Crossing Invisible Borderlines

by Josef Woodard

SONG OF THE WEEK DEPT.: For a taste of what
makes Mixtec/Minnesotan singer Lila Downs so
tantalizing, proceed to track 12, the traditional Mexican tune
“Arboles de La Barranca,” on her super cool new CD, La Cantina.
Downs sings its looping melody with her usual boldness and warmth,
while Aneiro Taño’s deliciously whacked
arrangements spin out crazy chromatic lines and echoes of
Nino Rota and psychedelic circus music. It’s a bit
mind-blowing, actually. Next, back up to track 11, “La Noche de Mi
Mal,” written in 1953 by famed Mexican songwriter José
Alfredo Jimenez
. Here, the mood is slow and steamy, and
Downs’s impassioned voice digs into pathos, just shy of melodrama,
pining for lost love and “the black night of my demise.”

These are but two stops on the delightfully confusing map of
Downs’s freely, dogmatically border-crossing musical life, which
has placed her in recent years in a lofty position within so-called
“world music.” The daughter of a Scottish-American cinematographer
and a singing Oaxacan mother, and with a rover’s tendency which has
taken her all over North America and beyond, Downs — playing
Campbell Hall on Tuesday — has become a new kind of multicultural
ambassador. She nabbed a Latin Grammy, not to mention an expanding
fandom, with 2004’s border-hopping album Una Sangre: One Blood, and
appeared, musically and onscreen, in the biopic Frida.

With her fine, saucy new CD, the 38-year-old Downs mostly gives
her eclecticism a holiday, instead inserting herself deep in the
traditional world of the ranchera and singing her heart and lungs
out. Ironically (or not), the sounds on La Cantina will be more
familiar to local listeners and radio dial-surfers, who have either
run across or come to love and hang out on Spanish language station
KSPE (94.5 fm) — the finest station in Santa Barbara, or at least
the station most likely to satisfy fans of tuba, accordion,
harmonized trumpets, and indigenous exoticism.

reasons to warm up to Sangam (ECM), the new album by Santa
Barbara-based saxophonist Charles Lloyd. Apart
from the impressionistic power of the music itself, in a special
trio of Lloyd, tabla master Zakir Hussain, and
impressive young drummer Eric Harland, there is
the locally significant fact that this is the first major album to
have been recorded live in our much-loved Lobero Theatre. That
color angle validates affection felt for the venue, while also
affirming the notion that this theater may be one of the finest
jazz houses in the nation.

Recorded live at the Lobero on March 24, 2004, by SoundDesign
studio’s Dom Camardella, the album captures the
first step of what has become an intriguing side project in Lloyd’s
musical world, alongside his quartet. Originally formed as a
tribute to the late great drummer Billy Higgins,
who played with Lloyd in his final years, the trio went on to play
around the world (this scribe was wowed and lulled by performances
in Berlin and Montreal), but has yet to capture the American ear or
gigs much. But that’s a familiar story with Lloyd during his ECM
years, starting with 1989’s Fish out of Water. Lloyd was a huge
sensation in the ’60s (his best-selling album Forest Flower
celebrates its 40th anniversary this year), before jumping off the
merry-go-round of public life for a long hermitage in Big Sur and
Santa Barbara.

Lloyd will make a rare non-musical public appearance, signing
CDs at Border’s, Saturday at 6 p.m. Or maybe horn will be in tow,
and he can offer a sample of the sublime stuff heard just around
the corner in the Lobero (and will be again, with a concert date
there to be announced).

KUDOS DEPT.: Congrats go out to the Dos
Pueblos Jazz Choir and Combo
, led by Ike
, which won most outstanding high school vocal
group and other awards at the North Texas Jazz Festival. Check ’em
out on Channel 17, May 16 at 7 p.m. (Got e? Email


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.