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Guillermo Klein Quintet Featuring Liliana Herrero: Live at the Village Vanguard

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Vocalist Liliana Herrero, born in Argentina in 1948, sang in folk groups in her youth and was later arrested by the Argentinian government for her involvement with the Peronist resistance movement. Some commentators have described her iconoclastic style as a kind of folk-rock, but Herrero has said that she prefers to consider it a “culture clash”: an intentionally strident confrontation between historical and modernist voices. Add the edgy Latin jazz of the Guillermo Klein Quintet and the field is set for a three-way battle royal.

If Patti Smith were to recast herself as a jazz singer, she might sound very much like Herrero does here. Ranging from a near-guttural baritone to a splintered wail, she’ll just as readily break into an atonal squawk as she’ll communicate longing or satisfaction through melodicism or sweetness (let alone accuracy of pitch). Her expressions of sadness often sound more like the sobs of a broken soul than a wounded dreamer’s meditations.

The Klein Quintet, meanwhile, provides uncharacteristically understated accompaniment for the most part, although their stomping gait in the middle of the instrumental “Argentina” is charged with the kind of hellfire-tinged ominousness often associated with heavy metal. Their reading of “O Sacrum Convivium-Phase,” based on a devotional piece by Olivier Messiaen, eschews quietude in favor of an ebullient sense of purpose expressed through pastel harmonies and swishing, cymbal-accentuated caresses from drummer Sergio Verdinelli; those strategies lead into abrupt tempo changes that bespeak restlessness rather than sanctuary. As a testimonial of faith it’s uncompromisingly worldly, girded by an emotional distancing that sounds less ironic than battle-scarred-appropriate to the transgressive, postmodernist feel of the entire set.

Originally Published