There are few things more exciting than watching young (or not so young) musicians find their voices. The sound of discovery shines out of every track on “Opaluna” (Ridgeway Records), the eponymous new album by two 20-something musicians, the Colombian-born vocalist Susana Pineda and Bay Area guitarist Luis Salcedo.
Pineda hails from Medellin and decided to study in the U.S. with the encouragement of her mentor, Claudia Gomez, who was a major force in the Bay Area Latin music scene in the 1980s and '90s before moving back to Colombia. Pineda and Salcedo met at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley, and they’ve honed a gorgeous roots-meets-21st century sound filtered through their love of jazz.
Salcedo is an accomplished guitarist who creates intricately latticed settings for Pineda’s gleaming vocals, breathing new life into the classic bolero "Dos Gardenias." They're joined on several tracks by percussion maestro John Santos and bassist Jeff Denson, who produced the album (and founded and runs Ridgeway Records). Their originals are consistently winsome and winning, but I particularly loved their arrangement of “Mahjong” (with Santos) that foregrounds the folkloric melodic core of Wayne Shorter’s cosmic harmonies.