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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

Corina Bartra & Azu

By Tom Orr
Published January 24, 2008

Bambu Sun
Blue Spiral

Combining Afro-Peruvian rhythms and Latin jazz, Bambu Sun is a striking showcase for New York City-based vocalist/percussionist Corina Bartra and her band Azu. Despite coming across as odd and a bit overwrought at first, Bartra soon begins unleashing an array of octave jumping scats, tricky vocal phrasings and a combination of warmth and quirkiness that complements the players’ varied rhythms. English language compositions “Enlightened Heart” and “Peace Loving People Are On The Rise” are delivered in a steadfast yet fragile tone, while the cover versions (Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” and the Beatles’ “Blackbird”) are a clever and seamless blend of jazz bass, drums, piano and saxophone with traditional percussion instruments like the cajon (wooden box drum). Sounding at times like Susana Baca and Ella Fitzgerald, Bartra is still something of a category unto herself, filling the niche with skills that are bold and original.