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Jerez Le Cam Quartet
Reflejos Migrantes

Label Ouest (
Review by Michael Stone

Listen El Cruce (The Crossing)

As titled, Reflejos Migrantes (Migrant Reflections) can be read literally as referencing the tango quartet makeup led by Buenos Aires-born, Paris-based pianist-composer Gerardo Jerez Le Cam. But this is music infiltrated by a more profound figurative connotation, the transformation of Western European culture and demography following the Soviet Union's demise, and errant U.S. adventure in the Balkans, Middle East and North Africa since the 1990s.

In any case, behold a thoroughly displaced tango orquesta típica, pairing Jerez Le Cam's piano with Romanian violinist Iacob Maciuca and Belgian Manu Comté on bandoneon, and replacing the traditional double bass with the Moldavian cimbalom of Mihai Trestian.

Tango's own stoic purview is drawn to social dislocation wherever it manifests. Here listeners find its existential misgivings freely associated with baroque, operatic, Eastern European gypsy and jazz inventions. While hardly the first to explore this aural territory, Jerez Le Cam (whose other artistic associations include Raul Barbosa, Juan José Mosalini and the Gotan Project) brings a distinct chamber sensibility to this work, a dozen original compositions.

Its titles plainly reference migrant journeying and travail. "El Alambre" (The [Barbed] Wire) conveys a foreboding attendant upon involuntary passage into a menacing unknown. "Mar Negro" (Black Sea), a rapid fire duel between cimbalom and violin, bears a gypsy essence across a battering, uncharted, watery waste, expressed distinctly if more sedately via the sorrowful bandoneón voicing of "Orillas" (Waves), or with merciless turbulence of "Torbellino" (Whirlwind). Likewise it is with guest Argentine singer Sandra Rumolina's entrancing on the unambiguously titled "Melancolía" and "Calle de Lomas" (Street of Hills).

Cataclysmic in reach, Reflejos Migrantes could have been the soundtrack for Gianfranco Rosi's provocative documentary Fuocoammare, or some other refugee saga upon a fiery, epic wine-dark sea. This is not easy music: Hear, for instance, the fluctuating contentions of a central piece, "Bravadag," or the tango drive of the final number, "El Cruce" (The Crossing), embodying all the trepidation of forced exodus, visited indiscriminately upon so many regions in these, our times, where the weary encounter only denial, devastation, death or exile. At last, if migrant reflections are borne chiefly in the tragic quarantine isolation of individual and family experience, hidden from view for the willfully innocent and putative immune, memorial and responsibility are inexorably collective, integral of our world at large—bitter, broken, undeniable, quotidian and entire. - Michael Stone

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Photo ©2016 Alexandra Yonnet


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