Does the combination of normal winter temperatures, the end of the holidays and the ongoing struggle to recover from New Year's Eve excesses have you ready to slouch into 2002 as a couch potato? Don't sink into hibernation just yet, compadres. Head down to Jazz at the Bistro to catch a South American vibe that just might warm up your outlook on the upcoming year. This tropical respite comes in the person of vocalist Claudia Acuña, a native of Chile who's created quite a stir in the NYC jazz scene over the past year. Acua's debut on the Verve label, Wind From the South, showcases her rich warm alto, impeccable technique and unique blend of Latin rhythms and jazz swing.
In addition to being a talented singer, Acua has a great backstory, straight out of '30s-era Hollywood. After absorbing everything she could from the limited Santiago jazz scene, Acua left Chile and headed to New York in 1995. During the day, she scraped by with the odd babysitting or dog-walking job; evenings she spent waiting to sit in on late-night jam sessions. Eventually she took a job at the famed Blue Note nightclub, where jazz legend Betty Carter heard her sing in one of those jam sessions. Carter took Acua under her wing, and soon Verve offered her a recording contract. Acua impressed the critics with her first recording, but, more important, she earned the respect of jazz musicians. Maybe that's why her backing band at the Bistro includes the likes of Robin Eubanks on trombone, longtime Herbie Hancock drummer Gene Jackson and rising star Jason Lindner on piano. Check it out; years from now, you'll be able to say you were hip to Acua way back in 2002.