Music Interviews
5:51 am
Sat August 9, 2014

Magos Herrera And Javier Limon Serve Up Musical Tapas

Originally published on Sat August 9, 2014 9:40 am

Jazz singer Magos Herrera's voice is filled with the contrasts of her native Mexico: It can be honey smooth or smoky rough.

On her latest album, Dawn, Herrera collaborates with Javier Limón, a flamenco guitarist from Spain. The result is a gorgeous collection of American and Latin jazz standards, alongside a selection of classic Mexican folk songs. Herrera joined NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro to discuss the album, and the range of influences it includes. Hear the conversation at the audio link on this page.

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Transcript

JON KALISH, BYLINE: The National Yiddish Book Center shares books with libraries around the world, including the National Library of Israel. For NPR News, I'm Jon Kalish.>>GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jazz singer Magos Herrera's voice is filled with the contrasts of her native Mexico. It can be honey-smooth or smoky-rough.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SKYLARK")

MAGOS HERRERA: (Singing) Skylark, have you anything to say to me? Won't you tell me where my love can be? Is there a meadow in the mist?

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

On her latest album, Dawn, Magos Herrera collaborates with Javier Limon, a flamenco guitarist from Spain. The result of that pairing is a gorgeous musical tapas of American and Latin jazz standards, mixed in with classic Mexican folk songs. Magos Herrera joins me from our studios in New York City. Welcome to the program.

HERRERA: Thank you so much for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What jazz and flamenco have in common is this kind of undercurrent, I think, of longing and pain. Is that why you decided to put them together?

HERRERA: That's an interesting way to put it. But the way I see this combination of flamenco spirit and jazz standards - it just sounds good. It's very organic, you know, this longing and this bluesy spirit of trying to reach something that is unreachable or painful in a way. And so I think all these things together are very obvious.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You can really tell when you have this mixture together. How did you and your musical partner on this - guitarist Javier Limon - choose what music you were going to put on this album? It's a very eclectic mix.

HERRERA: We both wanted to honor the jazz standard repertoire and it was kind of a challenge to pick or to find standards that I thought could work very organically with the flamenco spirit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AFRO BLUE")

HERRERA: (Singing) Dream of the land my soul is from. I hear a hand struck on a drum. Elegant boy - beautiful girl dancing for joy...

HERRERA: I think the whole idea of putting together the repertoire was to honor the jazz standards, but in a very organic and minimalistic way.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AFRO BLUE")

HERRERA: (Singing) ...Shades of the light cocojil (ph). Rich as the night - afro blue.

HERRERA: So I had to look, you know, in the infinity and vast jazz repertoire to find these tunes that I think - that they have this longing spirit that I thought that could work with some flamenco palos - palos flamencos.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Palos flamencos being?

HERRERA: You know, like different rhythms within the flamenco repertoire. So I was trying to find these standards that could work with these ideas and also that the spirit of the songs could work with the same spirit of longing and flamenco (laughing) - flamenco passion.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WILD IS THE WIND")

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You did a version of a song by Johnny Mathis. It's called "Wild is the Wind." What does guitarist Javier Limon's playing bring to a standard like this. I mean, his playing actually sounds like it is the wind.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WILD IS THE WIND")

HERRERA: He's an incredible producer, first of all. So he has a very clear vision of where he wants to take the music. And when we were in the studio in Casa Limon in Madrid, he came up with this idea of making it sound as an actual wind story - like you can hear the guitar blowing and carrying us through the song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WILD IS THE WIND")

HERRERA: (Singing) Satisfy this hungriness. Let the wind blow through your heart, for wild is the wind. You touch me. I hear the sounds of mandolins. You kiss me. And with the kiss the world begins.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It sounds like it was, you know, an intimate collaboration in this sense because you, in the past, have always worked with sort of jazz bands. And this is a much more one-on-one, you and he together in a studio creating music. How was that?

HERRERA: It's been great. I mean, it's been a process of getting to know each other as musicians and also, you know, in a personal level as well. And I think that ends up reflecting into the music. And, you know, there's a very strong connection between Spain and Mexico for obvious reasons. By working with Javier I - funny enough - I'm connecting back with my roots in Mexico. So it's an interesting journey.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Speaking of those roots in Mexico, there's a song on the album called "La Llorona." This is a song based on the classic Mexican folk story. It translates to the weeping woman. Let's listen to some of "La Llorona."

HERRERA: Let's.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA LLORONA")

HERRERA: (Singing in Spanish).

HERRERA: The melody - it's so well-known. And so in this song you can see the relationship between Mexico and Spain so clearly because of the progression and the melody and the embellishments of the melody. To me, it's a very clear reference of connection between our cultural heritage from Spain and Mexico.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And this was a song you knew from a long time ago in Mexico.

HERRERA: Yeah, I mean, "La Llorona" - it's like everybody knows "La Llorona." (Laughing). "La Llorona" - everybody sings "La Llorona." That's why probably I never sang it before, you know, because it's so obvious in our Mexican repertoire that I didn't have the need to sing it. But I think it worked perfect.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA LLORONA")

HERRERA: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Magos Herrera - her latest album, Dawn, with guitarist Javier Limon, is out now. Thank you so much.

HERRERA: Thank you. Thank you and enjoy Dawn.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA LLORONA")

HERRERA: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon will be back next week. I'm Lourdes Garcia-Navarro.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA LLORONA")

HERRERA: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.