[JPL] Argentine Visitor Arrives With Armloads of Rhythm

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 8 15:51:58 EDT 2007

June 8, 2007
Music Review | Guillermo Klein
Argentine Visitor Arrives With Armloads of Rhythm 
The Argentine pianist and composer Guillermo Klein
brought his big band to the Village Vanguard for the
first time last summer, and New York reacted as it
should. Word got around, and an artist whose music was
easy to follow even if its referents were hard to
determine — having crafted his individual, worldly,
not-quite-jazz in various basements in New York,
Buenos Aires and Barcelona — became a little less
obscure that week.

The Vanguard has invited him back for two weeks this
year. Though the music sounds even stronger, Mr. Klein
is still holding it together without a lot of
self-serving flash. He deserves credit for this,
especially because he has a specific sound: Even songs
written by other members of Los Guachos, his 11-piece
international band, become Klein-like through the
machine of his orchestration ideas. With his band you
hear a song from all its corners; a piece of music
bounces around its dimensions, treated with care and
bolstered with strong, emotional soloing. 

Mr. Klein’s writing hardly ever uses the jazz
bandleader’s common prerogative: though he’s the
pianist, he doesn’t overexercise that instrument. In
about 75 minutes of music there was only a short
moment toward the end that could have been considered
a piano solo. Instead Mr. Klein did a few things that
are still fairly uncommon at the Vanguard. He sang,
and gave visual cues to his band. The sung piece was
“Va Román,” which Mr. Klein wrote for an Argentine
soccer player, and he used his modest voice for it:
raspy and melancholic without affectation. The song
put its verses up front, before a long section of some
improvising over vamps by the saxophonists Chris Cheek
and Miguel Zenon; it had a little bit of the authority
with form that some progressive rock of the ’70s had,
and it never slackened. 

Mr. Klein loves compound rhythm, and he loves when a
band passes a melody around. (To achieve this end he
sometimes uses the medieval-music device called
hocketing, in which a continuous line is rendered in
short pieces by different instruments.) Los Guachos
has made some fairly difficult pieces sound even more
fluid than they did last year. But the result of the
band’s labor is a natural, songlike music, not a math
class or a jazz-technique clinic, and anyone can tell
that this was Mr. Klein’s desire all along.

Though he has learned the pedagogy of big-band jazz
arrangement, his music doesn’t come from swing rhythm
and bebop harmony. He doesn’t strain to make up the
difference, either. Rather than 4/4 swing, he feels
rhythm much more often in 6/8, like the folkloric
Argentine chacarera; most of the music in Tuesday’s
first set used this rhythm in some way. 

But he doesn’t stop there. He gives all sections of
the band equal play; this is not another brass-heavy
big band. He layers rhythms or writes in changing
chunks of rhythm, so that a few pieces were extremely
hard to count. He saves his crescendos for the most
important part of a song. And in “Miula,” a song he
wrote for his brother, the polyvalent rhythm even
slowed down and sped up, flexing like a whip. 

Guillermo Klein y Los Guachos perform at the Village
Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South, at 11th Street,
West Village, (212) 255-4037, through Sunday, and
again next week from Tuesday through Sunday. 


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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