[24 April 2006]
Gecko Turner is cool. He’s cooler than cool. He’s so cool you could use him as the soundtrack to a Shag painting. He takes cool sambas and other cool Brazilian music and cool horns, and mixes them with cool reggae and the sound of cool, snapping fingers. He’s so cool that he can groan, “How come you do me like you do me, how come you do me like you do?” and sound as if he’s saying something meaningful, even intriguing. He covers Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in Spanish and it ends up sounding like a warm day on the banana lounge. In theory, the idea seems like heresy. In practice? It’s pretty damn cool.
At twenty, he thought British music was so cool that he moved from Spain to London and busked in tube stations. He paid attention to black American musicians. He listened to blues, he listened to Leadbelly, he listened to bebop and jazz. He followed Dizzie Gillespie across Europe. He formed bands. He went back to Spain and got a job in a bank. Time passed. His wife died. It occurred to him that we all die too soon and that if he was going to dedicate himself to his life’s purpose, then he ought to start as quickly as possible. Abandoning the bank, he became a musician again, and now we have Guapapasea! to enjoy. “Life is short”, he sings, so that we will all know his secret. It comes right after he asks the listener how come they do him like they do him, but no doubt he means it seriously.
The tone is mellow, the trumpets sound lively and smart, and Turner’s voice sometimes seems to be on the verge of a laugh; this album is more of a warm-in than a chill-out. It’s filled with happy energy, even when he’s singing the title song, “45,000$ (Guapa Pasea)”, which refers to street prostitution. “It relates to the immigration mafia,” he explains in the press kit, “People from Africa pay $45,000 to get into Europe with a phoney passport, but no chances to get good work. They often have to work as prostitutes to pay back that $45,000. Guapa Pasea is an idiomatic expression for prostitutes walking.”
He means to criticise, but when the beat starts up and the music starts twitching, and he starts singing, “I’m walkin’ down the same old road”, it sounds more like a celebration of sexual strut than anything else in the world. “45,000$ (Guapa Pasea)” is as friendly as “Limón En La Cabeza”, which builds itself around Turner’s peppery voice, followed by jets of brass; and it’s as relaxed as the Dylan cover, now titled “Tristezas Del Blues Nostalgico Y Subterráneo”, which slouches around with a loungy tropical flute and some of those cool finger-clicks before finishing with a smooth “Shhhyow”. The shhhyow crests and washes into the beginning of the next song. Horns blossom, and reggae steps in with a rock-and-knock beat. Things bounce. The piano in “Monka Mongas” switches its bottom. “How Come You Do Me Like You Do Me (Big Bang Romeo)” begins with a lash of drums, and for a moment it feels as if we’re about to get into something more overtly energetic, but no, the drums have had their moment in the sun and are submerged in the warmth of the music.
Guapapasea! comes in an annoying cardboard case with a plastic grip so tight that I’m afraid I’m going to snap the CD every time I take it out, but the music is so smooth and good-natured that I can’t stay angry. It’s not an original sound, but it’s unoriginal in lots of nice ways. One for bachelor pads everywhere.