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Arturo O’Farrill & Claudia Acuña: In These Shoes

From the opener and title track, “In These Shoes,” it is evident that these artists are truly testing the boundaries of musical categorization in this genre-defying pastiche of grooves and songs. Powerhouse pianist and arranger Arturo O’Farrill crafts an album of intricate and diverse textures, artfully supporting the crystalline and emotive vocals of Chilean singer Claudia Acuña. There is something for everyone here, from funk-driven Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican rhythms to rock ballads, samba, Haitian-inspired konpa and Venezuelan jazz-fusion.

With a stellar supporting cast of top-notch players such as drummer/composer Dafnis Prieto, percussionist/vocalist Pedrito Martinez, guitarist Adam Rogers, trumpeter Michael Mossman, trombonist Reynaldo Jorge, saxophonist Yosvany Terry and bassist Ruben Rodriguez, In These Shoes showcases a variety of repertoire not often seen in one recording, let alone in a single live performance. Standout tracks include lush and pretty ballad “Paciencia,” a funky and bluesy cha-cha version of “Willow Weep for Me” (featuring rollicking solos by O’Farrill and Terry), Prieto’s rock- and batá-infused samba “Vida Sin Miel” and the Angel “Cachete” Maldonado tune “La Piye,” which listeners may recall from the classic Puerto Rican group Batacumbele, and here features the vocal and percussion work of Pedrito Martínez as the album closer.

This is not your typical Latin album by any means; it is perhaps more of an expression of creative freedom by these talented artists than it is a smorgasbord of world rhythms.

Originally Published