Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


Guillermo Rozenthuler

The Blue Hour

by Ian Mann

August 16, 2006


Quiet strength, beauty and considerable emotional depth.

The Argentinian singer, songwriter and guitarist Guillermo Rozenthuler was born in Buenos Aires but has been resident in London for the past six years. He leads a busy musical life leading his own band Rioplatenses and also works regularly with tango band Los Mareados and the Danish trio Copenaires. He has appeared as a guest vocalist with Orient House Ensemble, the band led by the brilliant Israeli saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and appears on their album “Musik” which was released in 2004. Rozenthuler also makes a brief appearance on “Migration”. This excellent album was released earlier this year by the band Oriole and is something of a Jazz Mann favourite. In addition to all this Rozenthuler is also a highly respected educator, working as a vocal coach and workshop leader.

Rozenthuler made a brief return to Buenos Aires in 2004 to record “The Blue Hour” and the album was later mixed back in London. The album is subtitled “Songs From Argentina” and includes not only tango but also Amerindian rhythms such as chacerera and huayno. In practise Rozenthuler casts his stylistic net beyond Argentina and includes elements from other South American countries. There are the familiar samba and baiao rhythms of Brazil and the less well-known candombe from Uruguay and lando from Peru.

Rozenthuler recorded with a small core band of Argentinian musicians consisting of himself on vocals and guitar, Diego Rolon also on guitar plus bass guitarist Luis Volcoff and Facundo Guavara on percussion. Female singer Paola Gamberale provides harmony vocals on a number of songs.

The two guitars/bass/drum line up results in a sparse, stripped down sound which is pure and uncluttered and ensures that Rozenthuler’s singing is shown in it’s best light. He has an excellent voice, authoritative and conversational by turns and with considerable emotional warmth. It never sounds forced or histrionic. His band shadow every vocal nuance with conviction and offer appropriate and sympathetic support throughout. The instrumentation may be sparse but there are still a wide variety of moods, colours and textures which serve the songs and the singer admirably. Guavara is particularly subtle and inventive.

Rozenthuler writes eight of the twelve songs the remainder coming from other South American composers. The album makes few concessions to the English speaking audience with Rozenthuler singing in Spanish throughout the recording. He does provide a translation of the lyrics of the title track and gives the English titles of the other pieces. These, together with the music itself suggest that the tunes are either love songs or folk songs. Much of the music has an air of melancholy and the sort of quiet, choked intensity one expects from authentic tango. In its lighter moments such as “Ella” the album recalls the airy Brazilian stylings of the Pat Metheny group, particularly the period when Rozenthuler’s compatriot Pedro Aznar was in the band.

One of the album’s strengths is that it avoids the clichés that bedevil so much Latin American music and its refusal to pander to the English speaking audience is a definite plus. Thus we get no pseudo samba or ersatz salsa. Also we get no Jobim. He may be good but he’s definitely over familiar these days and for me it’s good to hear a Latin album of fresh material.

It is also pleasing to hear a Latin album geared to listening rather than dancing. This music has a quiet strength, beauty and considerable emotional depth. Impeccably sung, played and produced it may take a few listens to get into, but is well worth the effort.

blog comments powered by Disqus