Friday, October 10, 2008

AMPARO: two musical worlds in one passionate album

Weeks ago I listed some upcoming CDs which I had hoped would make their presence felt in the Philippines. In the list was AMPARO, an instrumental album from longtime friends and musicians Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin. 

A week later, I was greeted by a familiar image sitting on a shelf of the ASTROVISION PLUS branch at the PODIUM in Pasig--the CD cover of the album I was looking forward to. Well, the music has been playing non-stop in my iPod since then.

A follow-up to the 2000 Grammy-nominated classical album TWO WORLDS from the same tandem, AMPARO once again marries songs seemingly worlds apart through a musical setting that threads the entire album. In the track list are classical favorites from the likes of Handel, Ravel and Faure. But so too are more contemporary compositions from Ritenour and Grusin, even from Brazilaln Bossa legend Antonio Carlos Jobim. All, however, are masterfully arranged by Grusin borrowing from the rich musical heritage of South America. Thus, the songs are rustic and passionate, interpreted with a soulful latin influence.

Dear musical friend Fr. Manoling was riding in my car the other day, and I let him sample a few tracks. Because he was well-acquainted with the classical pieces, he automatically said they sounded like the originals; though he was quick to add, "But this one sounds Ecuadorian." Not a surprising comment. Grusin says he was careful to remain faithful to the original musical intent of the songs. A lot of the latin flavor surfaced through the combination of Grusin's piano, Ritenour's guitar, the chamber strings, and through guest artists Joshua Bell (violin), Chris Botti (trumpet) and Renee Flemming and James Taylor (vocals).

Here are two tracks to let you get a better grasp of the album concept. First is Antonio Carlos Jobim's OLHA MARIA, a haunting piece featuring Joshua Bell. It no longer sounds like a Brazilian ballad but more like a stirring classical vehicle. The second is PAVANE from French impressionist Gabriel Faure. This one, through Bell's expert hands and Flemming's stunning vocals transforms into some spellbinding latin dance. Grusin suggests that through the reassignment of musical phrases to these two artists, the piece becomes a musical dialogue that's pure seduction. Have a listen.

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