Gaby Moreno’s new album, Illustrated Songs, continues her love affair with the sounds of the blues, soul and jazz that captivated her as a girl. Although she was born and raised in Guatemala, it was the sounds of the American South that inspired her to become a songwriter and recording artist. “I heard an African American woman singing on the street in New York City when I was younger. I just froze. When I asked her what she called that music, she looked at me and said, ‘That’s the blues, honey.’”
As Moreno devoured albums by Robert Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald, she discovered an affinity for the vintage African American sounds of the 20s, 30s and 40s. She combined them with the sound of the Latin music she loved from the same era to create the 12 tunes on Illustrated Songs. Her affection for old fashion music is even reflected in the record’s title.
“The illustrated song is a type of visual art from the vaudeville era of the 20s,” Moreno explains. “You could consider it an early kind of video. They’d project still images from glass slides on a screen and have live musicians playing to accompany the pictures. Since this album was inspired by the music of the 20s and 30s, the title went well with the mood of the record. Every song is in its own little world.”
Moreno co-produced Illustrated Songs with engineer Ryan Freeland (Aimee Mann, Grant-Lee Phillips, Ray LaMontagne). The album was cut live, in four days, with her regular rhythm section; Sebastian Aymanns on drums, bassist Leslie Lowe and Moreno herself on guitar, complimented by a string, horn and woodwind section arranged and conducted by Paul Bryan (Aimee Mann, Grant-Lee Phillips) as well as guest musicians Patrick Warren, Larry Goldings, Greg Leisz, Bob Mintzer, David Piltch and Mark Goldenberg.