June 2006

Amanda Martinez | Sola CD Release
June 22, 2006The DrakeToronto
Cantanos Amanda
by Joyce Corbett with photo by Roger Humbert
An obviously happy Amanda Martinez faces the band and finger-snaps the tempo for “Guajira Sola”. The bass, guitar and guiro pull us into the rhythm, a hypnotic chi-chi-chao. Violin and trumpet join the building excitement and Amanda’s voice comes in as sure and steady as the advancing rhythm. We are immersed in the thrill of the song. Exciting, sensuous and rhythmically rich, it feels like a celebration song. It is a song I can see becoming her 'signature song'. It’s a great opener, or closer, and very Amanda.

Amanda Martinez tells the audience that she has been performing around Toronto for about five years now and that people have often asked her about a CD. Last year, she decided the time was right — and now, here she is with her own recording, Sola. The woman who, as a Jazz FM radio host, has introduced so many performers at their CD release parties is now taking the spotlight at her own.

Beyond Amanda Martinez’ distinctive voice and her song-writing talent, the ease with which she performed Thursday evening and the pleasure it obviously gave her, showed that she was right — the time had come. She radiated confidence, her singing and her performance were flawless.

Claudia Garcia de la Huerta from CBC’s arts and culture show Big City, Small World introduced Amanda Martinez, telling the story of how they first met in Claudia’s CBC studio. Amanda had come in with guitarist Kevin Laliberté to do an interview and to sing a song. “Here was this young woman I had heard about, all shy and nervous”, Claudia said, “but when she opened her mouth to sing she transformed into this graceful swan. I was hooked.” Judging from the packed room at the Drake, Amanda Martinez has won over many ears along the way. As people tried to squeeze by in front of the stage, one woman remarked, “she already needs a bigger venue!”
Amanda Martinez
Later in the show, Amanda Martinez sang the song she wrote and performed with Kevin Laliberté for that radio segment, “Diciembre”, dreamy and soft, but still rhythmic. Thinking about it, I realize that her phrasing, her rhythmic sense and her capacity to keep the soft and slow tunes moving — ebbing and flowing but always heading on — is one of her strengths. Her more obvious qualities are the way she feels a lyric, communicating the feeling whether you understand the words or not with her distinctive, breathy voice, sometimes using a characteristic catching at the back of throat that is powerfully emotive.

Her band? As she said, she is lucky to have such a great band behind her and she was fortunate that all of the personnel from her CD, except for one of the violinists, Sheila Gruner, could make it on this occasion. This was no small feat considering most of them have their own bands or solo careers and are always busy. It would be impossible for me to single out any one musician from the band here. What stood out about everyone was the level of their musicianship. They played so well and looked so amazingly happy. Much warmth radiated from that stage.

Warmth came from the audience as well, listening and responding to Amanda Martinez as she sang the songs from her new CD, songs in Spanish, English and Portuguese. When she took up the guitar to accompany herself on the dramatic “La Llorona”, the man beside me leaned to his friend and said, “I love the way she does this”. As I said, she has earned many fans over her few years as an artist. No doubt she will continue to earn new ones with performances such as this and her new CD. From the childlike innocence with which she sings the jazz standard “Look to the Rainbow”, to the womanly "Guajira Sola", the tenderness of the Brazilian standard “Manha de Carnaval” and the yearning of her own “Volar”, to name a few, this first CD represents her well.

Amanda Martinez told the crowd she didn’t know when she started out how much work producing a CD was going to be, but she made it — I’m so glad she did. So were the many people who lined up to buy her CD that night. So will be those who have not yet heard her.

The Musicians
Amanda Martinez – vocals, guitar
Kevin Laliberté – guitar
Julio Cesar Jimenez – piano
George Koller – bass
Ruddy Bolanos – baby bass
Osvaldo Rodriguez – violin
Rosendo “Chendy” Leon – percussion, drums
Alex Brown – trumpet
Carlos Bloomfield Berry – congas


We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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