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Valeria Matzner: Tamborilero

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Valeria Matzner: Tamborilero
Valeria Matzner is on her way to ascending a don't-touch-me-pinnacle.

What a marvellously unusual recording. The repertoire on Tamborilero by Valeria Matzner, a Montevideo-born Uruguayan now living in Canada echoes with the syncopated rippling thunder of candombe rhythms. Toques de candombe, unique to Uruguay, are deeply African rhythms brought to the new world by Bantu slaves. The patterns on the traditional chico, repique and piano drums, and rhythm samples on drum set and bass for styles like candombe song and candombe Funk. And Miss Matzner channels with vivacity and uncommon elegance throughout her album. It bears mention – at the very outset – that while candombe rhythms are spread across several South American countries, the style played in Uruguay is completely unique.

To achieve this spectacular effect, she has enlisted a trio from the Magno family who are key to achieving this diabolically difficult rhythm, fused into the melody and harmony of music written by Miss Matzner and her keyboardist Scott Metcalfe. The proverbial gauntlet was thrown down to the percussionists that comprise power trio of tamborileros – Andrés Magno, Daniel Magno and Gerardo Magno. And the trio leads the rhythmic charge with absolute mastery. This may be heard everywhere on the album, but particularly on the accelerating break appended to the song that celebrates their speciality – that is: Tamborilero.

Cover design of Valeria Matzner’s classic album Tamborilero

The tambor drum is at the heart of candombe, as we hear throughout this masterful recording. The bottom end is held up by the low-pitched tambor piano drum, the foundation for the candombe rhythm, and is played by Andrés Magno. His rippling grooves are divined by the rolling thunder of drumstick [and often open-handed] striking on the drumskin in unison, producing an accentuated bass line ostinato sequenced in open or muted mode at the drummer’s discretion, his hand often making softened sounds while striking the skin by itself.

Meanwhile Daniel Magno gives shape and structure to the candombe pulse with his higher-pitched tambor chico drum, providing the cuerda or ensemble for maintaining a uniform and continuous beat. His is a heavier hand thumping heavily on the drumskin near the edge with four fingers of one hand, his other hand striking the middle part of the skin with the drumstick. Meanwhile Gerardo Magno keeps the off-centre pulse going with his tambor repique, improvising in short and varied bursts of rhythm, inserting them in and around the prevailing rhythm, playing with one drumstick and one free hand on drumskin and shell.

This [latter-named] Magno’s drum makes three unique sounds, all of which are essential to the repique drum-beat: one is produced by the hand striking the drumskin loudly, another by the drumstick striking the drumskin and the third by the drumstick striking the shell or the upper edge of the drum. All of the above is masterfully held together because of the madera [wood] in use for the rhythmic clave [or key] to candombe, the rhythmic pulse of which is played by the percussionist on the side or shell of the drum with the drumstick.

Of course, at the centre of it all is the ingenuity of Miss Matzner’s artistry and vision for this music. The greatest master of Uruguayan candombe and its incorporation into contemporary music is, with a shred of doubt the master himself: Hugo Fattorusso. Like Mr Fattorusso, Miss Matzner is also a native of Montevideo and clearly gets her inspiration from the master himself. However, she is no slouch as a practitioner of the spectacular musical art.  And with her album Tamborilero she edges ever-closer to creating a don’t-touch-me-pinnacle for herself. The recording also features truly fine drumming by Max Senitt, to augment the magical sound of the Uruguayan tambor. Production values soar with the expertise of Jeremy Ledbetter behind the console.

With great sensitivity and technical mezzo-soprano adroitness, and driven by the strong middle voice, the smoldering lower registers, and the lush tone-qualities she traverses these wonderful songs. Clearly singing is her most natural mode of expression; and since she has an extraordinarily beautiful voice, there should be decades of happiness as she continues to expand her repertoire from Tamborilero and going way beyond into the future.

Deo gratis…

Valeria Matzner Tamborilero, featuring Eliana Cuevas, Live at Lula Lounge

Music – 1: Desterrado; 2: Esa Tristeza; 3: Tamborilero; 4: Igualmente desiguales; 5: Algo en Común; 6: Forcas D’Alma; 7: Grey; 8: Anagrama; 9: Los Artistas.

Musicians – Valeria Matzner: vocals and background vocals; Scott Metcalfe: piano and keyboards; Andrew Stewart: bass; Max Senitt: drums; Special Guests – Juan Carlos Medrano: percussion [2, 5, 6, 7]; Alexis Baro: trumpet [1, 5]; Aleksander Gajic: violin [8]; Ron Christian: flute [5]; Christian Overton: trombone [2]; Joseph Phillips: guitar [9]; Andrés Magno: percussion – tambor piano [1, 3, 4, 8]; Daniel Magno: percussion – tambor chico [1, 3, 4, 8]; Gerardo Magno: percussion – tambor repique [1, 3, 4, 8]; Eliana Cuevas: background vocals [3]; Jeremy Ledbetter: production and background vocals [3].

Released – 2024
Label – Independent
Runtime – 37:33

Based in Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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