Gonzalo Grau and La Clave Secreta play honestly good on “De Verdad Verdad”


Gonzalo Grau is a pianist, keyboardist, percussionist, and sometime vocalist who is the director of the project that brought his group together with La Clave Secreta. Combined, the musicians are Gonzalo Grau and La Clave Secreta. The group’s latest effort is an unconventional recording called “De Verdad Verdad.”

Gonzalo Grau and La Clave Secreta: “De Verdad Verdad”

First, the title of the album intrigues would-be listeners. The title translates to “For Real.” That indicates the authenticity with which the project was conceived and recorded. According to Grau, there was little polishing or artifice involved in the recording of “De Verdad Verdad.” That is an approach to music-making that many listeners can appreciate.

Second, listeners should appreciate what it means to bring together the musicians in Gonzalo Grau & La Clave Secreta. Here, technology is merely a tool to “portray what this band is and what this music is.” “This music” is best described as modern and daring arrangements for two trumpets, two saxophones, four percussionists, bass, piano, keyboards, flamenco guitar, string quartet, flute, trombone, and vocals.

Sure, other groups have used the elements that Grau and company employ. But Grau and La Clave Secreta put all the musicians and vocalists together in one space with “minimal acoustic separation.” That is how the resulting recording distinguishes itself from others in its genre.

The group sought to question the amount of “perfection” audiences have become used to. In age where technology can fix bad singing, poor musicianship, and create the illusion of closeness among musicians, it is novel to have musicians playing as honestly and closely as they seem to be.

The 13 songs on “De Verdad Verdad” are a mix of originals and Latin classics re-done to reflect the style of Gonzalo Grau & La Clave Secreta. The band strives to “keep good taste and interesting material upfront” as part of their musical identity.

The recording emits a special energy. There is not a bad tune to be heard. For those who enjoy hearing popular classics made new, Grau and La Clave Secreta take their turn with Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ’bout A Thing.”

The beginning: Gonzalo Grau and La Clave Secreta

The roots of the band begin in 1998. The musicians are comprised of friends and extended family. Most of whom were students at Berklee College of Music students. Grau became the director. The group played, and then re-imagined, salsa tunes. The sound included musical influences from Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and New York.

For its part, La Clave Secreta “gives space to anything.” Flamenco, Greek traditions, hip-hop, funk, or jazz are all in the mix. Add other elements such as an r&b singer, a string quartet, and that is the group in a nutshell.

While the band did not necessarily have a commercial agenda, their second album, “Frutero Modern” was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Tropical Album category.

“De Verdad Verdad” released May 15. It is an album as unique as its concept. For more information, visit: http://laclavesecreta.com

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