February 4, 2019. There are great instrumentalists who are adequate vocalists and terrific singers who can play a few notes, but it’s rare to find an artist who does both—play and sing—with virtuosity. Cuban-born flutist and vocalist, Magela Herrera, is one of these musical unicorns. In her debut album as a leading lady, Explicaciones, Herrera lets her versatile musicianship do all the necessary explanation.
When you listen to the album, you’ll notice that Herrera’s dual talents do not exist in isolation from each other; they profitably co-exist and inform one another. It’s because she sings so well that she’s able to phrase so nicely and cleanly on flute.
Similarly remarkable is Herrera’s ability to simultaneously blend mastery of traditional Cuban and Latin American forms with a penchant for decidedly contemporary arrangements, characterized in no small part by alternating and complex time signatures. For this, see, most notably, her fresh reconstruction of perhaps the most recorded of the traditional boleros, “Besame Mucho.”
Her treatment of the traditional Cuban danzón in “Danzón Para Papá” is similarly faithful yet innovative, with masterful piano playing by Tal Cohen that conjures the energetic and Latin-infused style of Bobby Enriquez.
Herrera signs off with an R&B-infused take on “My One and Only Love,” capturing the inherent plaintive, almost desperate, yearning that you’ll find in the best renditions of the Guy Wood standard. We will miss Ms. Herrera until a next time that seems much too far away.