Jazz singer Magos Herrera will reunite her smooth and soulful voice with Brooklyn Rider string quartet for an online performance on Feb.12, presented by the Chan Centre. The show sees Herrera and Brooklyn Rider revisit their 2018 collaboration, Dreamers, an album which brings a jazzy and cámara (chamber music) twist to Ibero-American classics.
“I think one of my survival instincts as an artist is that it’s human nature to keep evolving, to keep moving…” says Herrera. “So, I have that very clear in my head, the idea to keep inspiring yourself and exposing yourself to innovation and new ideas.”
A diversity of influence
Having grown up listening to Duke Ellington albums, orchestral records and what she deems very traditional Cuban music, Herrera says her musical palette has been diverse from the start. So, when it comes to writing and performing her own compositions and arrangements, it’s no surprise that the New York-based, Mexican-born singer has embraced a diversity of styles and influences across her career, all while remaining grounded in her musical roots.
Herrera feels each album has a narrative and must decide how to use instrumentation to provide the emotional drive.
“It will have some jazz harmony somewhere there, even if it’s chamber music. And the kinds of collaborators I work with will understand that I’ll need that frame of harmonic sophistication and freedom. The way I improvise I need some space to do my thing,” says Herrera.
The process has proved essential in staying true to the story she wants to tell in her music. While in pursuit of branching out and trying to keep things fresh, Herrera says it’s important to find collaborators on the same page. Doubly so, she adds, when working together on an entire album, as was the case with the eponymous Brooklyn Rider string quartet.
“I wanted to record and to collaborate with musicians like Brooklyn Rider, not only because they’re incredible musicians, but because they understand philosophically and emotionally what I wanted to say, and they have the openness and the flexibility to explore this repertoire,” says Herrera.
Hopes and dreams
Musically, Dreamers is a jazzy chamber celebration of the Great Latin-American Songbook. Throughout the album, Herrera and Brooklyn Rider bring their own American twist to Argentinian zamba, Brazilian bossa nova and Mexican folk song and in doing so, give praise to the Latin American cultural diversity that exists in the United States.
“We know what Trump’s policy and perspective was con immigrants. And I took it really personally because I think it was ignorant… in the sense that, we all know immigrants are a vast palette of possibilities and backgrounds. So, my response was to create an album and I wanted to portray the grandness and beauty and deepness and grace of the Latin American song book.”
Indeed, the album’s title is a nod to the DREAM Act in the United States, a highly politicized and as-of-yet unpassed bill which would, if passed, grant official residency and the right to work to unauthorized immigrants who entered the U.S. below the age of majority, who are often referred to as ‘Dreamers.’
But as Herrera explains, the album, much like the title, is full of hope and celebration, making it more than just a political statement.
“I mean, [the title] has a double lecture, definitely. But it also has to do with what the Dreamers represent… As a society, if we don’t keep dreaming and envisioning all these things that we want for all of us as a planet, as humanity, then things just happen because someone has ramped up them,” says Herrera.
Soul and hope are what the signer intends to bring to the Vancouver audience.
“I can’t wait to go on the road with this group that I absolutely love. You will see that the Dreamer’s journey is a very soulful one,” she says.
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