Claudia Acuña – Wind from the South

Wind from the South
Claudia Acuña
(Verve – 2000)
by Matthew S. Robinson

Opening with a playful stretch of “Pure Imagination,” Chilean chanteuse Claudia Acuña leads a talented band based around the central structures of bassist/co-producer Avishai Cohen, drummer Jeff Ballard and pianist Jason Lindner through a series of contrapuntal improvisations. Performing songs composed both by old guards like Ellington, Berlin, the Gershwins and Rodgers and Hart and newer standard bearers like Newly and Wonder, Acuña displays a penchant for original shaping which is at times overextended and at others constrained.

Among the odder arrangements are a rather unremorseful telling of “My Man’s Gone Now” and a “Prelude To A Kiss” which rushes to the main event. On the other hand, “What’ll I Do?” is appropriately lost and lingering and “Bewitched” is bewilderingly multi-colored. An aire of appreciation is carried through both sides of the musical borders with the pairing of “Gracias A La Vida” and “Long As You’re Living,” but despite a langauge barrier, the Spanish number is more moving than the often trite English version. “The Thrill Is Gone” bridges English lyrics with Latinate rhythms, but some of the other songs just don’t translate as well.