Mili Bermejo Does a Latino Sheila Jordan

arte del duo

ARTE DEL DUO / BERMEJO: Los Que se Aman; La Casa de Árbol; Cosecha; No Dejo de Quererte. MODIRZADEH: La Orilas del Mar. QUINTERO: Equipaje. DRIGUEZ: Tres Voces Heroica. BERMEJO-VILLARRUTIA: Décima Muerte I & II. LeGRAND-GURRIA: The Windmills of Your Mind. RADA: Candombe para Gardel. OVSEPIAN-AYVAZIAN: End of the Beginning. DISCÉPOLO: Cambalache / Mili Bermejo, vocal; Dan Greenspan, bass / Ediciones Pentagrama PPCD-707

Here’s an intimate, interesting set featuring just voice and bass in the manner of so many Sheila Jordan sets (including quite a few with Harvie Swartz), the main differences being that Mili Bermejo is more of a mezzo than a soprano and that she sings mostly in Spanish (End of the Beginning is sung in rather unintelligible English). This even extends to Michel Legrand’s famous ’60 tune The Windmills of Your Mind, set here to Spanish .lyrics by Manuel Gurria in an arrangement by Vardan Ovsepian.

Perhaps another difference, at least to my ears, is that for the most part Bermejo sings the tunes straight, with minimal improvisation, whereas with Sheila Jordan improvisation is her raison d’être. What is very interesting, however, is the way Greenspan follows her as she sings these melodies, sometimes doubling the tune but more often than not providing harmonic underpinning that moves at the same rate of speed as the lyrics. It’s a particularly interesting style and it works very well, particularly since Greenspan is really a fabulous bassist, with not only a facile mind and great “chops” but also a particularly full, beautiful tone. Before the first two numbers are completed, you will be under their spell, in part because of the warm, beautiful and natural recording acoustic. You almost feel as if you are in a coffeehouse or small restaurant listening to them.

After hearing them perform, I wasn’t surprised to read the accompanying promo sheet and learn that Greenspan was a classically trained cellist before he became a jazz bassist. I really don’t care about their “Themes of political liberation (capitalism is the greatest form of political liberation invented by mankind), environmental responsibility (so they mulch food scraps and rake their leaves? so do I) and interpersonal commitment (OK, so they love each other)” because it doesn’t relate at all to their music-making. Music is music, and theirs is particularly good in and of itself. Don’t get so hung up in politics, folks. What interests me more than their political correctness is the way they interact as musicians, and specifically how the warmth of Bermejo’s voice often matches the warmth of Greenspan’s bass. In the special arrangement of The Windmills of Your Mind, Greenspan plays a continual stream of triplets behind her singing, creating a sort of windmill effect, and in Cosecha he plays counterpoint to her vocal in a fascinating manner. That, to me, reflects their interpersonal commitment as artists.

To a certain extent, however, I found my ears gravitating more towards Greenspan’s bass because he is simply a much more interesting musician, more of an improviser and thus the “key” to the success of this album. He never intrudes on or overpowers Bermejo’s singing and they complement each other beautifully, but she is the dressing on his very complex mixed salad (particularly on the last track, Cambalache, where Greenspan is simply fabulous). Nevertheless, she has a good sense of “time” and fits him like a hand in a velvet glove. In all, then, a fascinating, intimate album of unusual pieces, well performed.

— © 2016 Lynn René Bayley

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