DOSSIER January 2010
‘Tucson-Habana’ is the first Amparo Sanchez’ solo album. If the name sounds familiar, that’s thanks of course to Amparanoia, the band that she formed in 1997.
Let’s return first to the summer of 2006. Amparanoia are just about to give a concert in Montreal for the prestigious jazz festival. However some of the musicians miss the plane to Canada and Amparo has no choice other than to go on with just the drummer and the double bass player. The concert is a huge success. At this time, the concerts of Amparanoia were well-known for their energy and the ‘mestizo’ atmosphere turning every concert into a big party. That was not at all the case in Montreal but the audience was captivated by this acoustic and intimate set. “What happened in Montreal was totally magical”, she said. “I have always found inspiration listening to the blues, jazz and son with artists like Billie Holiday, Chavela Vargas or Nina Simone. And for a long time I’d wanted to experience something new, something softer and more intimate, in order to touch people in another way, to carry them away with the sound of my voice”.
Corazon de la Realidad
As chance would have it, Joey Burns of Calexico and his band were also in Montreal. Already familiar with the voice and charisma of Amparo, having worked together in the past recording songs like ‘Inspiración’ and ‘Roka’. She’d also play with them when she could. When she told him that she was working on new songs for a solo project, Joey Burns invited her to come and record the album in the Wavelab Studio in Tucson, Arizona. So, in October 2007, Amparo, the Catalan bass player, Jordi Mestres Gasso, and the Basque producer, Kaki Arkarazo, went to Tucson to make a series of recordings. “It was a fantastic experience”, Amparo says. “I found there the atmosphere that I was looking for to give the right tone colour to my songs. It was not only the presence of John and Joey that made the difference, but also the ‘border mood’ that you can feel in Tucson. I felt at home there”.
All together heading towards Cuba
But, all this represents only one ‘half’ of the album. Indeed, Amparo has been surrounded by Cuban music since her childhood, an influence that we could hear already listening to Amparanoia. But, for her first solo album, Amparo wanted to go a step further. In May 2009, she takes Joey Burns and John Convertino with her to the mythic EGREM studios in La Havana. “This place is still filled with the presence of the artists that worked there: Buena Vista Social Club, Ibrahim Ferrer or Chucho Valdes”, tells Amparo. The experience was important for Calexico too. “A real life changer, indeed”, says John Convertino back home. In Cuba, Amparo worked principally on songs like ‘Turista Accidental’ and ‘Apagón en La Havana’. She also recorded a duet, ‘La Parrandita de las Santas’, with Omara Portuondo, the 79-year-old singer of Buena Vista Social Club. A song that literally gives you goosebumps and one of the great moments of the album.
Little stories about life
This is a really personal album and a perfect mix of American melancholy and Cuban frivolity. The only common ground with Amparanoia is the charisma and the voice of Amparo. Great attention has been paid to the lyrics too. Amparo has written texts in which you feel more nuance and subtlety. ‘Tucson-Habana’ is an album with 14 little stories about real life, joy and sorrow, smiles and tears. Perfect to listen to leisurely during a long winter, or a too short summer.
A bonus will be offered with the digital release. There is a very good psychedelic song recorded with Mariem Hassan, a Saharan singer that Amparo met in Western Sahara at the end of 2007. The other one, ‘Mujeres sin Miedo’ is also a duet with Tiken Jah Fakoly, the reggae star from Ivory Coast. And ‘Colours from Cuba’ is another song by Calexico.And, of course, Amparo Sanchez will be on tour in March 2010 to present her new solo album. Six musicians will play next to her, among them: the standing bass player Jordi Mestres, the pianist Oskar Ferret and the Cuban trumpet player José Alberto Varona. What we can already confirm, is that the concerts of Amparo Sanchez will be as gentle, relaxed and warm as the concerts of Amparanoia were festive, energetic and crazy. Colourful and well-written lyrics sang by an exceptional voice. Nothing but purity and sobriety.
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