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SpanishEnglishEl Viaje

CD Review: El Viaje (Zule Guerra)
EGREM May 8, 2020
Review by Bill Tilford, all rights reserved

El Viaje is Zule Guerra's first in-studio album, her wonderful previous releases Blues de Habana and Sesiones de Vitrola being recordings of live concerts. Having completed her studies at Berklee in Valencia (she previously graduated with a degree in biochemistry in Cuba, but the musical impulse was more powerful), she is currently based in Salamanca but returned to Havana to record this project. All of the compositions in El Viaje are hers, and she did some of the arrangements, most of which were done by Jesus Pupo.  All of the musicians are young winners of previous JoJazz competitions, and the producer, Ernán López-Nussa, underscores the importance of the producer in the best Cuban music releases. 
Originally, most writers including this one would have considered Zule Guerra part of the NuJazz movement in Cuba, but each of her recordings has a slightly different personality charting an evolution in her musical style. In this recording there is an advanced fusion of jazz, guajira, montuno and other Cuban and Spanish styles with a pinch of Brazilian. Two of her early influences were Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, and although she does not attempt to imitate either, you can note those inspirations in her extensive use of scat singing (Bobby Carcassés no longer has a near-monopoly on that among Cuban artists)  and the way that she bends some of her notes.  There are excellent lyrics in these songs, but her greatest strength is that she uses her voice as an instrument to interact with the other musicians, especially in some wonderful dialogues with the contrabass.   Each of the musicians also has ample space to display their art.   
Considering the young ages (one of the youngest, the bassist, is 23) of the composer and the musicians, El Viaje is an album mature beyond its years.  Very highly recommended.
You can see the EPK for the album here:

Songs (all compositions Zule Guerra)

1. El Viaje
2. Me Haces Soñar
3. Leyenda
4. Montuno
5. Canción para Que Luis Se Duerma
6. Criolla en Blues
7.  Después de Amanecer
8.  Extraño Sentir
9. Sweet and Big Orange Hope
10. Hasta el Final del Camino

Credits for El Viaje

Role - InstrumentName
Director, Vocals, Compositions, Arrangements Zule Guerra 
Piano, Arrangements Jesús Pupo
Bass Samuel Burgos
Guitar  Héctor Quintana
Percussion Degnis Bofill
Drums Marcos Morales
Saxophone  Emir Santa Cruz 
Flugelhorn  Alejandro Delgado
Musical Production Ernán Lopez-Nussa
Executive Production Yoanna Grass
Recording and Mixing Alfonso Peña
Mastering Siavash Mozaffari
Production Assistant Marieta Meijide
Graphic Design Marla Cruz 
Bill Tilford - Sunday, 17 May 2020, 08:34 PM