With her latest recording, Las Aventuras de Pasión!, Latin jazz vocalist Kat Parra merges countless musical traditions into one vivacious, thrilling form.
Like the spectacular Dos Amantes, Las Aventuras de Pasión! walks the footpaths of Sephardic Jews and branches out from there. The new trail ambles through Latin American tradition, enlisting help from Grammy nominee Wayne Wallace and a host of other talents to flesh out the vision.
Everything that proved so inviting on her previous records is here, but Parra ups the ante and creates an album that is intensely personal. She makes bolder choices, building on the escapades of Dos Amantes with songs of affection and mystery.
Parra and Wallace, serving as co-producers, made the clever choice to provide for light arrangements and an organic approach. This puts the focus on her impeccable voice, spawning a haunting quality that saturates pieces like “Yo M’Enamori D’un Aire” with earthy spirit.
Las Aventuras de Pasión! opens with the bomba groove of “Iko Iko,” a song familiar with Mardi Gras celebrants. The call-and-response classic is fashionable and lean, furthered by Michelle Goerlitz’s congas and Murray Low’s stable ivories. Blasts of colour come from Wallace’s trombone, John Worley’s trumpet and Masaru Koga’s alto saxophone.
The blazing cha-cha of “Oye Papi” comes scorching with Santana slink and Parra’s “hell hath no fury” savagery. The song is chock-full of boiling fury, with lines like “Sometimes I wish you’d never been born” pouring through the horn blasts and undulating piano. Parra smoothly switches languages, telling off the bastard in more than one tongue.
“Call Your Name,” a beautiful original number, pulls to the contrary. It features lithe strings and cool Afro-jazz flow emanating from Paul van Wageningen’s delicate and beautiful drumming.
Another highlight is the David Pinto-arranged “Durme Durme,” a piece rooted in Sephardic tradition. Backed by humble guitar and handclaps, Parra explores the curves of her voice through the poignant but robust melody.
Las Aventuras de Pasión! finds the San Jose-based singer expertly navigating the next track of her journey in assured, boundless fashion. Her love of a good adventure is apparent in every turn of phrase, every smart and soulful cruise through her lower registry. As far as the voyage carries her, Parra’s career will entice, enthrall, educate, and entertain those lucky enough to tag along.