With 2 albums released in Chile (only 2009's "Retrato" has been issued in the US), Ms. Meza recorded her previous CD in 2013 with pianist Aaron Goldberg, drummer Clarence Penn, reed player John Ellis, and bassist Pablo Menares. The 6-song "Prisma" (self-released) illustrated her growth not only as a guitarist and vocalist but also as an arranger. Her assured vocals and vocal lines stand out, placing alongside contemporaries Kate McGarry, Kavita Shah, Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens as brilliant interpreters.
Her new album, "Traces" (Sunnyside Records), features Ms. Meza with a stellar band - Shai Maestro (keyboards), Matt Penman (bass), Kendrick Scott (drums) and Bashiri Johnson (percussion) - playing a brilliant program of originals and smartly chosen interpretations. In charge all the way (Ms. Meza co-produced the recording with Matt Pierson), this music wraps its arms around the listener, pulling him/her closer - it's not that all the music is bright and sunny but many different aspects of adult life are open for inspection. Mr. Vasandani and cellist Jody Redhage join the group on the original "Away", a song about relationship in trouble. You hear the emotional darkness in the cello lines but the voices are calm (beautiful harmonies). Once you've absorbed the lyrics, vocals, handsome acoustic guitar and brooding cello, listen to the brilliance of the rhythm section, to Penman's solid bass lines and Scott's gentle but sturdy brush work. The percussive push of the guitar on "Amazon Farewell" (from the pen of Djavan) sets the tone for propulsive snare drum. The message is just as important bow as when the original appeared in 1990, the destruction of the natural environment for the advantage of outsiders. Ms. Meza also pays tribute to a slain Chilean activist, singer-songwriter Victor Jara, who was brutally slain during the coup of General Pinochet, with a lovely voice and acoustic guitar reading of "Luchín", a story of poor boy playing in the rain. And her interpretation of Stephen Sondheim's "Greenfinch and Linnet Bird" (from "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street") flows atop the impressionistic piano of Maestro and propulsive work of the rhythm section. One can hear the essence of freedom in how the vocal and guitar lines flow freely through the song. Ms. Meza has such a pliable voice; she never rushes a vocal and also has learned how to integrate her guitar so that the two are extensions of each other. Listen as she dances through "Emerald", her rapid-fire guitar riffs complement the sustained notes and emotion in the vocal.
Chances are good you will not hear a better CD this year. "Traces" is, blessedly, adult music with being middle-of-the-road, music that lingers in the mind's ear long after the final notes fade. Camila Meza, songs, voice, and guitar, the entire package, all will bring a smile. Highly recommended!
For more information, go to www.camilameza.com.
Here's Camila Meza talking about the album:
"Azul Infinito", the 3rd album by Ryan Keberle & Catharsis (among the trombonist's 5 CDs as a leader), may be its finest. The musicians are comfortable with each other to push the boundaries and the addition of Camila Meza takes the music to great heights. Everyone plays so well, the recording ring out the nuances and power in the rhythm section and Keberle's voicings for his trombone and Michael Rodriguez's trumpet are inventive, filling the sound spectrum with impressive harmonies and counter-melodies. Ryan Keberle continues to mature as a composer, arranger and musician; the avid listener is the beneficiary.
For more information, go to ryankeberle.com.
Here's the opening track: