"During Mary's voyage all waves fell asleep.
The storm swelled -- and that was Mary
Serenity appeared -- and that was Mary"
(Translation, "Maria que iba en el mar")
Unearthing primal folk music and giving it new life has countless precedents. Bela Bartok was a master, as was Benjamin Britten. Rock has its own legions of folk innovators, and projects such as Spooky Actions' "Songs of the Nations" shows that jazz musicians can also appreciate a simple, durable motif.
The marvelous singer Lucia Pulido, who has been mining the musical heritage of her native Colombia, performed at the Hiro Ballroom on January 10th. One of the songs she presented from the Afro-Colombian repertoire was "Maria que iba en el mar" a song from the Pacific coast of Colombia. It's a dazzling vision of the Virgin Mary taking a cue from her son, and walking on the water. It is also a wonderful amalgam of indigenous, African and Christian expression.
The melody is simple enough, but the arrangement by guitarist Sebastian Cruz and bassist Stomu Takeishi colors each phrase a little bit differently, bringing out a prism of harmonic possibilities and taking us into the realm of lieder. Pulido sinks into the song so that she is not just singing it; she is channeling it and projecting the hallucinatory revelation to the audience. This is deep stuff.
The Hiro ballroom is a cavernous space, and Pulido's art is nuanced and intimate by nature. But as she sang, the audience was drawn ever closer to the stage, and the fact that the only ambient noise you hear is the exhaust system of the room tells you something about this woman's ability to hush a crowd.
(But next time I'll bring a blank disk to record off the board.)