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Hear Buika's Spellbinding Performance in Our Studio, Before a Marquee Concert at Town Hall

Chris Tobin
Buika performing with her band at WBGO

The polyglot queen of "New Flamenco" doesn't have to work to captivate a room. Buika's voice, a deep entanglement of late-morning sunlight and curling smoke, takes care of all that — as she effortlessly reminded us during a recent visit with her band, in advance of a Winter Jazzfest concert on Friday at the Town Hall. 

Born María Concepción Balboa Buika on the Spanish resort island of Majorca, Buika has since become a global ambassador for flamenco, with an approach to the music that draws deeply from an array of other sources: classic jazz and soul, Cuban boleros, Mexican rancheras, even French chanson. But as she told WBGO's Bill Daughtry in their conversation, she pushes against comparisons, always seeking to define her own sound.

Her latest release, Para mí, is in the running for Best World Music Album at the 60th Grammy Awards later this month. She drew from that album (actually an EP) in her performance, singing the delicate title track as well as the soulful, plaintive "Ni contigo ni sin ti" ("With or Without You"); a reggae-inflected tune called "Hijos de la Luna" ("Children of the Moon"); and "Pizzica di Torchiarolo," a traditional song of Italian provenance, which she introduced as a salve, "because there's a lot of poison today in the world."

Buika's band — composed of Santiago Cañada Valverde on trombone and Fender Rhodes electric piano, Andres Vadin on guitar, Josue "Ronkio" Rodriguez on electric bass guitar and Ramon Porrina on cajón — backed her with poise and unflashy intuition. Her voice commands the spotlight unequivocally, whatever the setting. 

Buika performs on Friday at The Town Hall, with Camila Meza and the Nectar Orchestra as an opener. For more information, visit winterjazzfest.com.

Music mix: Corey Goldberg
Video: Chris Tobin

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.