La Voz De Tres joins the Geneva Music Festival’s celebration of jazz, bringing with them styles from across the country and around the globe. The group is comprised of Chilean vocalist Natalia Bernal, keyboardist Mike Eckroth, and guitarist and returning GMF performer Jason Ennis.
The world jazz trio has toured extensively throughout the United States and Chile and has released two CDs: “La Voz de Tres” (2010) and “Sueños y Delirios” (“Dreams and Deliria,” 2014). Their first CD received extensive national airplay, including on Jim Wilke’s nationally syndicated “Jazz After Hours” on PRI. Since then, the band has appeared at some of the top jazz venues on both the east and west coasts. The group also appeared live on-air on several major NPR affiliates and was invited by the municipal government of Iquique, Chile to conduct a week of workshops and performances. Additionally, Bernal has been featured several times on Chilean television.
Their newest CD was praised by Raul da Gama of “World Music Report,” who wrote, “…this is a disc [in] which iridescent music is transformed—with a breath, a word, a single musical note—into something quite transcendent; even spiritual.”
(See a sample of their work here.)
The band’s roots as Latin American jazz artists can be traced to the musicians’ own roots, as well as their interest in Brazilian music and experiences in Brazil.
“Mike and I had a band which focused on Brazilian music, which was formed the year after I returned from an extended stay in Brazil,” explains Ennis, adding they’d both been interested in Brazilian music for some time and were introduced to each other by a mutual Brazilian friend and classical guitarist.
When Bernal stepped in to sub for the group’s flute player on a gig, the three found the “vibe” to be so easy and unique they decided to form a project around the organic sound they discovered. Bernal immediately began to bring in music from her native Chile, as well as from Peru and Bolivia and other parts of the “Southern Cone.” Eckroth began suggesting Cuban songs to add to the mix and they also began adapting North American Standards (Great American Songbook) and popular tunes by people like Stevie Wonder to the voice of the group.
“One thing we really enjoy about this particular project is that we have found a nice balance between informed stylistic performances and a more fluid personal voice,” says Ennis. “Though we have studied and continue to study the authentic traditions of the various North and South American styles we draw upon, we never try to reproduce exactly the folkloric or traditional performances of any tune. We try to put our own stamp on it.”
One of the ways the group creates a unique sound is through Ennis’ seven-string guitar, which he became interested in after listening to a Brazilian style of music called Choro (pronounced “shore-oh”), which is a rough contemporary of American ragtime.
“I play some Choro, but mostly use the instrument in my own ways, whether it’s to play more basslines in their original octave in a Bach Lute Suite or to play a thundering low-C like McCoy Tyner on a C-minor blues,” says Ennis. “In La Voz de Tres, it widens the palette for us. Mike and I sometimes take turns filling in the bass range, sometimes we double a low line, and sometimes we leave the bass out altogether.”
La Voz De Tres will bring their unique sound to the GMF on Friday, June 9, at 7:30 p.m. in the Gearan Center for Performing Arts at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Joining them will be special guest, multi-instrumentalist Paul McCandless. On Sunday, Ennis and McCandless will perform with the Thomas Bergeron Quartet. Tickets for both concerts are available online.
“I had a great time rehearsing with, listening to, and hanging out with the amazing musicians at the festival and spending a few days in beautiful Geneva,” says Ennis of his previous GMF appearance. “I also really enjoyed the warm welcome and hospitality extended to the musicians by the supporters of the festival, and the audiences were wonderful. I look forward to coming back this year.”