Katchie & Le Monde Caché: Tales & Tongues

Rare are individuals with doctorates in ethnomusicology. Rarer still are the Ph.D.s who put ethnomusicological theory into practice. Katchie Cartwright is of that uncommon breed. The native New Yorker, whose previous projects included musical tributes to composer/philosopher John Cage and bohemian poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, relocated to San Antonio in 2006. There, in addition to academic duties at Northwest Vista College, she launched a radio show, Planet Jazz, devoted to what she calls the “global songbook.”

Now Cartwright, who doubles on vocals and flute, has united with her husband, saxophonist Richard Oppenheim, pianist Mark Lomanno (another gifted ethnomusicologist), bassist Billy Satterwhite and drummer Kevin Huss to explore 10 selections from that vast, multilingual songbook. Her bandmates are billed as “le Monde Caché,” French for “the hidden world.” Indeed, Cartwright and company excel at unearthing new ways to illuminate standards with non-English roots, shaping tangos, bossas, swing numbers and soft ballads with unilateral mastery and imagination.

Many are familiar: Jobim’s “Triste” and “Chega de Saudade,” the gorgeous Italian bossa “Estate,” “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn” performed in its original Yiddish, Charles Trenet’s “Que Reste-t-il de Nos Amours” (“I Wish You Love”) and the ebullient “Sous le Ciel de Paris.” Equally enticing, and perhaps more enthralling because of their comparative exoticism, are the enchanting Ladino ballad “Alta Va La Luna,” the Argentine torch-burner “El Día Que Me Quieras” and the Yiddish “Ikh Hob Dikh Tsufil Lib,” told in two parts, with the woeful verse countered by a fiery, redemptive tango.