After a dreary day dotted with rainstorms, Aca Seca Trio opened the windows and let in the fresh air on Friday evening. On a stage framed by large oaks draped in Spanish moss in the Cistern, the group — comprised of Juan Quintero (guitar, vocals), Andres Beeuwsaert (piano, vocals), and Mariano Cantero (percussion, vocials) — took the audience on an auditory tour of Argentina’s rhythmic traditions.
The trio’s set opened with “Ventanas” (Windows), the title track of their 2009 album. Light and airy, the song served as an ideal introduction to any audience members who may have been unfamiliar with the group’s sound prior to the event. It perfectly captured the spirit of discovery Aca Seca Trio tries to infuse into each live performance.
The trio played a second song before taking a moment to chat with the crowd. Quintero, the group’s primary composer and vocalist, apologized for the musicians’ poor English and then laughingly assured the crowd that there would be no tangos played that evening. Instead, the group focused on sounds lesser known to American audiences, beats deeply rooted in the southeastern regions of South America, such as chacarera and other fiesta and festive rhythms. Cantero’s percussion set-up featured all of the standard snares and brushes of a jazz drum kit but were rounded out by a number of other percussive instruments native to South American music, such as a conga drum and a cajón, and the drummer masterfully blended classic jazz with traditional beats.
Throughout the set, Aca Seca played fresh arrangements of songs by well known Argentinian and Uruguayan composers as well as original pieces. From Don Quixote to the Pasarero River to pirates, each song opened doors to the folklore traditions of South America under modern interpretations from each musician. Due to the language barrier, banter with the audience was minimal, but there was a world of conversation musically between the instruments and their skillful handlers, and the night was filled with creative improvisation.
Quintero touched on a nostalgic note, introducing several songs about leaving his home for the first time and being grateful to the people at home who supported him while he was gone. “Equipaje” (Luggage) began with a wistful piano introduction from Beeuwsaert, and Quintero later joined in with vocals that managed to capture a simultaneous sense of homesickness and hopefulness.
The final reward of the evening rested in Aca Seca Trio’s encore. When the musicians came back on stage, rather than walking back to their instruments, the three gathered at the front to sing “Pobre Mi Negra,” a mournful song sung a cappella. There was a certain vulnerability to watching these three men who had spent the whole night anchored to their instruments now facing the crowd empty-handed and offering up clear, haunting harmonies with such an ancient sound. On their second and final encore song, Cantero picked up a bombo legüero, a traditional Argentinian drum, and the other two joined in with smaller percussion instruments to sing a joyous song that had the crowd laughing and clapping. The emotional extremes of the encore offered a slice of what Aca Seca Trio aims to do with all of the music they play — explore the past and future and all of the emotions that lie between.