One of my favorite singers has finally come up with an album of Latin America’s most beautiful love songs. Jackie Ryan‘s mother was Mexican and so the singer had always included at least one Spanish song in her previous records, like “La Puerta” on “Listen Here”(2012), “Solamente Una Vez” on “Doozy” (2009), or “Historia De Un Amor” on “Passion Flower”(2002).
“This music has lived within me since I was very young”, she writes in the liner notes to this totally enchanting and mesmerizing album. “This was the first music I heard in my home, and I believe my mother’s love of music, and her own happy singing, are what inspired me to become a singer.” Good for us! I still remember bringing her over to Berlin in the early 2000s and the audience especially seemed to enjoy “Historia De Un Amor”.
Probably the two most famous or well-known songs on the 10-track album are “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás”, which boasts with a wonderful conjunto towards the end of the piece and a brilliant trumpet solo by Marco Diaz, and “Perfidia”, where Paquito D’Rivera can be heard on his signature sound on clarinet, whereas he plays alto sax on the former classic. The songs were arranged by trumpeter, composer and producer Marco Diaz and they all gel perfectly. The album opens with an Argentine tango by Carlos Gardel from 1934: on “El Día Que Me Quieras”, Jackie is joined by Marco and Paquito only and sets the tone for the love song collection, juxtaposing and intertwining the traditional with jazz sensibilities and thus, combining those elements to maximum, highly sympathetic and enjoyable effect.
“Sabor A Mí”, a Mexican bolero written by Alvaro Carillo in 1959, is one of two tracks which was also recorded by Eydie Gormé and the Los Panchos Trio back in the days. This is clearly my favorite version of this classic piece. There is enough variety here, like the guitar opening on the melancholic beauty “María Elena”, a song written in 1932 by Lorenzo Barcelata which was later a number one hit by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra. Here, Jackie is joined by Braulio Barrera on the cajon and also, what makes this version extra special, is its vocal arrangement where both Jackie and Marco join in. Carlos Reyes plays some dark and sweet violin on “Noche De Ronda”, a Mexican waltz written by Agustín Lara in 1935 and made famous by singer Elvira Ríos. Jackie is convincing and triumphant, her strong contralto steps back a bit in all the right spots here, making this whole project an emotionally enticing and stylistically persuasive set. The percussion adds salt and pepper.
Jackie handles the wonderful love song “Contigo Aprendí”, written by Armando Manzanero, with so much depth and authenticity which is rarely heard elsewhere. She punctuates those two words with a certain pungency before she moves into a much softer and gentler, almost fragile tone in the next line singing “A ver la luz del otro lado de la luna”. Simply beautiful. Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona wrote “Siboney” in 1927. Here, Jackie comes up with one of her strongest performances, leaving other interpretations and versions far behind her. More variety comes in the wake of the violin/bandoneon-included “Caminito”, another tango, composed in 1926 by Juan De Dios Filiberto and Gabino Coria Peñaloza. Above all, and holding it all together with astonishing aplomb and compelling wit, with masterful phrasing and inundated passion for the music, is the beauty of the voice of Jackie Ryan.
The album was released in early October. Vinyl is not available so far. Jackie plays The Sound Room in Oakland on January 28th.