A recurring conundrum for vocalists -- especially for less established ones -- is how to strike a balance between including new material and/or fresher, more innovative presentations of old material to make their albums more attractive to the public without sacrificing their musical integrity or identity. Some efforts succeed; others don't. Alucinaciones falls into the former category. On this album, Mexican vocalist Veronica Ituarte presents a strong program of traditional and bop standards. She is joined by a set of flexible and talented musicians, and together they work their considerable musical magic on the play list. And magic it is. Ituarte eschews lyrics on many of the tunes, choosing to become another instrument through skillful scatting and vocalese. Also, she doesn't find it necessary to dominate every cut; on some, a member of the group assumes and holds center stage. On "Naima," for example, tenor saxophone player Pablo Salas takes the lead, working with Francisco Tellez's piano for an impressive interpretation of John Coltrane's classic; behind the sax, and barely audible, is Ituarte's voice, softly and subtly humming the melody, as if she is another key on Salas' sax. An extraordinarily powerful performance is the result.
There's a change in mood with the swinging, bright vocalese offering of Horace Silver's bop anthem "Strollin'," featuring a spirited musical conversation between Ituarte and Jorge Molina's bass. Adding to the variety of the session is Salas' chameleonic sax, which changes as the musical mood woven by Ituarte warrants. On "Caravan," he resembles Zoot Sims, as he and Ituarte take the Duke Ellington/Juan Tizol chestnut on a wild, swinging ride. On "Naima," his sax takes a natural turn toward the harsher, John Coltrane tone. But always, his tone is deep and stentorian throughout, complimenting (but not competing with) Ituarte's voice. Ituarte works effectively with the other members of the groups as well. One of the most riveting cuts is "You Don't Know What Love Is," where her wordless vocalizing seems to flow from Molina's arco bass. Molina's pizzicato technique is made manifest on "In Walked Bud." But the anchor of the group is Tellez. His piano accompaniment is impeccable and his solos strong, as he is featured on several cuts. A highlight of the album is his work with Ituarte and Salas on a jazzy "Night and Day."
The songs on which the bilingual Ituarte resorts to lyrics, she sings in English, except for "My Favorite Things," which features Spanish lyrics by Berta Maldonado. The album notes are also in Spanish, but they are unreadable, since the words are printed in yellow on a yellow background. Veronica Ituarte is blessed with excellent vocal skills and imaginative interpretative abilities; hopefully this album will be followed by many, many more.