Guillermo Klein: Domador de Huellas, Music of “Cuchi” Leguizamon

The Argentinean pianist delivers a deeply riveting program of music by a late countryman, creating a fresh sound in international jazz.

Guillermo Klein

Domador de Huellas, Music of “Cuchi” Leguizamon

Label: Sunnyside
US Release Date: 2010-08-10
UK Release Date: 2010-08-09

Guillermo Klein is part of the rich and rewarding internationalization of jazz in recent decades. The pianist moved to Boston from his native Argentina in 1990 to study at Berklee, and his group Los Guachos made a great impact in New York in the late 1990s. Klein’s compositions and style reflect how jazz has become increasingly catholic, sweeping in vast influences. Once there was “jazz” and a single subgenre of “Latin jazz”. Today, and because of figures such as Klein, the music easily blends with scores of specific international sources with no need for a hyphenated (and diminishing) descriptor.

Domador de Huellas is Klein’s most specific and riveting project to date: a reworking of compositions by the Argentinean composer and attorney Gustavo “Cache” Leguizamon. Recorded at a time when Klein had recently returned home after years living in Spain and the U.S., this latest project is heartfelt but also rich with alchemy. Klein may be interpreting the work of a celebrated national legend, but he is also putting on a jazz clinic in inventive arrangement and band leading.

I am no expert on Leguizamon, as few jazz listeners will be. But what I hear in Domador is a pungent jazz record that sounds fresh and contemporary despite being based on folkloric compositions. Klein seems to have thought through the zambas and tangos of Leguizamon and achieved a truly new way of expressing them. This is a Guillermo Klein album, most assuredly, with the rich harmonic palette of a jazz musician coloring the pointed emotion of the source material.

“Me Voy Quedando”, for example, places a searching piano melody atop a simple repeated line played on a Fender Rhodes electric piano, all with the underpinning of a swift syncopated set of cymbal patterns. While this may be folk music on some level, Klein’s arrangement gives it the complexity or subtlety of bebop. “Carnavalito del Duende” has the swagger of a hard bop tune by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, with a punching front line of trumpet and saxophone, but the groove beneath it thumps with Latin authority. The band is able effortlessly to slip from a funky blues stomp into a magical, floating suspension of time, and the wild group improvisation is as hip as “Free Jazz” but much more fun. This is folk music?

Klein gets beguiling vocal performances on several tunes. Lillian Herrera is light but smoky on “La Pomeña”, with the horns floating behind her like a brassy chorale. She also adds to “Serenata del 900”, which begins as an impressionistic art piece and then moves into a slightly dissonant groove. Herrera sings a middle section as a ballad, and it is flat-out beautiful. Carme Canela is a sweeter presence featured on “Cartas de Amor que se Queman”, a long-form melody where guitarist Ben Monder also guests beautifully.

While the overall sound of Domador is drenched in jazz voicings and techniques, Klein wisely limits the conventional jazz soloing to keep the focus on the songs. The crackling trumpet solo on “Coplas del Regreso” is tasty and an exception, but more typical is the slow melodic development of the tune on “Zampa de la Viuda”. Klein himself plays lovely accompaniment, but he is hardly the focus of the instrumental work. Klein does sing modestly on several songs, but it’s all in the service of the tunes and his arrangements. They are both wonderful.

There are a couple of exceptional touches that mark Domador as unique and fresh piece of music. First, Klein uses the Fender Rhodes electric piano throughout these arrangements as a subtle but distinct voice—not merely another piano playing chords but a fresh color in the ensemble, usually playing single-note lines or other written parts. Second, Klein’s use of bass clarinet in the ensembles is rich and unusual. It is not so much that the instrument takes a lead role, but it is the way it lurks about the corners of the arrangements, filling out the bottom with some mystery. Nice.

One of the best things about Domador de Huellas (literally “the tamer of the footprints”) is the way Klein varies his ensemble sound from track to track while still maintaining a sense of focus. Aside from different vocalists, who do not actually dominate the record, Klein moves different instruments into the foreground on different arrangements. For example, the bulk of “Maturana” is a chorale for horns alone without accompaniment.

The effect of this shifting group sound over a menu of 14 relatively short tracks is mesmerizing. Domador has a new surprise or variation around every corner. For listeners with a taste for Argentina, Klein’s jazz prism on his countryman’s music amounts to a thorough reinterpretation. For jazz fans, Klein’s latest is further evidence that the art form is large enough to encompass super-specific subgenres that, truthfully, are no longer sub-genres at all.

With a talent like Klein, jazz seems larger and more profound than what might narrowly be thought of as our national music. He has got New York and Buenos Aires stewing together in the same glorious pot, and the world seems at once that much richer and that much smaller.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.