Manuel Barrueco & Cuarteto Latinoamericano
Tango Sensations (Tonar)
Barrueco, who teaches at Peabody, has been hailed as one of the best classical guitarists alive. His excellent 2007 CD of pieces by Astor Piazzolla, Solo Piazzolla, snagged a well-deserved Grammy nomination and set the bar high for anyone interpreting the Argentinian Tango legend's music. Well, it didn't take long for Barrueco to top himself—Tango Sensations is even better than its predecessor. This time around, Barrueco includes a string quartet, which widens the overall soundscape and enhances the emotional depth of the material. Where Solo Piazzolla relied solely on the guitarist's nimble fingers to keep notes aloft, this disc finds the group settling into the compositions and exploring a fuller range of possibilities. It places its predecessor's elegance within a lengthening shadow of wistful sensuality, as Barrueco more fully exploits Piazzolla's noir-ish tendencies. The result is stunningly beautiful, a recording that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Piazzolla's 1986 tour de force, Tango: Zero Hour. For proof of that, check out "Milonga del Ángel," the second track on both releases. The CD-closing take on Carlos Guastavino's "Las Presencias No. 6 ('Jeromíta Linares')" feels anticlimactic in this context, but it doesn't diminish Barrueco's considerable achievement.
We Were All Together (Ocean Music)
Cerbone weds sparse, melodic tunes to lyrics that amble through the humility of everyday life. Throughout these 10 songs, the Westminster resident—whose singing brings to mind the Golden Palominos' Lori Carson—evokes the wonder of childhood, the blissful ache of love, the slipperiness of a present moment receding towards memory, and the bittersweet aspects of aging. Cerbone deftly avoids grand statements, preferring instead a series of small moments and impressions that accumulatively add up to something more effective. She leaves room in her songs for listeners to insert themselves, and, I suspect, even find themselves. As a result, this is the sort of disc that figures to age gracefully. Cerbone and her record company get extra credit for the CD's artful packaging, which includes seven cards with gorgeous black and white photographs and lyrics printed on the back—a bonus for old-fashioned listeners who buy a hard copy instead of downloading.
Lisa Cerbone will be opening for Mark Kozelek at The Ottobar on June 18th.
Premonition (Global Entertainment)
On first listen, Baltimore's Devon Howard sounds like the second coming of Michael Jackson. He possesses the same smooth vocal style that's always welcome on the r&b/pop charts, and he infuses it with an urgency that's more sensual than primal. He comes across as the boy next door, like MJ did, before going "off the wall."