Eliana Cuevas

“A major international talent that’s on its way.”
– The Toronto Star, Canada

“Musical class on an international Jazz level meets driving Caribbean rhythms and first-class Latin.”
– Hamburg Morning Daily, Germany

“If you could buy only one contemporary Latin album this year, this might well be the one. I am very impressed! Eliana Cuevas is a knockout on every level.”
Gapplegate Music Review, New York, USA

ElianaCuevas_dec07cThrough years of touring around the world, across Canada, and collaborating with Juno and Grammy Award-winning performers, Eliana Cuevas has grown into an accomplished singer-songwriter and bandleader with unlimited colours in her compositional and lyrical palette. Among her honours are the Canadian National Jazz Award for Latin Jazz Artist of the Year, two Toronto Independent Music Awards for Best World Music Artist, an Independent Music Award for Best Latin Album and a World Solo Artist of the Year Award at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. Eliana has released 6 albums of original music to this date: Cohesión (2001), Ventura (2004) Vidas (2007),  Espejo (2013), Golpes y Flores (2017) and most recently El Curruchá (2021).

On her new album, El Curruchá, featuring Aquiles Báez, renowned Venezuelan-Canadian singer/songwriter Eliana Cuevas returns to her roots, offering up a nostalgic homage to the music she grew up listening to in her homeland of Venezuela. The result is a beautifully intimate performance, by turns playful and deeply emotional, featuring virtuosic guitar and vocal work.

The passion and soul at the heart of Venezuelan music is brought to vivid life here. These melody-rich songs will, at various turns, make you want to laugh, cry, dance and sing along, as they explore a full gamut of emotion in intoxicating fashion.

El Curruchá (2021), released on ALMA RECORDS, is a generous 13-song collection featuring imaginative new versions of classic Venezuelan songs of the last 30-50 years. Eliana stresses that “the focus of this album is to showcase traditional compositions from Venezuela. Venezuelan music is a universe of sounds and rhythms as rich and broad as the music from Cuba and Brazil but not as widely known.”

Eliana’s collaborator on the album, Aquiles Báez, is more than an internationally renowned guitarist and composer who has worked with such artists as Paquito D’Rivera and Fareed Haque. He is also a household name and musical hero in Venezuela, one of the biggest proponents of contemporary Venezuelan music and a mentor and an inspiration to a whole generation of musicians there.

Eliana’s long-held dream to create such an album as El Curruchá owes a great deal to Báez, she explains. “Many years ago I listened to an album from a well-known Venezuelan singer, Ilan Chester. His 2001 recording, Corazón Navideño, much like El Curruchá, with just voice and guitar, which, as it happens, was played by Aquiles Báez, way before I met him. I loved and listened to this album many times, and from there came a dream that I’d love to do an album like this, with someone like Aquiles.”
Happily that opportunity came along later, as Cuevas recalls. “When I was recording my album Espejo, I e-mailed him from Canada, hoping that he would play cuatro on a song. He was very receptive to the idea, so we sent each other files, and he played on ‘El Tucusito’.”

“That was our first collaboration, without meeting in person. I then went to Venezuela where we met and collaborated further, and then he brought his trio to Toronto to play some shows with us at the Lulaworld festival. With Aquiles being here, I took the opportunity to record El Curruchá with him, and now the time is right to release it.”

The Toronto recording session, produced and engineered by Cuevas’ husband Jeremy Ledbetter, went very smoothly, as Báez was already very familiar with the material. “Aquiles’ playing is so beautiful, so musical and soulful,” praises Eliana. “Plus he is a lovely human being with a great sense of humour, and we have become good friends.”

The personal and musical empathy of the pair is audible in the warmth of the album. From mellow and soulful compositions to upbeat and witty numbers, Cuevas and Báez remain totally in sync. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than on the title track, one featuring fast and fluent guitar picking and almost impossibly speedy vocals from Eliana.

“El Curruchá” has a special personal significance to Eliana, she explains. “It was a song my father played all the time. Whenever there was a family gathering, he’d pull out the cuatro and play that song. He passed away when I was 11. He loved music and played and sang, and that song is a very important memory from my childhood. Plus it is so much fun!”

Báez contributed one original song, the rhythmic and upbeat “San Rafael”, while Cuevas’ “En Un Pedacito De Tu Corazon” is reprised here, in a stripped-down form.

“Caballo Viejo” “is a classic song that became known outside Venezuela, and it was used as the basis of the Gipsy Kings’ hit “Bamboléo”. Eliana notes that “it was written by Simón Díaz. If anybody knows about joropo, a very traditional Venezuelan rhythm, they know him.”

She describes “Maria Antonia” as “another quirky and funny song. It is about a woman who does eccentric things, like showering on the table and sleeping in a laundry tub. ‘Aquel Zuliano’ is built around a very percussive rhythm from Maracaibo called gaita, one usually played around Christmas time.” Another highlight on an album devoid of lowlights is “Flor De Mayo,” a quietly expressive tune showcasing Eliana’s subtle vocal skills.

El Curruchá is the sixth entry in Eliana Cuevas’s impressive and eclectic discography. She has never been constrained by genre boxes in her songwriting, drawing freely from jazz, Latin, folk and world music elements.

This stylistic diversity is reflected in the fact she has won a National Jazz Award for Latin Jazz Artist of the Year, two Toronto Independent Music Awards for Best World Music Artist, an Independent Music Award for Best Latin Album in the US, and a Canadian Folk Music Award for World Solo Artist of the Year.

When our current troubled circumstances ease, Eliana is looking forward to touring with Aquiles Báez. In the meantime, this talented pair have brought us El Curruchá, for our great listening pleasure.