The Galician Connection (Zouma Records, 2010)
I had previously written about Galician music for World Music Central and a few of the Galician artists ended up on my favorites list for 2009 including Uxia. Since Galicia, along with Asturias, Spain make up a Celtic region of the world, you would expect to find some kind of bagpipes, and the smaller gaita reigns in Galicia. Galician pianist and piper Cristina Pato isn’t new to my ears. I previously heard samples of her music and have noticed her associations with Yo-Yo Ma and Osvaldo Golijov. She’s collaborated with Cuban expat Paquito D’Rivera, among other notables of Galician and international musicians.
The Galician Connection features the gaita in various guises from traditional Galician folk send-ups such as on the opener, to jazz, to chamber ensemble to passionate ballads. Unfortunately, with so many musical avenues presented on this album, it’s easy for a listener to lose footing. Although each musical selection is beautiful in its own way there doesn’t seem to be a strong enough theme to tie all the music together and the result feels like a sampler album, though still impressive.
Fellow Galician Rose Cedrón delivers powerful vocals throughout and also impressive are the tracks featuring the Victor Prieto trio. But what’s most amazing is the verve and style in which Pato performs both on piano and bagpipes. Sometimes she takes center stage and other times her performances support the vocalist such as on Truman Capote’s A Sleepin’ Bee in which Pato leads off on pipes than switches to jazz piano. The ballads, ‘The Golden Dove’ with Laura Amado on vocals, ‘My Mother Moon’, and ‘Black Carnation’ with Cedrón on vocals certainly grabbed my attention. Pato delivers haunting flamenco piano on ‘Black Carnation’ that resonates in my ears for several moments afterward. These ballads resonate more strongly with each listen.
Pato shows off her versatility as a pianist, composer, piper, and arranger on The Galician Connection. And now that she resides in New York and has connected to notable international musicians, she will bring Galician music into the American spotlight. Here’s hoping anyway.