June 2007

Eliana Cuevas
at the Toronto Jazz Festival
June 22, 2007Primus StageNathan Phillips SquareToronto
Poetry and Rhythm
by Joyce Corbett with photo by Roger Humbert

Eliana Cuevas
Subtle, strong, elegant, sophisticated yet simple and honest, that is how I would describe Eliana Cuevas’ singing, stage presence and music. She impresses with her strength but is never forceful. South American rhythms, flamenco, poetry, jazz harmonies are all elements of her music which obviously flows from the core of her being. Almost all of the songs she sang on this occasion were originals, most in Spanish, a couple in Portuguese. When asked if I understood the lyrics, I realized that if you don’t you are missing out on an important part of her art, the poetry of her lyrics. For example, she sang a beautiful song about a waterfall in her native Venezuela. In the pool of the falls the water is so sweet she wishes to be transformed into a fish and immerse herself in it. But although understanding the lyrics completes the appreciation of her art, one can enjoy the purely musical aspect of her singing — the sound of her voice, its rhythmic flow, the smooth modulations of pitch and the use of dynamics — and feel the emotions behind it. On this perfect afternoon her voice was complemented by her regular quintet, a stellar group of musicians. The poetry of the music and the excitement of its rhythms needed no translation.
The one long set was very much all of one cloth but contained much variety from the celebratory folk feel of “Luna Llena” (Full Moon), through the drama and sensuality of “Irracional (Como un animal)” and the soaring sailing-on-air feel of “El Susurro el Aire”, with its powerful rhythmic base. There were piano passages of exquisite beauty and solid, complex percussion with a particularly jaw-dropping cajon solo from Luis Orbegoso.

Eliana Cuevas’ original treatment of the South American classic “Alfonsina y el Mar” was sublime. Written about the suicide of Ibero-American poet Alfonsina Storni, the lyrics speak of a path of pain and suffering leading to the sea and of Alfonsina lulled by the songs of the conches as the phosphorescent sea horses swim around her and the sea creatures play at her side. Not only was Eliana Cuevas’ interpretation of it wondrously sensitive but the entire composition was poetic. In his opening and concluding solos, George Koller extracted sounds I have never before heard emanating from a bass, sounds of wind and waves, of whales and dolphins playing.

I look forward to hearing more of Eliana Cuevas with these musicians and to her soon-to-be released third CD.

The musicians
Eliana Cuevas – vocals
George Koller – bass
Luis Guerra – piano
Luis Orbegoso – percussion
Daniel Stone – percussion
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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