Back at the Barcelona Jazz Festival, after many espressos, a hunk of Cod, potatoes with olive oil mayo and tomato sauce, grilled mushrooms, and some of the best cookies I’ve ever had (thumb sized sugar cookies with chocolate centers), I made the trip to several record stores including Jazz Messengers, which has perhaps the finest collection of live jazz CDs and some LPs, in the world. If you’re feeling strong, pay down a credit card and then check out their website, www.jazzmessengers.com. They ship to the States, I checked. I picked up a CD of Clifford Brown’s final concert in Norfolk, Virginia, which was recorded in 1956, the week before his tragic death at age 26 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The tenor player on the date was Sonny Rollins. Max Roach, Brownie’s friend and constant musical companion was on drums. It’s a legendary concert that has never been available in the US and needless to say I am thrilled to finally have a copy.
Later that night I went to the Palau de la Musica, Barcelona’s ungodly concert hall (more about that later) to see Concha Buika, a singer I’d never heard of, whose family is from Equatorial Guinea but who was raised in Majorca and has a strong gypsy influence. The woman blew me away. A powerhouse singer who can really move a lot of air and push her voice to a very loud, very ragged edge, Buika has a new record El Ultimo Trago on Warner Music Spain that features her singing Mexican Rancheras, a form of sad love song usually written and sung by men. In “Luz de Luna” for example she sings lyrics that loosely translate as:
“I want moonlight/for my sad nights/in order to dream/the illusion that you brought me/to feel you mine/mine like no other/since you left/I haven’t had moonlight/I feel your entanglement/like hooks that grab me/and drowning in the beach of my drunken pain. I feel your chains dragging/in the quiet night/and the light of moon/blue like none other/because since you left me/I haven’t had moonlight.”
“Drowning in the beach of my drunken pain”? Wow! It’s heavy, no doubt. The interesting part is that she sings these laments not with a dejected tone but with a defiant edge to her voice. It makes for a very different experience than is usually the case with rancheras that are more commonly sung by a bunch of drunken men, sitting around a table, bemoaning the one that got away. Concha also dances, has an engaging stage presence and wears dresses that um… don’t leave a whole lot to the old imagination. Seriously though she’s a serious talent, one that could obviously sing whatever she wanted and do it well.