Vocalist Claudia Acuña is vulnerable and poised on her latest recording, DUO, which is out now via Ropeadope. The remarkable 9-track collection features one Acuña original composition alongside arrangements of a variety of South American compositions and a reimagination of Chick Corea’s “Crystal Silence.” Featuring Kenny Barron, Christian McBride, Carolina Calvache, Fred Hersch, Regina Carter, Arturo O’Farrill and Russell Malone, DUO is rooted in reflection and re-dedication.
This new record follows her dynamic debut on the NY scene in the 1990’s – Acuña released five albums as a leader before slowing down to adjust to motherhood and restore her power. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, she returned refreshed and reborn and in 2019, delivered the Latin Grammy nominated album Turning Pages, representing reclamation, recovery, survivor and documenting a major creative leap.
Exploring new musical intentions and purpose, Acuña relishes in her Chilean roots on DUO, a record of duets of songs from her home country. After the world slowed to a crawl amid the 2020 pandemic, Acuña began exploring the past, finding the core of her dedication and the power of music. The resulting 9 songs, recorded with some of the finest musicians in the world, find Fred Hersch, Christian Mcbride and Kenny Barron alongside Acuña in an intimate, vulnerable, yet all the more comforting recording. The simplicity of just two, feeling the music and letting it flow through them, brought her to a new place as a singer.
Seven of the songs on DUO come from composers hailing from Chile, Cuba, Argentina, and Mexico. The final track is Acuña’s only original composition, and speaks of her relationship with Mother Earth. ‘…at the end of the day we all walk alone, and we can discover our beauty when we see Earth and us as one’
Born July 3, 1971 in Santiago and raised in Concepcion, Acuña established herself on the Chilean jazz scene in her early 20s. When she arrived in New York City in 1995, Acuña quickly gained recognition as a leading voice on a scene rapidly being transformed by a wave of brilliant Latin American musicians. Part of the roiling scene centered on Small’s, she plunged into collaborations with masters such as Jason Lindner, Harry Whitaker, Arturo O’Farrill, Guillermo Klein, Avishai Cohen, Branford Marsalis, George Benson, Louie Vega, Danilo Perez, and Tom Harrill.
Her five albums as a leader established Acuña as a creative force, from 2002’s Rhythm of Life (Verve) and 2004’s Luna (MaxJazz) though 2008’s In These Shoes (Zoho Music) and 2009’s strikingly beautiful En Este Momento (Marsalis Music). Whether putting her stamp on popular Latin American ballads, reimagining jazz standards from a South American perspective, or bringing infusing Afro-Caribbean material with a wide rhythmic sensibility, Acuña stands out as a passionate and emotionally incisive singer with a gleaming, burnished bronze tone.
For much of the past decade she’s put her recording career on the backburner to focus on raising her son. Instead of touring, she’s stayed closer to home, where her keen intelligence and intrepid spirit have made her the vocalist of choice for many of jazz’s most creative figures.
DUO is out now and available on all streaming platforms.