Audience members who attended the Magos Herrera and Javier Limón concert at the Americas Society received a single red rose as a sweet gesture to celebrate both the approaching Valentine’s Day holiday and the evening’s passionate musical performance.
Singer Magos Herrera and flamenco guitarist Javier Limón are a distinctive duo that manages to combine Herrera’s alternately smoky and silky-smooth jazz vocals and melodic Sephardic inflections with Limón’s graceful Latin guitar rhythms. Born in Mexico and currently based in New York City, Magos Herrera is well-known throughout Latin America for her mesmerizing voice and her accomplished songwriting. Guitarist Javier Limón, a GRAMMY-award winning producer who specializes in flamenco, jazz, Latin jazz, and world music. Together, they have appeared as featured artists on National Public Radio. Herrera recently performed a tribute to Chick Corea this past autumn as a curator at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust.
Limón opened the Americas Society concert with a soothing solo guitar prelude that transitioned into flamenco strumming with Phrygian cadences, leading the way for Herrera. The long silver necklace she wore was simply breathtaking, not only in appearance but for how it made delicate percussive sounds as she swayed to the rhythm of her voice. The atmosphere in the room was very intimate as Herrera and Limón performed eleven songs from their two albums, Dawn (OKeh Records 2013) and He for She (Sony 2015), which includes both originals and covers. They excel at effortlessly blending bossa nova and flamenco musical styles.
In their song, “My Love for You,” Limón mixed flamenco chords with blues and jazz overtones while Herrera delivered her beautifully shaped vocal lines. In “Deja la Vida Volar (En Vivo),” Herrera distorts the sense of time by pushing the energy of the song back and forth while Limón shadows her on guitar. Their hip arrangement of Mongo Sanataria’s “Afro Blue” captured the essence of the song while incorporating beautifully unexpected turns. Limón broke into a flat6-flat7-1 cadence, which gave the song a more playful spirit as Herrera incorporated quotes from other songs, including the Police’s “Roxanne,” and Nina Simone’s “I’m Feeling Good.” The duo also worked Tom Jobim’s “Brigas Nunca Mais (En Vivo),” Silvio Rodriguez’s “Rabo De Nube” and Osvaldo Farres’ “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás (En Vivo),” into the repertoire.
The concert concluded with Alvaro Carillo’s “Luz de Luna” and Paco de Lucía’s free arrangement of ”Among the Waters (En Vivo).” A young guest singer, Tonina, joined Herrera to add a perfectly executed dialogue, over a bravura harmonica solo by Gregoire Maret and a free-style dance by Reggie “Regg Roc” Grey and Shellz “Suzie Q’ Felton. The dancers ornamented the performance with their interpretation of both Alvaro Carillo’s Afro-Mexican rhythms and Paco de Lucía’s iconic melody. In closing, Limón, who started his career as a record producer with Paco de Lucía’s 2004 Latin Grammy winning album, Cositas Buenas, announced to a surprised audience that the guitar he was playing was none other than “La Reina”–Paco’s last guitar. Magos added emotionally, “It is the first time she has been out since [Lucía’s] passing.”
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