(ECM CD 377 0032. CD Review by Andy Boeckstaens)
Dino Saluzzi has been a leading figure in South American music for decades. He first became noticed in the 1970s, initially with Gato Barbieri, however his career really took off after recording under the ECM label in 1982. Since then, he has worked with the likes of Charlie Mariano, Enrico Rava, Tomasz Stańko and Charlie Haden, and has amassed a large catalogue of music.
Born in 1935 in Campo Santo – a remote town in northern Argentina - Saluzzi took up the bandoneon when he was seven, and led his first group at 14. Saluzzi's “family band” made it's first album with the ECM label in 1991, and El Valle de la Infancia, their first recording since 2005, is an affectionate reference to the people and places of their origins. A handful of tunes on this album are by his fellow countrymen, however Saluzzi is the primary composer and the most prominent instrumentalist.
Sombras is a magnificent opener to the album, creating a calm sonority and distinguished by the warm interplay between bandoneon and two guitars. I was quickly won over by the light, accurate electric bass playing of Dino’s nephew, Matías Saluzzi, reminiscent of Steve Swallow. La Polvadera is quietly impressionistic, interrupted when an off-kilter dance emerges. The bandoneon’s reedy sound oozes melancholy, and the gentle noise of its mechanical clicking and wheezing is strangely beguiling.
The understanding between the six musicians is so entrenched that precise arrangements were not necessary. Dino explains: “I also leave much of it open and we really discover how to play it together”. His brother Félix “Cuchara” Saluzzi’s haunting tenor saxophone sound is heard during the longest track, A mi Padre y a mi Hijo, but no-one dominates; it’s particularly loose and relaxed.
Some of the album is presented in a series of suites. The three-part Pueblo starts with the unaccompanied guitar of José Maria Saluzzi. Integrating brilliantly with the family members on the wistful Salavina is guitarist Nicolás “Colacho” Brizuela, and the subtle contribution by percussionist Quintino Cinalli is perfect throughout, right down to the solitary bell at the end of La Tristecita.
Saluzzi says, “We don’t want to impress with power”. They don’t need to. Part 2 of Urkupiña, 'Ruego, Procesión y Entonación', displays this with exquisitely restrained drama. The album concludes with Tiempos Primeros, a suite that pairs La Arribeña with La casa paterna. Like everything before, it is delivered with style and grace.
As an expression of the Saluzzi's family and friends’ enduring love for their country and each other, El Valle de la Infancia is both beautiful and remarkably touching.