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Claudia Acuna: Wind From the South

Russ Musto’s notes for Chile-bred vocalist Claudia Acuna’s Wind from the South suggest that “she may well be acknowledged as the first great jazz singer of the 21st century.” I wouldn’t bet on that, but concede that Acuna’s first solo outing is more adventurous and accomplished than most jazz vocal debut CDs. She’s chosen an interesting mix of standards, Latin compositions and originals, and performs them with a variety of backings ranging from solo instruments (duets with piano and bass) to a percussive piano trio intermittently enhanced by guest brass and reed players.

Acuna has a forceful albeit somewhat metallic sound, especially powerful in the lower register. Her secure musicianship is undercut by the chilliness of her interpretations and the overly busy arrangements she’s devised with the help of her trio members, pianist Jason Lindner, bassist Avishai Cohen and percussionist Jeff Ballard. She’s at her best in the straightforward voice-and-piano duet “What’ll I Do” and weakest in her ill-advised attempts to reconfigure Gershwin’s heartrending Porgy and Bess aria “My Man’s Gone Now” and Ellington’s swooningly romantic “Prelude to a Kiss” into snappy, salsa-flavored swingers.

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