A Vivid, Picturesque, Oceanic Album From Argentine Singer Luciana Morelli
Luciana Morelli writes tersely imagistic, poetic jazz songs in Spanish and sings in a full, ripe, expressive voice that brings to mind Camila Meza. Like Meza, Morelli is a South American who’s put her own individual mark on a distinctly American sound. Beyond the words, her new album Lo Abismal, El Agua (rough quasi-poetic translation: The Watery Depths) sounds remarkably like a creation from the hemisphere to the north. It’s also stunningly melodic, bright, picturesque music: Morelli likes circling riffs that she can expand on, with the occasional playful descent toward chaos.
The opening track on the album – which hasn’t hit the web yet, beyond a couple of youtube clips – is Viaje (Voyage), Philipp Hillebrand’s bass clarinet often in tandem with Mauricio Silva Orendain’s purposeful, cyclical piano over the lithe bass and drums of Sebastián de Urquiza and Paulo Almeida. Morelli brings the narrative full circle as a big payoff after a lot of very subtle foreshadowing.
There’s a similarly circling but calmer architecture to Ardor de Mar (Passion of the Sea), wind-whipped peaks contrasting with spacious lulls over dancing bass and delicately colorful drums. Morelli shifts to a somber jazz waltz for Fotografia de Guerra (War Photograph), shivery clarinets and an achingly bowed bass solo reflecting the understatedly anguish in this depiction of child warfare.
Tension between rhythmic persistence and syncopation reflects the restless metaphors in Eclipse en Barcelona, Almeida’s big crescendo matching Morelli’s desire to get the hell out. The album’s title cut begins with vividly Debussy-esque shimmer from piano and drums before the rhythm kicks in, the litheness of Morelli’s vocalese cast in shadow, down to a hazily fragmented improvisational interlude and back.
She adds subtle blues colors with her wordless vocals in Serendipia, a more lighthearted jazz waltz. Then she switches to English for the portentously allusive, distantly tango-tinged Two Sides, a determined but enigmatic emigrant’s tale. She and the band close the record with Verde y Amarillo (Green and Yellow), Urquiza adding vocal harmonies as well as a balletesque bass pulse as it grows more lush and insistent. Let’s hope there’s more in the future from this original and captivating voice.