Pedro Giraudo conducts the WDR Big Band on “An Argentinian in New York”

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Pedro Giraudo is an Argentinian who lives in New York.  “An Argentinian in New York” is an album that celebrates Giraudo’s career as a musician and composer, and on which he fulfills the role of conductor. Giraudo is celebrated for having a successful career that spans more than 20 years (the length of time he has been in New York). The various songs represent different life situations that seem appropriate reflections for someone who has had to acclimate to a culture and way of life. Here Giraudo conducts the WDR Big Band as they play the songs that represent his lengthy career and celebrate him and his accomplishments.

According to Giraudo’s notes, the songs are presented on the recording in the same order they were played at the concert. The songs are lively and overall, there is a feeling of thoughtfulness that borders on melancholy, that gives way to a frenetic energy that might accompany being swept up in the push and pull of the Big Apple.

Songs that translate to “Merciless,” and that are inspired by women fighting for equal footing in the male-dominated world of jazz (“Eir”) make “An Argentinian in New York” a thoughtful album. The big ideas of what happens in the world are interpreted by Giraudo’s various inspirations. The themes of the album are both personal and public, contemporary and timeless.

About Pedro Giraudo

Pedro Giraudo developed his jazz career by playing with well-known performers such as Pablo Ziegler, Branford Marsalis, Ruben Blades, and Paquito D’Rivera. On his own, Giraudo is known for being a bandleader with five critically acclaimed albums to his credit.

As an apparently prolific leader, Giraudo heads three bands. They are a big band, a sextet, and a jazz orchestra. His career also includes being a formidable and expressive bass player, and he notes that the opportunity to just conduct on “An Argentinian in New York” was an “exhilarating experience.”

 

“An Argentinian in New York”

There is a great deal to appreciate on this album. Like a number of recent albums, Giraudo’s latest album teaches audiences about the thoughts behind the work’s concepts and how the work came to be. There is something artistic in the best sense of the word about this album, the sound and concept. The idea of someone being new to New York and having a reflective response to one of the US’s most unique cities continues to intrigue. Giraudo seems to have an ear for how people present their difficulties with the world around them. Whether he is inspired by poetry, political-social arguments or interpersonal relationships, Giraudo turns the ideas into effective jazz.

“Lapidario”

The title of this song translates to English as “merciless.” It derives from Argentinian idiomatic use that describes a comment that is “merciless, cutting and hurtful.” The idea of these sorts of comments is unfortunately universal.

The song moves from a mid-tempo, almost swaying motif with brass and woodwinds taking the lead of the soundscape, to a melancholy, slower-paced portion that runs into a classic jazz motif that almost feels like clenched teeth and dismay. Then, the big, brassy motif from the beginning returns, but it is cut up with an electric guitar showcase.

In more than nine minutes, the song manages to capture the experience of either being the recipient of merciless remarks or being a witness who has overheard them. The tone of the song does not allow for neutrality.

“Eir”

The song is named after the “medieval Norwegian Valkyrie of peace and clemency,” Giraudo states in his notes. The concept of the song is that of women’s suffering and ultimate perseverance. Giraudo writes, “After reading a heartfelt and painful statement by Shannon Barnet, the WDR Big Band trombonist, and her many struggles as a woman in the male dominated jazz world.” The piece features Barnet on trombone.

Her trombone line is rich, throaty and creates the perfect soundscape to denote progress that some would argue is slow. The trombone is complemented by the piano’s low notes. The rhythm forces listeners to register each idea potentially represented by the swelling brass sounds, the gentle shimmer of drums, and the thoughtful undergirding of the piano.

The soundscape builds to a bright crescendo, with all the parts representing progress. Then, a trombone showcase appears. It is accompanied only by gentle drums. Slow builds put other brass instruments back into the soundscape after the showcase. The lament and cry of brass and woodwinds at the end sound like a perfect way to illustrate the concept of this song. The piano gets melancholy with the addition of a flute at the very end. It is emotive, even if listeners had no idea what the impetus was for the song’s creation.

 

“An Argentinian in New York” is reflective and varied. Audiences new to the work of Giraudo will be pleasantly surprised with some of the work presented on this album. The thoughtful arrangements of songs help to play up the overall theme, but even without a theme, the album is still artistic in a way that invites listening.

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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