One of the highlights of Spoleto Festival USA is the Wells Fargo Jazz Series. Curator Michael Grofsorean always assembles a diverse ensemble of jazz artists from around the world. While the Cistern offers the more magnificent setting, the concerts in the intimate Recital Hall at the College of Charleston are not to be missed. There is something about being in close quarters with a master musician that is both entertaining and inspiring. That was the setting for the North American debut of Argentinean composer, arranger, pianist, and guitarist Carlos Aguirre. He calmly walked on stage and thanked the audience for coming and informed us that he would be using a translator. While his stories might have needed explaining, his music transcended language, and the hour and 15 minute journey into the heart of South American jazz was a beautiful way to spend an evening.
With no flashy lights or sets, the music is the main attraction, and Mr. Aguirre did not disappoint. A piece titled “Un Pueblo de Paso” was a haunting, multi-layered song for the piano that sounded exotic yet familiar at the same time. (One of my favorite TV series is Six Feet Under, and the song sounded like it came right from the show.) “Lullaby” was mesmerizing. Some pianists seem to take over the piano, forcing it to do their biding. Mr. Aguirre seemed to coax the music into existence as if he was in collaboration with the instrument.
Another highlight was “Passerby,” an original composition played on classical guitar. This song really summed up the tone of the evening. Mr. Aguirre is from a river city in Argentina. He was inspired by this river, how it flows from town to town and brings with it sights and sounds from the people and places along the way. That river is a constant theme. It’s in his music. Most of the songs are short, never staying in one place too long. It’s in his playing. His performance style is one free of judgement and comment. He sings on a lot of his songs and while not a great singer, his voice was perfect for the music, much like the river rolls along from town to town with no judgment on where it is.
At the end of the performance he thanked all of us for opening our hearts to music from a different part of the world. It was a lovely night of music, and I highly recommend seeing it, before the current comes along, picks him up, and takes him away.