I recently attended a live concert by Jaramar, the renowned Mexican vocalist and artist. It was in the home of Mexican singer/songwriter Yanin Saavedra near Guadalajara and I was one of about 35 people listening to a singer who routinely fills venues of thousands. All but one of the songs was in Spanish, which I am beginning to speak, but not always well enough to follow the lyrics. No matter. I was mesmerized by her voice and her presence – both were hypnotically beautiful.
After the concert, Jaramar gave me a copy of her 2014 album Caída Libre: Wait for the Rain, a French/English album she recorded in 2014 with guitarist Alejandro Alfaro and double bass player Eliud Enandes as an experiment in leaving their comfort zones and trying something new. The songs are by a diverse panoply of artists – the Gershwins, Jacques Bel, Richard Rogers, Lorenz Hart, Henri Mancini among others. Only one of the 14 songs on the album, “Into the Storm,” is a Jaramar original.
The color of the album is Southwest United states; weathered wood, dusty sunbeams in abandoned houses, empty rooms with lonely chairs. The guitar and the bass weave together like dust motes in sunbeams while Jaramar’s voice floats, sometimes feather light, sometimes dark like many of the album’s songs. From “Stormy Weather” to “Amazing Grace”, Jaramar, Alfaro and Emandes conduct a musical conversation with each other and the listener that is interior in its lyrics and in its notes.
Fans of Jaramar are used to her soaring vocals and theater-filling melodies. Caída Libre: Wait for theRain is the opposite; moody, dark, close, sometimes bluesy, sometimes torchy, but always intimate. The interplay among the guitar, double bass, and voice are the clearest example of the instrumentality of vocals and the vocal range of the two instruments I have ever heard. While her lyrics take the foreground, they are surrounded by a magical vapor of notes. I have never heard anything like it.
Although the album is 6 years old, the songs on it are timeless and the experience it brings is priceless. While I tend toward today’s Billboard Hits, fusion music, EDM and pop, sitting on my veranda overlooking Lake Chapala on a Saturday afternoon listening to Alfaro and Ernandes play and Jaramar sing ”Moon River”, “Over the Rainbow”, “Amazing Grace” and “Stormy Weather” was as close to heaven as it gets. Fortunately, Caída Libre: Wait for theRain is still available.
Patrick O’Heffernan is co-host of the LA-based, nationally syndicated weekly program, Music FridayLive! and is a music reviewer for online magazines Vents, The Hollywood Progressive and MusicJunkie. He has also co-hosted a national political talk show, The Fairness Doctrine, and hosted the “Uplinks” media segment on Saturday All Things Considered on NPR. He holds a PhD in International Relations from MIT, has been awarded an Emmy, four Addy’s, and a Webby-Honors, among other awards. He has published 5 books and ghost-written others. A project he co-launched, the North Asia Nuclear Free Zone, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. He serves on the Board of Netroots Nation.