"Jessie Marquez's debut CD "Sana Locura" should have been titled "From Cuba with Swing" because this recording swings from beginning to end. An exceptional production that is highlighted by the haunting vocals of Jessie Marquez, this "undiscovered treasure" completes her powerhouse session with the help of fabled Cuban jazz trumpeter Julito Padron, the gifted (and swinging) piano work of David Alfaro, and the trombone of Juan Carlos Marin.
With a "tip of the hat" to the works of legendary composers-- Rafael Hernandez on "Capullito de Aleli", Ignacio Piniero on "Sobre una Tumba, Una Rumba", Cesar Portillo de la Luz on "Este son Homenaje" and Miguel Matamoros on "Juramento"-- Jessie Marquez delivers a smooth, elegant and danceable CD of songs filled with the groove of son, guaguanco, bolero, timba and even rap, and in so doing, ensures that she is destined to no longer be an "undiscovered treasure". "Sana Locura" is an absolute gem, and is a must have for anyone who wants their music from Cuba with swing!"
"Latin Aura" Executive Producer
Jazz 91.9FM WCLK- Atlanta
"I love it! This is really a true feeling of Cuban Music from the
heart, my listeners love "Alborada Guajira." This cd is a must in my
Lino Roldán "Taíno" Program Director and Host for La Brisa
Tropical, KBZQ 99.5 FM, Lawton, Oklahoma.
"From the rich and sultry sound of her voice to the traditional sounds this CD has a special something for everyone. Musica Cubana tipica, salsa with a Latin jazz blues feel and just the right amount of the long lost art of a beautiful ballad.
Jessie Marquez's Sana Locura is a winner. The musical message is clear and she delivers it with a unique style, fresh and smooth. Like a fine wine this production goes down smooth. Congratulations! PS From a former musician, the band swings big time."
"Sabor Tropical" on Hawaii Public Radio KIPO 89.3 FM
Great talent is where you find it, and in this case, the blessed zone is Eugene, Oregon. Far from the hotbeds of Latin music, singer and composer Jessie Márquez has carved out a niche for herself in the Northwest's nascent salsa scene. She also scored a major career coup when she returned to Cuba, her parents' native land, to record an album of tropical Latin classics and originals with some of Havana's top musicians.
Sana Locura (available only at her website, www.sanalocura.com) features sensational arrangements by trombonist Juan Carlos Marín, the sinuous trumpet playing of Julito Padrón, and the equally impressive talents of a cast of supremely talented Cuban musicians. The program includes revered works by Miguel Matamoros, Ignacio Piñeiro, Rafael Hernández, and several of the singer's originals. The recording of Sana Locura was a rite of passage for Márquez, who has longed for years to return to the land that nurtured her grandparents and parents and experience the music she loves at its source. She adapts effortlessly to the Cuban salsa style with a commanding vocal presence, highlighted by a sincere, evocative delivery with a sensuous edge.
By Mark Holston
Jessie Marquez has become la reina of salsa and Cuban music in the Pacific Northwest and has helped turn her hometown of Eugene, Ore., into a tropical music oasis in the western United States. Her new, self-produced album, Sana Locura, is a classy, heartfelt affair, recorded in Havana, Cuba with some of that country's foremost musicians.
Latina Style Magazine
A nice, small record from Cuba, by way of Eugene, Oregon. Marquez, a Cuban-American who grew up in Puerto Rico for a minute, then in Oregon, went to study Cuban culture in Havana, had aspirations of being a singer, and then, what?...recorded an album in Havana with none less than David Alfaro on piano, Julito Padron on trumpet and arrangements by Juan Carlos Marin, from the Afro-Cuban all-stars. The result is a stately, bolero heavy album that is at moments beautiful; she reminds people of the singer Ana Belen. The recording makes you want to go back to it.
Highly Recommended. (Peter Watrous)
November 7, 2004
Cuban connection: Jessie Márquez releases her first CD, a culmination of search for cultural identity
By Paul Denison
A CD release party - the official moment when creativity, hard work and hope sail out into the world as a thin metal disk - is always a big deal for the musicians involved.
To Jessie Márquez of Eugene, who will release her debut album at Luna on Friday, this is not just a career milestone, although it's certainly that. It's the fullest expression to date of who she is and who she wants to be.
Many musicians could, and have, made similar statements about their first or latest CD; but in Márquez's case, it's less hype, more truth. And the story behind the creation of her "Sana Locura" album is a little more complicated than most.
It started with her grandmother, Ana Márquez, an Italian woman who learned Spanish in Brooklyn, N.Y., married a Spanish man and in the 1940s moved to Cuba, where Jessie Márquez's father was born. While the family was visiting the United States in late 1960, the two countries severed relations.
Unable to return to Cuba, the family moved to Puerto Rico. Márquez spent the first few years of her life there, before the family moved to Eugene, where it would have been easy for a 4-year-old girl to lose her sense of cultural identity.
Ana Márquez taught Italian at Lane Community College and yoga classes at the Eugene Public Library. To her granddaughter, she taught a love of all things Cuban.
"I was very close to her," Márquez says. "I spent every Friday night with her. We would cook together, sew together. She would massage my feet. She was incredibly kind, and intelligent, too, although not at all pretentious. She was a very simple, warm woman. She always spoke to me in Spanish and wrote to me in Spanish.
"She was a major influence in my seeing myself as a Latina."
Ana Márquez died in Eugene seven years ago, in her late 80s. "Sana Locura" is dedicated to her memory.
In her album notes, Jessie Márquez also thanks a lot of others, starting with her husband, Donnie DiChiara, and concluding with the Cuban people. She may also have had an assist from Elegua, a Santeria deity.
It all started in December 2002, when Márquez was studying traditional Cuban music with Angela Ervira Herrera, a music educator and voice instructor with Conjunto Folklórico.
"After one of her lovely dinners one night in her apartment in Central Havana, we were drinking rum on her small balcony, and I confided to her that I wanted to develop my career as a singer. I asked her, `Can an American woman become a legitimate interpreter of Cuban music?' "
Herrera told Márquez that she needed to make a CD. And the next day, she abruptly started the wheels rolling. When Márquez showed up for her lesson, Herrera called Juan Carlos Marín, an arranger who plays trombone with the Afro-Cuban All-Stars. Then she turned on a tape recording, held up the receiver and made Márquez sing along with the instrumental track of a song they had been working on.
"The song has some unusual intervals, and I remember Angela looking relieved that I had maneuvered them," Márquez says.
After she sang, Marin spoke first to Herrera, who had described Márquez as a white girl "who sings like a black girl." Then he spoke directly to Márquez, asking her to meet him that night at a theater where he was playing with the Afro-Cuban All-Stars.
Márquez did as she was told.
"The music was a revelation to me," she says. "I hadn't heard jazz like that or ever heard live music played so well. It was sophisticated and virtuosic, yet honest and human."
Then the lights went out, and the regulars, accustomed to such power outages, began to leave.
Márquez called Marín's name in the dark. A cigarette lighter flared up, illuminating a smiling black face. She introduced herself and they made their way out of the dark theater. He asked her what she was interested in recording, and she told him.
His next question threw her for a loop:
"When do you want to record?"
"I suddenly felt in over my head," she said, and when she suggested a recording session in January 2004, he said, "That's a long way off. You're sure you want to do it?"
She did. Márquez returned to Cuba in June 2004 to show Marín her material, work out keys and talk about arrangements. Then she went back to Eugene and started saving money "like a squirrel storing nuts," hoarding what she made from performing with Son Mela'o and from teaching Latin music and dance in local schools.
"Every dollar I made found its way into the cashbox," she says.
In January of this year, Márquez returned to Havana to record.
"The recording studio was a small room with a couple chairs, a computer, an eight-channel mixer and egg cartons on the wall," she says. "Every day I brought rum, an essential ingredient for playing rumba. It's important to pour a little bit on the floor as an offering to the Santos."
During the next month, Márquez, Marín and the other musicians spent long hours in the studio, laying down instrumental tracks and eating $1 lunches, mostly pork, from neighborhood home restaurants. Finally, in the fifth and final week of her visit, they recorded Márquez's vocals.
Márquez says she learned a lot from all of the Cuban musicians, including trumpet player Julito Padrón, who worked with her on the guias, or improvisational sections, of songs. He sings with her on the album's final track.
She also learned a lot about which types of Cuban music fit her best.
"I was experimenting with a very broad array of styles to find out where my strengths are and to push myself to try things that don't necessarily come naturally," she says. "I'm better with boleros and guajiras than I am with timba, which is the most current, culturally dominant music in Cuba. But I wanted to try those other genres and challenge myself musically."
Márquez came back to Eugene with digital audio tapes that had been recorded using the audio portion of a video program. These were transferred to Pro Tools for audio mixing at Bill Barrett's Gung-Ho Recording in Eugene.
"Bill has very fine ears," she says. "I appreciated his perspective. I appreciated his ears!"
"Sana Locura" has 12 tracks, including one guajira, five boleros or bolero combinations, two guanguancós, two trovas, one son-timba number and one salsa song.
Well-known Cuban composers represented on the album include the late Miguel Matamoros ("Juramento"), plus Pablo Milanes ("Amame como soy") and Jose Antonio Mendez ("Si me comprendieras").
Two of the songs Márquez wrote herself: "Dile que me voy," a bolero-cha, and "La muchacha bailadora" (salsa). Marín's arrangement of the final track, "Háblame de la rumba," includes the voice of Márquez's brother Nick, who did some free-style rap with the Cuban musicians during one of their nightclub gigs. He and her other brother, Alex, spent some time in Cuba with Márquez.
Everything went well in Havana. "I feel like doors have opened very early there," she says, adding that maybe this was the work of Elegua, a Santeria deity who is said to open paths for those who are generous with the people around them.
The hard part was having to produce the album herself, a process that included securing rights to songs and posing for album photographs taken by Rosanne Olson of Seattle, a former Register-Guard photographer.
"I was very naive when I set out to make this CD," Márquez says. "I thought I would just bring home a rough mix and let some record label do the rest. But I really had to do it myself, because I'm an unknown artist, and it's very difficult to get the attention of record labels, especially if you're not at the top and you're promoting yourself through live concerts only."
Márquez performs locally with Son Mela'o and her own smaller group, Azuquita.
Now, after a slow process of "taking little steps forward," she has her CD. Making it the way she did, in Havana with "some of the finest musicians in Cuba," has been a rewarding adventure but also possibly a risky one. U.S. citizens are not supposed to be doing business in Cuba. Márquez says she has consulted an attorney who believes that her recording project may be protected under Cuban embargo amendments designed to allow cultural exchanges; but she would have made the album anyway.
One evening shortly before Márquez left Havana, pianist David Alfaro asked her why she had decided to record in Cuba, referring to "your laws about Cuba." In response, Márquez mentioned Ry Cooder, who recorded his celebrated "Buena Vista Social Club" album in Cuba.
"Well, yes, but he's also an impresario," Alfaro replied. "I think what you're doing is different."
And it is, because Márquez's just-do-it project was less about making money - although she does hope her Spanish-only album will find a market - than it is about making friends and finding her cultural home.
"This is what I want to do," she says. "It's who I am, it's what moves me. It's what I'm going to do. My heart is set on this."
Recensione: Di origini Italo-Cubane ma residente in Nord America, Jessie Marquez presenta un album estremamente raffinato, sicuramente un prodotto di 'nicchia' per 'palati fini' che apprezzano la musica cubana al di la' degli ( a volte scontati ) clangori della moderna Timba. A mio parere una ottica solo minimamente piu'commerciale avrebbe potuto dare un miglior risultato di vendita, senza nulla togliere alla qualita', ma forse il mercato Americano ha canoni di risposta differenti dal nostro. L' album - 12 brani per un totale di 45' - si apre con una Salsa-Guajira e prosegue con ' Juramento' uno standard di Miguel Matamoros riportato in Salsa; il bolero 'Santa Locura' ( composto dalla stessa Jessie ; ' Este son homaneje' dolcissimo son-cha; ''Sobre una rumba una tumba' altro 'standard' di Ignacio Piñeiro che qui parte con 1'30'' di rumba per poi svilupparsi in una bella salsa 'carica; ' Capullito de Aleli' e' - a mio parere - un' occasione mancata per un brano salsa che avrebbe potuto avere grande impatto anche in discoteca ma che -arrivato a meta' della partitura- non si sviluppa, fermandosi nella medesima ritmica iniziale. Dopo un ulteriore bolero, troviamo 'Alfonsina y el mar' :una poesia, un'affascinante madrigale piu' che un brano musicale; il cha 'Amame como soy' e 'La muchaca bailadora' una bella e BALLABILE salsa cui fa' seguito il bolero' Si me comprendieras'. Il cd termina con 'Hablame de la Rumba', con una intro in Rumba del rappero Nick Marquez che sfocia in una bella salsa cubana con accenni di guaguanco'- Complessivamente - dunque- una produzione di bella qualita' caratterizzata dalla bella voce di Jessie Marquez. Un album non facile, né immediato ma che puo' dare grandi soddisfazioni di ascolto. Per info e preascolti: www.sanalocura.com
[Review: Of Italian-Cuban origin but a resident of North America, Jessie Marquez presents an extremely refined album, certainly a "niche" product for "fine palates" who appreciate Cuban music above and beyond the (sometimes predictable) clang of the modern Timba. In my opinion a slightly more commercial stance would have resulted in greater sales potential without subtracting from quality, but maybe the American market operates by different rules than ours. The album--12 pieces for a total of 45 minutes--opens with a Salsa-Guajira and continues with "Juramento," a standard by Miguel Matamoros transformed into Salsa; the bolero "Santa Locura" [sic] (composed by Jessie; "Este son homaneje," extremely sweet son-cha; "Sobre una rumba una tumba," another standard by Ignacio Pineiro, which here begins with 1 minute 30 seconds of rumba and then develops into a nice "charged" salsa; "Capullito de Aleli" is, in my opinion, a missed opportunity for a salsa cut that could have had a big impact in dance clubs but that-halfway through-doesn't develop, ending in the same rhythm it began with. After another bolero, we find "Alfonsin y el mar," a poem, a fascinating madrigal more than a song; the cha "Amame como soy" and "La muchacha bailadora," a beautiful and DANCEABLE salsa followed by the bolero "Si me comprendieras." The CD ends with "Hablame de la Rumba," with an intro in Rumba by the rapper Nick Marquez that flows into a beautiful Cuban salsa with hints of guaganco. In sum, then, a production of wonderful quality characterized by the beautiful voice of Jessie Marquez. An album that isn't easy or instantaneous but that can give huge listening satisfaction. For info and excerpts: www.sanalocura.com]
Prodotto da Marquez, Marin, Alfaro, Pardon, "Sana Locura" si potrebbe definire con facilità come la sintesi della musica cubana di qualità dalle peculiarità molto soft, dove è insita una notevole espressione di eleganza e talento artistico, un prodotto, a mio modo di vedere, finalizzato certamente più all'ascolto che ai frenetici ritmi da pista imposti dai canoni commerciali che imperversano nelle nostre discoteche.
Questo prodotto dedica infatti ampio spazio, oltre che alla salsa, anche a temi proiettati verso la pura espressione del "sentimiento cubano" come il bolero, il cha cha cha, il son, la rumba, il guaguanco dove non mancano morbidi ed apprezzabili inserimenti di timba, il tutto racchiuso in 12 brani curati ed arrangiati nei minimi dettagli.
Aprono l'album due brani di salsa (Alborada guajira, Juramento) seguiti da un bolero/cha (Sana Locura) e un son/cha/bolero (Este son homenaje). Classica salsa energica da pista preceduta da bella introduzione rumbera alla traccia 5 con "Sobre una tumba, una rumba". Salsa con radici timbere è il brano "Capullito de aleli" mentre alla traccia 8 incontriamo la romanticissima "Alfonsina y el mar" dove la bella voce solista di questa cantante si lascia dolcemente accompagnare dalle scorrevoli e un po' malinconiche note di pianoforte eseguite con grande maestria da David Alfaro. Segue un bel cha cha cha (Amame como soy) con cui si volge lentamente verso la fine. Chiudono questa produzione "La muchacha bailadora", "Si me comprendieras" e "Háblame de la rumba", quest'ultima salsa introdotta da rumba/rap.
Ricordiamo che Jessie Marquez oltre ad essere cantante è anche compositrice e che di quest'album ha scritto due brani "Dile que me voy" (traccia 7) e "La muchacha bailadora" (traccia 10).
Concludo confermando quanto già anticipato in apertura e cioè che ci troviamo di fronte ad un album più idoneo ad essere ascoltato che ballato.
Lady Caribe DJ
By Paul Denison
Jessie Marquez's father grew up in Cuba, but she spent her early childhood in Puerto Rico before moving to Eugene."We talked about Cuba and ate Cuban food, but Cuba was not that present in my consciousness," she says. But her first visit to Cuba - in 1996 with her father, stepmother, brothers and husband - changed all that. "There was something I recognized about the people," she recalls. "Something resonated. Their gestures, the way they make their points, the way they speak, was familiar." At about the same time, Marquez began singing locally with the salsa band Caliente. Later, she sang and played guitar with Lo Nuestro, a more folkloric group whose repertoire includes Venezuelan, Mexican and Andean music. "I was becoming more musically literate, but I had always been a singer. When I was 2 years old I would stand on the bed and sing and force my family to clap for me," she says, laughing. Since that first visit with her family, Marquez has been back to Cuba several times to hear and do research on Cuban music, which is now her primary focus. She's a member of Son Mela'o, a 10- and sometimes 11-piece Cuban dance band that you might have heard at the Eugene Celebration or Fiesta Latina. Thursday night, she and several other members of Son Mela'o will be featured in a Shedd Casuals series concert in the 150-seat chapel at the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts, 285 E. Broadway.
Son Mela'o's sugary offshoot Called Azuquita (`little bit of sugar'), this smaller offshoot of Son Mela'o includes Marquez on vocals, guitar and guiro (gourd); Cesar Gutierrez on cuatro; Jaime Johnson on percussion; Neri Rodriguez on vocals and guiro; Sean Peterson on bass; and for this concert, Joe Freuen on trombone. Gutierrez is from Mazatlan, Mexico, and Rodriguez is from Mexico City. Johnson is from Lima, Peru. Peterson, the only non-Spanish speaker in the group, is from Seattle. They all live in Eugene. Marquez says Gutierrez may be the only cuatro player working in the Northwest and is certainly one of only a few in the United States. Cuatro means four in Spanish. The instrument originally had four pairs of strings, but today sometimes has five sets. It serves the same purpose in Puerto Rican music that the tres (three sets) does in Cuba. Johnson is "very knowledgeable, very well versed" in Caribbean rhythms, Marquez says. He has a collection of percussion instruments from all over Latin America that he uses in educational presentations. Marquez herself teaches guitar, a children's course in rhythm and musicality and a salsa class for teens for the Oregon Festival of American Music. She also does in-school residencies through the Lane Arts Council. Rodriguez is from a family of musicians who specialize in Colombian cumbia, a style of dance music that has become very popular in Mexico. "His father and brothers are musicians, and he's been in groups since he was a kid," Marquez says. Peterson has a jazz background, Marquez says, and is one of the rare bass players who really understands Cuban rhythm. In Europe and North America, the bassist usually plays on beat one, Marquez says, but in Cuban music they almost always play on the offbeat. "We tried a lot of bass players before we found Sean. His jazz background helps, but we have tried other jazz players who didn't get it." Azuquita's Thursday night concert will be only the third in the Shedd Chapel and the second in the Shedd Casuals series, which Jim Ralph, the Oregon Festival of American Music executive director, says is designed for "top quality regional artists and, at times, top quality but unheard-of national ar- tists." Africa meets Spain in Cuba Marquez says Cuban music's primary sources and influences include African percussion and Spanish melody, including Arabic traditions and decima: a form of Spanish poetry consisting of 10 lines of eight syllables each. Marquez says Azuquita's program will feature son, which is the most popular form of traditional Cuban music and the precursor of salsa. "The basic rhythm is the same," she says. "Salsa instrumentation is different, and the themes are more urban. Son has more traditional instruments, mostly strings, and more traditional themes." Son developed in Cuba's rural eastern provinces in the mid- to late-1880s. She says it evolved instrumentally as it made its way toward Havana, until a septet including horns became the classic son group. Azuquita's program also will include some bolero - "the most romantic form in Latin music,' Marquez says - some guaguanco (a form of rumba), and maybe some Colombian cumbia. "We generally play for a dancing crowd," Marquez says, but during the Shedd Chapel concert the musicians will talk to the audience "about the instruments we're playing, about the themes, about the music and how it developed, and so forth."