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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

QUETZAL

By Tom Orr
Published June 22, 2006

Sing The Real
Vanguard

In the musical melting pot that is Los Angeles, it's a real balancing act for a band to combine the right elements to the proper degree and turn them into compelling music. Quetzal, named for a Central American bird that in its mythical incarnation foiled all attempts to enslave it, have gotten both the ingredients and the recipe right. Drawing from Latino (mostly Mexican) folk traditions, this talented and empathetic ensemble blends in African, Caribbean, jazz and rock shadings to create a fusion that never sounds forced. English and Spanish vocals carry equal weight, violins jam peacefully with acoustic guitars, and gritty ballads give way to dense Afro-Cuban percussion breakdowns. Thematically, it's mostly business despite the overall joyous sound. Self-expression and self-worth are emphasized on "The Social Relevance of Public Art" and "20 Pesos," the acoustic reggae of "Desahogate" is seriously snappy, "Emotions" speaks to the heart in a way refreshingly free of schmaltz, and the rolling "Vagabundo" brings to mind Susana Baca's Afro-Peruvian stylings. Viva Quetzal!