Maria Marquez: Nature’s Princess

Maria Marquez was born in Venezuela, studied music at Berklee in Boston and has been making wonderful music in the Bay Area. Her latest Princesa de Naturaleza (Nature’s Princess) is the best showcase of her grasp of pan-Latin traditions and jazz singing. This is really a storytelling session: folk legends, poems, boleros and Marquez’s originals are set to jazz and folk music but played with chamber-music sensitivity. The melodies are clearly rooted in traditional sounds but the instrumentation is original and surprising. John Santos is the costar of Princesa, and he and his percussion arrangements shine throughout. For example, his subtle rhythmic touch draws attention to Marquez’s haunting vocals on the Venezuelan work song “Tonada de Ordeno.” Throughout the CD an eclectic range of instruments from Latin America as well as the U.S.-who would have expected a New Orleans-style sousaphone on “Besame Mucho”?-accompany her dark, captivating voice. This CD is a major step forward for an artist who deserves much more recognition.