One of the great pleasures of following today's jazz lies in introducing people to the music of Argentine composer and pianist Guillermo Klein. He flies in somewhat under the radar; his bands don't play more than a handful of U.S. dates every year. But it's astounding stuff when they do. There's counterpoint in there, and chacarera, and chorales, and perhaps a bit of Count Basie's spirit. It belongs to a new breed of Latin jazz, the seamless mix of folkloric forms and jazz instrumentation and whatever classical or pop influences come to mind. That, or it's also a new kind of something else.
Since leaving New York around the turn of the century, Klein has released four more studio albums and one live record. He's also been through Argentina, Spain and back to Buenos Aires, where he now has a new band. That's news, too: Klein made three of those documents with Los Guachos, the "little big band" which featured such world-beating (and U.S.-based) talents as Miguel Zenón, Bill McHenry and Luciana Souza. The group on the new Domador de Huellas features a few Guachos — fellow Argentines Richard Nant and Juan Cruz de Urquiza — but it's a smaller combo, and it's happily resident in Argentina.
Klein has a new muse, too: The late Gustavo "Cuchi" Leguizamón. He was a musician, a fellow composer and pianist and singer, who set poetry (that of others, and also his own) to the folk forms of northwestern Argentina: zambas, chacareras, vidalas, carnavalitos. He was also a lawyer by trade — a former State Attorney, at that — and a liberal-arts professor. Accordingly, up until his death in 2000, "El Cuchi" was also a folk hero and local legend.
The title of this record, Domador de Huellas, translates to "tamer of footprints." That's Leguizamón's turn of phrase, but it neatly approximates what Klein has attempted here: a translation of El Cuchi's idiosyncratic folk songs to the amalgamated un-style of jazz he knows. It makes for a disc swimming in grooves, slowed by ballads, stirred by trumpet blasts and punctuated by human voices — both from incredible singers like Liliana Herrero and Carme Canela, and also from Klein's own untrained but affecting throat. Basically, it sounds like a Guillermo Klein album. And that's worth celebrating.
Hear Domador de Huellas in its entirety until its release on Aug. 10. Please leave your thoughts on the album in the comments section below.
First Listen: Guillermo Klein, 'Domador De Huellas'