Con AlmaThursday, April 10, 2008
My On Line RAE (Real Academia Española) dictionary of the Spanish language defines alma as:
(Del lat. anĭma).
1. f. Principio que da forma y organiza el dinamismo vegetativo, sensitivo e intelectual de la vida.
Unlike soul (the equivalent in English) alma comes from the Latin anima so it has a slightly different flavour in both sound and meaning. Translating the above definition alma is defined as the principle that gives form and organizes the vegetative, sensitive and intelectual dynamism of life.
It is perhaps because of that askew meaning to alma with no side definitions associated with soul music (as an example) that I find Dizzy Gillespie's composition Con Alma so special. It is beautiful and the name, in Spanish, is icing on that cake.
When I take Rebecca to her ballet classes on Wednesdays I always insert a new CD with a track of my choice. She always wants to know what we are listening to. Her last "in-car-hit-parade" was Bach's Toccata in D minor for organ, ("That Dracula, piece,"in Rebecca's words). Her choice now is track 2 of Dizzy Gillespie Con Alma . This is a 9 minute 25 second version of Gillespie's classic.
The CD has no liner notes. No explanations are given and by the sound of the album I had nailed my Argentine countryman Lalo Schifrin on the piano. Rebecca thinks the song is lovely. I have a fondness for the constant maraca beat. At first Rebecca was confused when I told her Gillespie was playing the trumpet. She expected the open horn sound. In this tune Gillespie starts with a muted horn and only plays the open horn later on. The sax player (on tenor sax) is particulary good and I had guessed he was James Moody.
I was wrong on all counts. I woke up my friend alto saxophonist Gavin Walker today and we did some research on what he calls minutiae. The clincher was the 9 minute 25 second duration of Con Alma. He identified the sax player as Sonny Stitt and the piano player as Ray Bryant. Drummer Charlie Persip is perhaps the one with the maracas.
Before Gavin rang off he said, "Make sure you tell Rebecca that she has good taste." I would not want to confirm Walker's statement as that would mean that I have good taste, too! But Rebecca and I seem to agree. We both love listening to the many versions of Gerrry Mulligan playing My Funny Valentine. I will have to introduce her soon to that classic Brubeck composition The Duke (in honour of Duke Ellington)or my different versions of I Didn't Know What Time It Was particularly the one with Lester Young. And then there is Charlie Haden's (Quartet West- In Angel City) First Song (For Ruth). But then there is the Stan Getz (with Kenny Barron on piano) interpretation of First Song (For Ruth)... Will I be able to get all this into Rebecca before we are cut off at the path by her emerging teenagehood?