Isolation, nostalgia, a sense of not belonging, and living in the in-between are themes that have long resided in Roxana Amed’s songs. The Argentinean singer/songwriter’s latest full-length, Ontology, released by Sony Music Latin, is the culmination of a six-year journey filled with similar ruminations, leading Amed to reaffirm a musical identity unrestrained by genre or geography. “I ended up finding the spot where I should stand to watch myself as an Argentine artist and as a North American artist,” Amed reflected from home in Miami. “That is what I found that was ontologically happening with this music. I was standing on the fusion, on the confluence of these two worlds. In that sense I think this album is the one that best describes me.”
Born in Buenos Aires, Amed has been living stateside since 2013 and is acclaimed in her native country as one of the foremost jazz voices of our time, blending Argentine folk and rock with jazz, a distinction cemented by an eminent career comprised of six critically-acclaimed albums, a DVD, as well as countless performances, collaborations, and awards. Ontology, her seventh release, is a compendium of mostly original pieces created and performed during the last several years.
Framed mainly within a quintet setting, Ontology features bandmates – Martin Bejerano on piano, Mark Small on saxophone, Edward Perez on acoustic bass, and Ludwig Alfonso behind the trap set, as well as an assortment of other guest musicians as Rodolfo Zuniga on drums, Lowell Ringel and Carlo De Rosa on acoustic bass, Tim Jago and Aaron Lebos on electric guitar -masterfully coalescing around the singer, as she leads with her rich and deeply-rooted vocal instrument. Produced by Amed, the album was recorded in Miami’s iconic The Hit Factory/Criteria Recording Studios over three sessions beginning in March 2019 through August 2020, in the midst of the global pandemic. “It was stressful,” Amed recalled. “That whole process was not really happening all together in the same room. It felt interrupted and distant.”
Nonetheless, Ontology came together seamlessly – fourteen tracks fluidly crafted to swing and glide with Amed’s velvety vocals as the unifying force. Amed has mastered the art of laying no distinction bare in music. “My challenge was always trying to find a sound that could sound like jazz but in Spanish,” Amed said. “Where I could scat, but naturally. It was an exploration into both languages. I wanted them to live together in one album again.”
On album opener “Tumbleweed,” Amed weaves a beguiling melody in English lyrics with deep, rich tones as she shades and contours Bejerano’s elegant piano and Smalls’ meandering sax. “Chacarera para la mano izquierda,” rooted in the Argentine folk sound that is the rural answer to tango, was co-written by Amed and Bejerano, who infuses a Latin jazz vamp on piano. “It was so powerful what he was doing with his left hand,” Amed recounted. “I said to him ‘That left hand, my God, that comes from another part of the world.’”
Amed re-imagines Wayne Shorter’s “Virgo,” dressing the composition with her original lyrics, sets Miles Davis’ “Blue In Green” to lyrics penned by Cassandra Wilson, and reworks two early 20th century compositions by Alberto Ginastera – “Danza de la moza donosa” with her original lyrics. “This was the first time I was setting lyrics for music that was written for piano,” Amed said. “It breaks my heart every time I sing it.”
Title track “Ontology” and the up-tempo “Milonga por la ausencia,” the last song written by Amed for the album, brim with Buenos Aires flair and urban sophistication. “Amor” broods and then soars in unbridled reverie with an exhilarating electric guitar injection courtesy of Aaron Lebos. “I wanted kind of a messy thing happening there.” The enveloping closer “Winter” delves inwardly as a barebones reflection on voice and piano, rounding out a collection of gems that solidifies Amed’s place as polyglot jazz vocalist and forward-looking bandleader.
About Roxana Amed
Roxana Amed has released six albums – Limbo (2004), Entremundos (2006), Cinemateca Finlandesa (2010), Inocencia (2011), La Sombra de Su Sombra (2013), Instantáneas (2019) – digitally released by Sony Music / The Orchard, along with one DVD, La Voz Más Allá in 2009. Recipient of the Carlos Gardel Award for Argentine Music and the Martin Fierro Award for best song in a TV production, the singer/songwriter is also known for penning songs for other artists. She has worked extensively with Argentine multi instrumentalist Pedro Aznar, a veteran of the Pat Metheny Band and the producer of Amed’s first albums. Once in the US, she has collaborated with musicians based in NY as Guillermo Klein, Emilio Solla, Leo Genovese, vocalist Sofia Rei, and pianist/composer Frank Carlberg. She has performed in iconic musical venues in NY such as The Jazz Gallery, Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center, Jazz Standard, The Stone, Rockwood Music Hall, Smalls, and Mezzrow. In 2017 was commissioned, with Brazilian pianist André Mehmari, to pay tribute to the legendary Astor Piazzolla at the Buenos Aires International Jazz Festival. An album of the performance is set to be released in 2021. Amed is a post-graduate in Contemporary Literature in Spanish Language, as well as a vocal instructor and clinician. For ten years she has led a vocal workshop for hundreds of jazz vocalists at the Buenos Aires International Jazz Festival.