My Favorites (Jazz): “Pure Imagination” Claudia Acuna

When a piano player buddy of mine said he was coming to town he invited me to come to one of his performances at the Kennedy Center.  He said he was playing with a vocalist and he gave me a comp ticket to come check out the show.  I tiptoed into the concert hall as the show had already started and I sat and listened to a gorgeous rich voice sing some new and fresh interpretations of old classics as well as some of her originals.  I knew the piano playing was already going to be good because I went to high school with Jason Linder and he already had skills back then.  That’s why I had him play on my audition tape to college.  

The vocalist I experienced that night was Chilean born Claudia Acuna.  Maybe it was the time in my life where I had just recently gone through a relationship break up and her music spoke to that part of me, or maybe it was inventiveness of the arrangements that captivated me, either way I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and wanted to hear more.  I went out and bought a couple of her CDs to see if there were some more gems to be heard.  I was not disappointed.  Her collection of CDs have some enjoyable renditions of pieces from the jazz canon and some that are outside of the typical jazz repertoire.  My favorite pieces are definitely her version of Djavan’s “Oceano” and her interpretation of the classic song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, “Pure Imagination.”

My dad used to play that song on the piano when I was growing up.  I have fond memories of hearing that song as a child when times were simpler (at least for me they were).  Ms. Acuna’s version begins in what is technically 4/4 time but feels like a kind of 8/8 the way the phrase is structured.  The bridge section is in 6/8 and has an interlude section that follows and picks up the bridge again before going to the “A” section one more time then vamping out at the end. 

The rhythm section moves well together and sounds like a cohesive unit.  When one person fills in between phrases the other musicians create space and don’t step on each other.  I especially like the space created between the drums and the bass.  The bass player is not walking on all four (or eight) beats and the drummer uses his cymbals to help add color.  There is a clear team effort in this ensemble and Ms. Acuna floats above the music with ease and brings a quiet fire to the rendition with her expressive accents and dynamic subtle moments.

Aside from the musicality of this recording I’ve always loved the lyrics that put you back in touch with your own childhood innocence and wonder:  “Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination, take a look and you’ll see into your imagination…” “If you want to view paradise simply look around and view it, anything you want to, do it… want to change the world there’s nothing to it.”

A truly wonderful recording and I must say this song has consistently been in my playlist for a while now.  Give it a listen, you will not be disappointed.

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