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Corina Bartra and Azu: Bambu Sun

While the album notes credit vocalist-percussionist Corina Bartra as exploring her “Afro-Peruvian jazz roots,” there is not much in this CD that conjures those textures in this unfocused but well-intended effort. Bartra’s uneven, bilingual vocal performance is markedly amateurish amid several top-notch musicians, and her attempts at vocal scatting are less than capable. The musicians try to save the project, but they inevitably become overshadowed by Bartra’s painfully elementary abilities.

Pianist Cliff Korman tries his best to make musical sense of Bartra’s “Enlightened Heart,” but his delicate touch is no match for the squawking saxophone and muddy, out-of-tune vocal. Virtuoso guest bassist Rufus Reid lends his warm and secure tone to “Magia y Ritmo Ancestral,” but we forget all about it the minute Bartra utters her first note. Honestly, this sounds like a demo of someone who, while full of positive spirit and sensibility, has no business making a vocal album.

Originally Published