In his arrangements, pianist Guillermo Klein, a native of Buenos Aires, weaves an imaginative web out of materials gleaned from influences as diverse as minimalist Steve Reich, 19th-century Argentine composer Carlos Garcia, famed instructor Herb Pomeroy and J.S. Bach. Although hints of his Latin American origins sneak in through references to tango, Argentine folk forms, Cuban clavé and some wafting Brazilianisms, the most noticeable features of Klein’s work, particularly his love of thick counterpoint, reveal his strong foundation in the classics.
“My music instructor, Maestro [Sergio] Hualpa, opened Bach’s world for me,” Klein says. “It was like a philosophy—the democracy of the fugues, the golden number and the harmonic world created by the movement and interaction of the voices. I used to apply that greatness to everything I liked and respected.”
Even the most cursory audition of his most recent release, the double disc Los Guachos III (Sunnyside), drives home the point: Klein is extremely fond of complex counterpoint, often shifting thematic statements in time, à la Reich, while carefully incorporating all the timbral resources of his 17-piece band, carefully balancing texture and voicing in order to achieve a satisfying level of tension and not relying on excessive use of any one instrumental color. In fact, several cuts on disc one are partially based on the E-minor fugue from Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier.” Meanwhile, disc two is given primarily to the four-part “La Futura,” a loose and free suite that was inspired by the treeless plains of Argentina.
Klein entered the Berklee School of Music in 1990 after, he says, “My maestro told my parents I should leave Argentina to concentrate my studies and achieve some order in my education. Just three months later I was in Boston, where I studied with Herb Pomeroy. He made each class a discovery and helped craft my sound. These days when I teach, I still talk about him in every class.”
After three years at Berklee, Klein moved to New York City, where he and his arranging skills were hired by the likes of Paquito D’Rivera and Latin pianist Ray Santiago. Klein eventually assembled a 17-piece big band that became semilegendary in its stints at Smalls and the Jazz Standard.
In 2000, Klein returned to Buenos Aires, where he teaches and gigs with his nine-piece band, Venga. “There is a new sound bursting out in Buenos Aires that is finally incorporating Argentine folk music and tango with jazz. It is very exciting. Be prepared.”