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Album review: Trio Caliente's 'Oye Chica'

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Friday, January 14, 2011

TRIO CALIENTE "Oye Chica"

Kindred spirits: Gipsy Kings, Paco de Lucia, Del Castillo, Bebel Gilberto

Shows: Tuesday at Blues Alley. Shows are at 8 and 10 p.m. 202-337-4141. www.bluesalley.com . $20.

Just as such musicians as Taj Mahal and Otis Taylor have tackled the entire spectrum of African diaspora music - from country blues to urban funk, from reggae to Afropop - Washington's Trio Caliente has taken on the full soundscape of Iberian music - from gypsy music to flamenco, from Brazilian samba to Puerto Rican salsa.

The group's second album, "Oye Chica," is not a homogenized mish-mash but a hopscotch game that jumps from one style to another so gracefully that the differences are emphasized as much as the rhythmic tension that characterizes Iberian music. Threading the tunes together are the acoustic guitars of Miguel Bard and Amilcar Cruz. Out front is Bard's wife, Deborah Brenner, whose note-shifting soprano hints at her jazz background.

Hand drummer Alfredo Mojica joins the trio on seven of the 13 numbers, including the title track, a bilingual rumba that establishes a supple dance groove and opens room for each inventive guitar solo. The contrast between the underlying pulse and the freewheeling guitar embellishments can also be heard on such midtempo numbers as the Brazilian samba "Eternidade" and the Argentine tango "Suenos." The lyrics are a bit hackneyed and the music lapses into smooth jazz a few times, but when Trio Caliente cuts loose on theme song "Mucho Caliente," there's no resisting the push-and-pull between the insistent beat and the tangent-loving guitars and voices.

- Geoffrey Himes


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