JANUARY 31, 2019
"Magela Herrera: Explicaciones"
By Raul Da Gama
Raul Da Gama praises Magela's album 'Explicaciones' for it's blend of her unique take on familiar tunes and beautifully written original pieces.
"La vocalista, flautista y compositora cubana Magela Herrera debuta con Explicaciones para el sello Brontosaurus Records. Con un amplio bagaje tanto en el Jazz, como en Latin Jazz y la tradición afro-cubana, la habanera propone un discurso musical de un virtuosismo fascinante. Actualmente radicada en Miami, Magela paso una temporada en Noruega, país donde adquirió un master en el Norwegian Academy Of Music.
Herrera integro el ensamble Mezcla entre el 2004 y el 2011, un octeto liderado por Pablo Menéndez. Con el mismo Menéndez grabo para el sello Zoho el disco I´ll See You In Cuba en el 2010. Ademas de compartir tarima como reconocidos músicos como Chucho Valdés, Roberto Garcia, Ruy Lopez Nussa (Cuba), Barbara Dane (USA), Jan Eggum(Norway), Sverre Indris Joner y su grupo Hovedøen Social Club (Noruega), Alejandro Vargas (Cuba), Sanskriti Shrestha(Nepal).
En Explicaciones, disco grabado totalmente en Miami, Magela es secundada por un grupo de músicos de primer nivel asentados en el area de Miami. Aqui presenta 8 números: 5 de su propia autoria y 3 covers (Bésame Mucho, Que Te Pedi y My One And Only Love). En Two Sidewalks se tienden puentes entre dos mundos que impregnaron la música de la flautista: el jazz noruego y el funk de Miami. El numero que le da titulo al album destaca a la propia Magela en la parte vocal. El clásico Besame Mucho de Consuelo Velazquez es re-interpretado con una base de guaguanco y la destacada actuación de Tal Cohen en el piano. En Danzón Para Papa Magela se encarga de un fenomenal solo de flauta."
JANUARY 16, 2019
"Magela Herrera Explicaciones"
By Jim Hynes
Magela Herrera is a Cuban-born, Miami-based vocalist, composer and flute virtuoso making her debut as a bandleader with Explicaciones. Not since the days of those classic CTI Hubert Laws albums and those Atlantic LPs from Herbie Mann, has this writer heard such an expressive flutist. Yes, we could add Charles Lloyd’a alto flute to that list too. Beyond the flute though, Herrera is a sensual, vibrant vocalist and composer with a solid beginning and promising future. She leads a small ensemble of some of Miami’s best players through originals, jazz standards, Latin and Cuban favorites. Her unique background is the melding of several influences and experiences.
This experience includes Latin Jazz, Euro jazz, classic Afro-Cuban traditions, jazz fusion and electronica. She was a member of Mezcla – one of Cuba’s leading jazz and fusion groups from 2004 through 2011. In 2010 Herrera was nominated for Best Solo Flute from the New York based magazine Jazz Corner for the tune “Quien tiene el ritmo,” from the Mezcla album I’ll See You in Cuba, which was also nominated for Best Album.
Herrera, though, has an exploratory spirit that pushed her beyond her Cuban roots. She lived in Norway for several years, learning about jazz and improvisation while earning Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Jazz Performance from the Norwegian Academy of Music. This was a major change from her earlier days studying classical music at the Conservatory of Music in Havana where she earned her first Bachelor’s. It was in Norway that Herrera began to overcome her shy nature, build confidence and explore music freely.
The last few months have been heavy on Latin jazz, with much of it devoted to childhood memories or forgotten performers. It's also common to add just a bit of Latin jazz to another sub-genre of jazz such as big band or even organ trios as an "influence" or a hybridization. What isn't common is taking Latin jazz into new directions, possibly because the form is so hewed to traditions. This is what makes Magela Herrera's new album, Explicaciones, so fascinating from first listen--this Cuban-born flute virtuoso and vocalist is dead-set on making a memorable first impression with her debut as a bandleader and composer by putting so much of herself into these song arrangements, and veering off in exciting new directions.
Herrera was a member of Mezcla, a fusion jazz group from Cuba, for six years. Perhaps this is what informs her adventurous side, her ability to step away from normal Caribbean rhythms and styles and devote herself to a completely new approach. Her arrangements avoid the well-traveled roads of Latin jazz and establish a novel, sometimes thorny approach that sounds like she's re-inventing the form, even with familiar compositions as "Besame Mucho" and "My One and Only Love." (Most of this album contains her original compositions, but they blend seamlessly with the covers.)
Herrera has surrounded herself with some of the best Latin jazz performers in Miami for Explicaciones, and that helps to ground her and remind her of the musical foundations she needs to protect. Her willingness to stray and explore, however, must come from studying at the Norwegian Academy of Music, where she earned two degrees in Jazz Performance. "They didn't force us to follow rules, "Herrera explains in the liner notes. "I found it more comfortable to write music outside a strict pattern, to create whatever was in my head." This new chapter in her life gave her the confidence to start composing and arranging on her own, culminating in this, her first solo album.
Herrera does alternate freely between flute and vocals, and she's equally adept. Her singing voice is rich, direct and full of warmth, and I'm tempted to say the same thing about her flute. Herrera's approach to the flute is more direct than most--her notes focus on the power of the melody as opposed to dancing around the edges, and that creates an accessibility that will guide you through the more ambitious passages, such as in the intriguing opener, "Two Sidewalks." While the rest of the album takes a step back and eases up the tension, "Two Sidewalks" is a mighty impressive opening statement from Herrera, one that lays down all the rules, or lack thereof. This is the album to listen to when you think you've heard enough Latin jazz and you're clamoring for something new, but you still want to soak in that infectious energy. Highly recommended.