Concha Buika ‘La noche más larga’ (Warner Spain) 4/5

Concha Buika
For those not already familiar with the warm, husky tones of Afro-Mallorcan singer Concha Buika, it is simply worth remembering that she is one of the most original singers to come out of Spain in the last twenty years or more and is a long-time favourite of no less than director extraordinaire Pedro Almodóvar, who has an exquisite taste in singers and always finds a place for them in his films. No surprise, then, that Buika should turn up in one of the latest, ‘The skin I live in’, performing live with her band. The new album is in fact her sixth in total and at the tender age of forty-one she is already something of a veteran. Carefully crafted originals and supremely well reworked classics are the hallmark of the distinctive Buika musical brand and this recording oscillates between uptempo renditions that fuse flamenco, jazz and even shades of funk (in the use of bass at least) effortlessly with gorgeous heart warming ballads that rarely fall short of excellent. The uptempo approach works best on the delightful ‘Siboney’, which is in fact the somewhat sedate Ernesto Lecuona original composition, but here has been utterly transformed into a funk-tinged dervish of a tune that has real bite to it. In stark contrast the refined sophistication of Billie Holiday favourite ‘Don’t explain’ is a delicious jazz-tinged piece on which keyboardist and arranger Ivan Melón’ Lewis excels. It would be wrong, however, to pigeon hole Buika as simply another flamenco singer for that she most certainly is not. While it is true to say that she has taken on board the innovations of flamenco-fusion legend Camerón de la Isla, she is by no stretch of the imagination a carbon copy and flamenco comprises but one (albeit an important one) of her musical influences. Only the somewhat clumsy delivery and excessive rapidity on ‘Ne me quitte pas’ is marginally less than thrilling and perhaps a few French lessons will put things right for future attempts at Molière’s favoured language. On the English language material, though, there is increasing confidence and this is illustrated further on the inventive reworking of Abbey Lincoln’s ‘Throw it away’ which here becomes a mid-tempo percussive ditty complete with Jaco Pastorius-infused bass intro. Absolute bliss. Pat Metheny joins the jam party on acoustic guitar on Buika’s own ‘No lo sé’ and when musicians of his calibre are willing to play a secondary role, you know you are a singer of some talent and doing something right. The multi-talented Buika has a book of poetry due out soon and has, in addition, written and produced a film. One mighty talented lady for sure and in the zenith of her thus far glittering career. Tim Stenhouse

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