Sunday, February 14, 2016

Cristian Perez: “Anima Mundi” (2016) CD Review

Cristian Perez is an accomplished guitarist from Buenos Aires, Argentina, now living in the United States. He applies classical and jazz influences and techniques to world music to create his own wonderful sound. His new CD, Anima Mundi, features mostly original material, along with a few interesting choices of covers. The Cristian Perez Quintet includes Yana Hristova on flute and piccolo, Emmanuel Trifilio on bandoneon, Daniel Brown on upright bass and Bruno Lucini on drums, and they all play on this release. Joe McCarthy plays drums on several tracks. Christian Perez also has some special guests joining him on certain tracks. This is music that will take you on many interesting journeys, journeys certainly worth repeating.

The CD actually opens with one of its covers, a beautiful and fun rendition of “El Condor Pasa,” a song written by Daniel Robles and one that I basically only knew from Simon & Garfunkel’s version on the Bridge Over Troubled Water album, that version of course containing the English lyrics by Paul Simon. I always thought it was a beautiful song, and this instrumental version by Cristian Perez certainly captures the piece’s beauty. I love this track, and it has an uplifting quality. Yana Hristova’s work is particularly pretty and powerful. And of course there is some impressive work on guitar. Then four minutes in, there is a short bass solo followed by percussion, before the song moves into a more old-European feel for just a bit. And there is some more wonderful guitar work. What strikes me is the amount of joy in the playing, in the performance. There is a false ending, and then the tune goes in a more playful direction.

With “La Flor Que Nunca Te Di,” Cristian Perez creates a mellower, more relaxed, romantic yet introspective atmosphere. And then “The Persistent Elephant” has an exciting characteristic. There is a delightful and youthful sense of wonder and sense of adventure to the sound, and in the telling of this song’s story. And the world it creates for the listener is likewise exciting.  Haroon Alam joins Cristian Perez on tablas on this track, giving it more of an Indian flavor. This is one of my favorite tracks. “Longing” goes in some surprising and wonderful directions, beginning almost tentatively and then adding this great, forceful sound and presence at moments. It is another favorite of mine.

“Relentless Dragon In Agony” is another interesting piece, at times delicate, at times pretty, at times sad, but all the while with an underlying strength. Devree Lewis plays cello on this track, an instrument I’m always happy to hear. By the way, Devree Lewis is also a member of Trifilio Tango Trio (along with bandoneon player Emmanuel Trifilio), as well as the Pan American Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on this CD is Cristian Perez’s cover of “Moon River,” written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer. Joining him on this track is vocalist Lynn Veronneau (of the group Veronneau), and this is the only track to include vocals. Kevin Elam provides some backing vocals. This is a sweet, almost magical rendition, and is totally enjoyable. Also enjoyable is the following track, an original piece titled “Hojas Podridas” which features Victor Provost on steel pan. The album’s final cover is a very cool rendition of Astor Piazzolla’s famous “Libertango,” featuring wonderful work by Yana Hristova on flute and, as you might expect, Emmanuel Trifilio on bandoneon. There is also a good drum solo by Joe McCarthy.

CD Track List
  1. El Condor Pasa
  2. La Flor Que Nunca Te Di
  3. The Persistent Elephant
  4. Longing
  5. Journey Of An Exhausted Penguin
  6. Luna Furtiva
  7. Relentless Dragon In Agony
  8. Moon River
  9. Hojas Podridas
  10. Libertango
  11. Footprints In The Wind
Anima Mundi is scheduled to be released on February 22, 2016.

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