I waited a few days to listen to Camila Meza’s PRISMA, the release of which she celebrated last week at the Kitano. The recording is more than representative of her great talent, exceeding my expectations, which were high to begin with. She has transported the ethereal vibe of her earlier work, which always seemed to me to evoke the sea and sky of her native Chile, into the jazz standards of North America and Brazil, and done so with a crystalline unity of instrument and voice, the former of which includes the signature sound of her own guitar.
She has always been a master blender of voice, guitar, backing band, language, and environment. It’s what has brought me back so often to her concerts, including a splendid one some months back at the Jazz Standard. The result is magical, an effortless segueing between songs and languages in a sort of borderless dominion of jazz, basso nova, and Chilean folk: the composers and lyricists refracted on the appropriately titled PRISMA include Jobim, Jarreau and Jara. There are six songs in three languages, Spanish, Portuguese, and English, which follows the arc of an artistry that I have seen develop for several years. I was glad to receive this honed and crafted work of art at an event that included still newer tunes and a surprise appearance by the Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana, with whose instrument Meza’s guitar has a special affinity. I would, in fact, like to see some numbers in the future that feature just that guitar, which is easy to forget about when Meza sings, her throat characteristically up-stretched, as though beseeching something far up in the sky, or the heavens.
Her vocals were, nonetheless, a bit overwhelmed by the band on Thursday, which is atypical given the sensitivity she usually has to her environs. Perhaps it was just where I was sitting, directly under one of the speakers. And the host of the event put a damper on the audience by starting the concert with an admonition that we were to sit respectfully as though we were at Carnegie Hall listening to a classicist pianist. We didn’t need the lecture, and the tone he set did more of a disservice than a favor to the talented artist we were there to hear. But what a remarkable piece of work she left us with: PRISMA is a little masterpiece, like blown glass in musical form.