Romance De La Luna Tucumana
This is how you do it. All those players who cherry-pick from musical cultures, like cooks foolishly adding ingredients to save a sorry dish, should hang their heads in shame. And listen. It helps when you have a voice that is how an open would sound could it sing.
This voice is also earthy and nicotine-stained; joyous and exultant. Diego El Cigala joins the likes of Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Guiseppe Di Stefano as one of the great singers of the last 100 years. He can wrench hearts like Di Stefano, light a blue flame like Holiday, and, like Sinatra, make his singing a drizzle of oil across the instrumentation, while conveying emotion without becoming effete.
A flamenco singer of the highest order, El Cigala also crosses into Cuban and Argentinean music. With this album he again delves deep into Argentinean song, as he did on the superb Cigala & Tango, but this time overlaying Cuban rhythms (explored in his classic encounter with Bebo Valdes, Lagrimas Negras). Then he dares to throw in that dangerous extra ingredient: the perfectly-named Diego Garcia El Twanguero’s electric guitar.
The album’s genesis lay in El Cigala still having some tango songs he wanted to sing following Cigala & Tango. But he also wanted a new path into the music. While deploying the beloved rhythms of Cuba was part of the solution the incorporation of El Twanguero (from Mexico), with his echoes of cowboy music, traces of slippery jazz and glimpses of Hawaii and surf music, was the secret ingredient.
The opening La Cancion de las simples cosas sways like a hammock in the late afternoon sun under the breeze of Cuban percussion, with glints of guitar and El Cigala at his most wistful. Naranjo en flor follows the same theme, with even gentler rhythms and El Twanguero playing such a perfect solo you wonder how the song survived without it.
On the title track the Mexican playfully references Caravan while the piece becomes a mini-encyclopedia of Latin grooves. The gorgeous Siempre Paris stays closest to tango, El Cigala’s vocal dancing in lock-step with the extraordinary guitar, and then we are gifted the riveting Por una cabeza, El Cigala joined by Argentinean singer Andriana Varela.
El Twanguero offers a film-noir setting for the drama of Nieblas del riachuelo, and the coup de grace is Mercedes Sosa guesting for the desolate Cancio para un nino en la calle (Song For a Child in the Street).
Knitting the project together are peerless players from both Cuba and Spain. Flamenco, tango and Cuban: all one Latin musical family. Apart from fans of these idioms, people who have been ravished by such diverse contemporaries as Mariza and Yasmin Levy should discover El Cigala. The first promoter to bring him to Australia will look like a genius.