualties of global warming, the band had spent the previous two nights in the Madrid airport courtesy of an unexpected snowstorm. They touched down at Kennedy with little time to spare before the show, sans baggage and instruments. In a stroke of true class, the management at Drom rushed to rent instruments (the upright bass, violin, two guitars and drums must have cost the club a bundle). To the band’s credit, they shook off the fatigue and, in their American debut, played a rousing, inspired show. The Chicana Gypsy Project’s shtick is gypsy versions of pop songs from both American and latin music. Singer/dancer Maria Bermudez told the crowd that she’d made it “from the barrio of Los Angeles to the barrio of Santiago,” which made sense, given what was on the program. Whether twirling and providing clickety-clack rhythm with her tap shoes or singing  in a casual, soul-inflected style with just the hint of grit, she made a compelling presence in front of the band. Behind her were two men singing backup and clapping along furiously, along with acoustic and electric guitar and a tasteful acoustic rhythm section. Overall, the feel was like a hipper version of the Gipsy Kings.

After a big, dramatic dance intro, the band brought it down with Summertime, then brought it back up again after the first verse, alternating fiery flamenco flourishes with torchy blues. Moondance was pretty straight up, with a soulful, unadorned blues solo from the electric guitarist. The violinist then came up to join the band on the jazz number Think of Me, adding an eerie edge in contrast with the smoothness of the melody as the band veered from tango to swing and then back again.

George Benson’s This Masquerade was faster and bluesier than the original, with nice solos from the acoustic guitar and violin. Round Midnight was the vocal version, given an almost southwestern gothic feel early on with tremolo guitar before morphing into a fiery flamenco dance. A couple of ranchera ballads alternated similarly between anticipation and gusto. The best song of the night was their closer, an original, a rousing rock en Espanol stomp capped by a scorchingly frenetic yet tastefully bluesy electric guitar solo. For a laugh, they segued briefly into Tequila, complete with vocals. With a rare combination of accessibility and imagination, this band has a high ceiling as a touring act here in the states. One suspects they may be back soon, watch this space.

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment