Erasing Genres En Español: A Smoky-Voiced Jazz Singer Meets Classical Strings : Deceptive Cadence The resourceful Mexican jazz singer Magos Herrera partners with the string quartet Brooklyn Rider, creating an album that's steeped in Latin American culture.
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Erasing Genres En Español: A Smoky-Voiced Jazz Singer Meets Classical Strings

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Erasing Genres En Español: A Smoky-Voiced Jazz Singer Meets Classical Strings

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Erasing Genres En Español: A Smoky-Voiced Jazz Singer Meets Classical Strings

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Magos Herrera is a Mexican jazz singer who's sung pop songs with Brazilian beats and crooned Mexican classics with a touch of rock. Her latest recording is with a string quartet.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LUZ DE LUNA")

MAGOS HERRERA: (Singing in Spanish).

CORNISH: Her new album, "Dreamers," is steeped in Latin American culture. NPR's Tom Huizenga says those themes combined with the sound of strings makes it compelling listening.

TOM HUIZENGA, BYLINE: There's a socially conscious stream running through this new album. Even its title, "Dreamers," is a word loaded with political tension these days.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAGO HERRERA SONG, "NINA")

HUIZENGA: But the messages are often subtle, such as this song, "Nina," about the power of childhood with a text by Mexican poet and diplomat Octavio Paz.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NINA")

HERRERA: (Singing in Spanish).

HUIZENGA: The most striking thing about "Dreamers" is Herrera's voice. It's never sounded more majestically smoky, commanding and beguiling as in "Tu Y Yo," an aching love song set to words by Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TU Y YO")

HERRERA: (Singing in Spanish).

HUIZENGA: Herrera's phrasing is supremely expressive. But what makes this album shine even brighter is the collaboration with Brooklyn Rider, a seriously eclectic string quartet. This isn't some all-purpose carpet of accompaniment. Brooklyn Rider's strings embody characters and moods, even other instruments like the drum beats and guitar in violinist Colin Jacobsen's arrangement of "Balderrama" by Argentina's Gustavo Leguizamon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BALDERRAMA")

HERRERA: (Singing in Spanish).

HUIZENGA: A few songs on "Dreamers" recall of the nueva cancion movement of 1960s Latin America when songwriters paired socially relevant lyrics with back-to-the-roots folk music. And at the heart of the album lies Herrera's atmospheric performance of "Volver A Los 17," "Returning to 17."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VOLVER A LOS 17")

HERRERA: (Singing in Spanish).

HUIZENGA: The song, written by Chile's Violeta Parra, known as the mother of Latin American folk, reflects on love, fragile moments and the power of feelings over reason. It was banned during the Pinochet dictatorship. The refrain takes the form of the Chilean dance called the cueca.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VOLVER A LOS 17")

HERRERA: (Singing in Spanish).

HUIZENGA: The album's title, "Dreamers," is deliberate. As the spokesperson for the United Nations campaign UNiTE to End Violence Against Women, Magos Herrera pushes back against the current anti-immigrant sentiment sweeping the world. Every big change in history, she says, happened because someone dared to dream. And art, she adds, plays a role.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DREAMS")

HERRERA: (Singing) Dreams fill with reverse violence curse.

HUIZENGA: In "Dreams," the only song in English on the album, Herrera seems to suggest that we, too, can play a role by raising our own voices.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DREAMS")

HERRERA: (Singing) Sing, sing out loud.

CORNISH: The album is "Dreamers" by Magos Herrera and Brooklyn Rider. Our reviewer is Tom Huizenga.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DREAMS")

HERRERA: (Singing) Sing, sing out loud.

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