Argentine composer and bandoneón player Dino Saluzzi has worked in many different settings during his tenure with ECM. These include solo records, duos, trios, and one with the Rosamunde String Quartet. His most frequent collaborators are members of his family band, the Dino Saluzzi Group, which includes brother Felix on reeds and winds, son Jose Maria on guitars, and nephew Matías on basses. El Valle de la Infancia is only the third offering from the DSG, which debuted with Mojotoro in 1996 (sans Matías), then delivered Juan Condori in 2005. The quintet from the latter recording has been expanded to a sextet here with the addition of seven-string guitarist Nicolas "Colacho" Brizuela and new drummer Quintino Cinalli. Recorded in Buenos Aires, this set features stand-alone compositions and four suites and is a fine example of Saluzzi as musical storyteller and medium. He has also been a composer, improviser, and instrumentalist, communicating the depths of his country's folk music history in a distinct modern language that never forsakes tradition. He wrote three-quarters of the selections here, including the opener "Sombras," a tune that walks the line between Argentinian dance music, nueva cancion jazz, and structured improvisation; it seems to travel further back in time as it plays. "La Polvadera" commences abstractly before it becomes a dance, with luxuriant solo guitar interludes underscored by bandoneon and bass. Jose Marie's haunting, achingly beautiful "Labrador" opens the "Pueblo Suite," which finishes with a reading of the iconic Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez's tender "La Tristecita," featuring bluesy saxophone playing from Felix in interplay with Dino. "A Mi Padre y a Mi Hijo" explores everything from tango to characera to modern jazz. The second part of the "Urkupiña" suite, "Ruego, Procesión y Entronación" is a deeply meditative song that evolves from the contemplative to the revelatory with engaging dialogue between the guitarists as Cinalli's drums highlight its processional root as the bandoneon broods and accents, guiding the changes. Five glorious miniatures -- all under two minutes, make up the "La Fiesta Popular" suite, which re-opens musica folklorica styles to contemporary consideration. Brizuela is a guiding light through the chámame of "La Perseguida" -- he spent years working with Mercedes Sosa. The reading of nueva cancion composer Atahualpa Yupanqui's "La Arribeña" is bittersweet, a midtempo dance offering with lovely interplay between bass, bandoneon, and guitars. El Valle de la Infancia employs a complex yet utterly beguiling, resonant language as perhaps the most magical and accessible of the Dino Saluzzi Group's recordings.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek