Pianist and composer Guillermo Klein is a “jazz” musician because jazz is the only category that might comfortably hold his singular, fascinating music in its grip. Sure, Klein studied at Berklee in the 1990s, and there’s no doubt that his bands consist of trumpets and saxophones—played by jazz musicians. His large band had a residency at Small’s (a jazz club) in New York for a long time.
But his music ought to have it’s own name, somehow. It is that unique and intriguing.
Klein uses vocals (often in harmony) as well as horns, muted effects, interesting combinations of sound, and combining acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes electric piano. The result is music that is occasionally Ellingtonian, occasionally classical, and always beautiful. But it is a subtle beauty. There is little to Los Gauchos’ sound that has a sense of jazz swing or dynamic insistence. It is enigmatic music, perhaps. To its great credit.
“Globo” is a fine and astonishing example. This ballad sets up an austere vocal by alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon, usually shadowed by Klein’s baritone harmony an octave lower. The range of instrumental colors Klein accesses here has a gauzy beauty, from Ben Monder’s subtle guitar figures, to piercing muted brass, to buzzing low saxophones that barely register in the usual way. “AnteSano” embodies revelatory arrangement too, but in a different direction. Klein conjures fascinating sonorities by combining Rhodes and flute, handclaps and other percussion, Bill McHenry’s almost mathematical tenor sax solo with a set of written parts for other horns. This is music with the playfulness, say, of Chick Corea’s work, but it’s freighted with other unique flavors—kept close to the ground, for example, but a strong part for baritone sax. Wonderful.
Read the entire PopMatters review here: Guillermo Klein: Carrera