Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A jazz club in Mexico City: Fausto Palma and Petra

Five days in Mexico City offered a chance, hosted by my son William, to visit Zinco Jazz Club in the central historic district. If you're a jazz fan in Mexico City with time to spend away from the many attractive tourist sites, check out the Zinco web site for its varied schedule of performers.

Fausto Palma covers a wide musical sweep.
Multi-instrumentalist Fausto Palma and Petra, a quintet, presented a varied opening set Saturday evening. The club's atmosphere embraces low lighting under a low ceiling, and the cozy vibe is inviting. Palma and his men played original music keyed to his mastery of several string instruments whose provenance is wide and cross-cultural.

The leader began by featuring the oud, a Turkish lute, and we also heard numbers focusing on a close relative of the Indian dilruba, called sarangi. Palma's virtuoso shredding of the electric guitar early in the set brought to mind the personal expansion of the Jimi Hendrix style that John McLaughlin achieved to great acclaim decades ago.

Beyond blues-inflected note-spinning, it's not hard also to see the influence of the British guitarist, who rose to fame as a key Miles Davis sideman, in another way: Palma fronts a quintet with the same instrumentation as McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, as heard on "Birds of Fire," for example. It consists of violin, keyboards, electric bass, and drums surrounding Palma.

Like McLaughlin's band, Petra's is centered on the leader, obviously to bring each of his several instruments to the forefront. That's all to the good, but at one point between numbers, I stage-whispered to my violinist son: "It's time to give the violinist some!" By a kind of banal telepathy, I suppose, the very next piece included a violin solo, which was zesty and cunningly phrased, drawing applause from the packed room. 

There were brief showcases for the other sidemen as well. Each of them had his role to play in supporting Palma with clarity and consistent rapport. Zinco's sound system was well-regulated, so that even the loud music never got blurred or deafening. The set offered an attractive vista of the multi-ethnic possibilities within the jazz world; such outlooks have become more common given the music's global outreach.



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