Veronica Ituarte

JAZZentiste

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The second album by Verónica Ituarte, Mexico's premier jazz vocalist, is quite a departure from her first released in 1998. (Three years is too long an interval between CDs for a talent of this magnitude.) The initial offering was used to establish her credentials as a jazz singer, with a play list dominated by jazz standards by John Coltrane, Horace Silver, and other like icons. This second release goes 180 degrees in the other direction, with a musical agenda of Mexican tunes. Virtually everything is in Spanish, the lyrics and the liner notes, so it is not easy to identify the derivation of the music. But a haunting "La Llorona" is clearly a traditional Mexican folk song. "Bonita" comes from the pen of Luis Arcaráz, who led the most popular orchestra in Mexico during the '40s and '50s. There are two tunes by a Mexican legend of song, Mario Ruíz Armengol. His "Dónde," with its infectious, swinging rhythm, is in stark contrast to the more serious material. The one nod to English comes with a medley of "Misty" and "Cómo Fue"; the former sung in American English mixed in with the Spanish of the latter sets up an intriguing set. Although the musical agenda differs from the first album, the clarity of tone, immaculate phrasing, and lyrical expression of Ituarte has, if anything, gotten even better. She is accompanied by a trio led by her co-headliner, pianist Juan José Calatayud, who has glints of Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans in his way with the keys. He likes to slightly stroke the keys, getting an almost celestial feel on such cuts as "Bonita," where Ituarte scats Mexican style. Ituarte is a gem of a singer, and should bring her act a bit to the north on occasion.