February 2007

Dino Saluzzi Group - Juan Condori
ECM 1978
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by Katherine Silkaitis

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

Dino Saluzzi’s Juan Condori is an imaginary, evocative body of work that conjures images of 1960s-era Argentina, complete with sensual tangos, heartache and passion. The album’s 12 tracks are a masterful blend of styles native to the Saluzzis’ Argentina and other Western genres. Jose Maria Saluzzi’s guitar on "Soles/La camposanteņa" reveals it as a beautiful flamenco-inspired piece, while the opening track, "La vuelta de Pedro Orillas," is a strong, inspired tribute to the wisdom of Argentina’s Indians. Songs about Saluzzi’s family and country benefit greatly from the cohesiveness of the musicians -- the sound ebbs and flows and rarely falters as each musician plays off and into one another. Juan Condori also features smooth-jazz inspired saxophone grooves and post-modern improvisation, especially on the appropriately titled "Improvisacion." And while other tracks take on the traditional sounds of Latin American folk tunes, the album never seems haphazard or unfocused with its menagerie of influences.

Saluzzi, accompanied by his brother, son and nephew, and an additional drummer, excels on the bandoneon, truly understanding the nature and potential of this instrument. He is as comfortable playing a soft pianissimo accompaniment as he is blaring away. The bandoneon’s sound is unique and well suited to the tunes Saluzzi writes. The accordion-like sound has resonance, and its lively nature contributes to the overarching energy and excitement of the album.

It is only fitting that for an album as focused and narrative as Juan Condori that the recording and production reflect its clarity of purpose. Each instrument’s sound rings true as crescendos and decrescendos are captured, preserving the aura and intention of each composition.