By Sarah Downs
Jaime Lozano is being hailed as an authentic new voice in musical theater and for good reason. Lozano has written some of the most interesting, relevant and delightful music I have heard in a long time. In his concert Songs by an Immigrant the Mexican born Lozano explores the intersection of immigration and identity, and the role of community in sustaining the human heart.
Lozano’s music is radio ready. Collaborating with a variety of lyricists, he paints in all colors – refracting the collective immigrant experience through the prism of his gift. Ranging from musical theater to salsa to jazz and anything in between, Lozano’s compositions are fully realized, and in the hands of his ‘familia’ of musicians, they shimmer with infectious joy.
A cast of impressive vocal talent drawn from the LatinX community, each with an impressive resume of Broadway and Off Broadway credits, and a kicking 10-piece band joined Lozano onstage at Lincoln Center’s Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse, performing in front of a wall of windows overlooking a Manhattan sunset. Twilight as a backdrop and richly hued theatrical lights onstage – what could be more auspicious?
Opening with humorous “The Generic Immigrant Welcome Song,” Javier Ignacio sang with energy and clear tone, flowing with the jazz arrangement. Addressing with gentle humor the hurdles new immigrants face – the language barrier, discrimination, culture shock, the song makes its point without taking us down. Following it with the upbeat “Getting Up Is Easier,” performed by the beautiful Brazilian singer, Marina Pires completes the thought. Pires co-wrote this song about connection to family, which could speak to the history of American immigrants in all generations. The tune is so satisfying, in the way that a well-structured melody hits the mark. Meaningful and catchy, the song sticks in your ear (in a good way), as does “Dreamer,” another optimistic tune, sung from the heart by Mauricio Martínez.
Soprano Shereen Pimentel created a lovely mood with “Te Soñé” (I dreamed), Pimentel holds your attention with her beautiful voice and her quality of open innocence. Nicholas Edwards, sang with velvety color and presence in “My Father’s Name.” Nuances of revelation, discovery, poignance, softness, longing – it’s all there. In the introspective song “And the Years Go By” glamorous Venezuelan singer Andréa Burns, bathed in moody light, sang wistfully of two sisters separated by an ocean. I particularly loved how the music transitioned to a more clarion sound and subsequently returned to classical guitar, drawing our thoughts inward once again.
In her brightly colored outfit with its contrasting patterns and ruffles Florencia Cuenca makes quite an impression. She’s loaded with personality and a quiet charm, and is a deft musical storyteller. Her skills were on full display in a showstopper of a song from the Latin Wizard of Oz Lozano is working on. “No Podemos Regresar,” (We cannot go back) is a song of determination – to put fear aside and move forward. Cuenca reached out straight to our hearts.
In a finale that gathered his familia of singers onstage, Lozano had the audience join in, which of course we all loved. In this way he brought us back to the present, and to community.
Lozano is charm itself. He has natural warmth – quiet humor with a little self-deprecation and unselfconscious humility. You feel as if you know him even before you hear his music. The concert sold out within 24 hours of tickets going on sale, so I’m hopeful there will be a return engagement. In the meantime, You can buy a cd of much of the same material on Lozano’s website. I’ve been listening to it on repeat for a week.
Songs by an Immigrant at Lincoln Center as part of the American Songbook series. The Singers: Andréa Burns, Florencia Cuenca, Nicholas Edwards, Eden Espinosa, Javier Ignacio, Mauricio Martínez, Marina Pires and Shereen Pimentel. The Band: Piano / Guitar / Bajo Quinto – Jaime Lozano, Guitar / cello – Agustín Uriburu, Trumpet – Raúl Agraz, Bass and acoustic bass – Rubén Rodríguez, Drums – Joel Mateo, Percussion – Jonathan Gomez, Sax / Flute – Alberto Toro