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TRABAJOS INUTILES (no label 0001) [1997]

I have concentrated, in this site, on reviewing the progressive rock releases from Italy with only occasional reviews of bands from other countries. There are several reasons for this, not least among them my long-held love-affair with Italian progressive rock and my desire to share my enthusiasms here. Because there are many excellent non-Italian bands which I have yet to write about here, I have gotten letters accusing me of either overlooking them or being prejudiced against them. Neither is true and as time marches inexorably on and I continue to write new reviews, I will get to many of those thus far ignored bands.

One geographical area I’ve not yet touched on is Central and South America and Mexico (technically a part of North America, despite its ties to South American Hispanic culture).   I have over 100 CDs from this area of the world, the vast majority of them “progressive rock” in one sense or another, and most of them coming from Brazil and Mexico.   Too many are neo-prog – “generic Genesis” – but some of them are individually unique and well worth calling attention to.

One such band hails from Chile and calls itself Fulano.

And what a curious band Fulano is:   they offer a website which offers little information.

I found their album at a local (Fair Oaks) Tower, where buyer Bob Karnes recommended it to me, and, mostly on impulse, I bought it. On first, and cursory, listening I was not impressed. It sounded like tired fusion music, time-traveled from the mid-’70s.   But that was, I realized, unfair to the music. I listened again, and my ears perked up.

Fulano is a sextet. The members are Arlette Jequier, who does the lead vocals and plays clarinet; Cristian Crisosto, who plays soprano, alto and baritone saxes, traverse flute and bass clarinet; Jaime Vasquez, who plays alto and tenor saxes and flutes; Jaime Vivanco, who plays piano and synthesizers; Joge Campos, who plays guitar and bass; and Paul Aliaga, who plays drums and percussion. Crisosto, Vasquez, Vivanco and Campos are all additionally credited as composers and Arlette can make her voice sound like another instrument, singing wordless vocal lines in unison with the saxes. She can also growl out animal sounds when necessary.

The music is superficially “fusion.” But that’s where it starts – not where it ends. There are allusions to both jazz and progressive rock here. Melodic lines alternate between a mellow extension of lounge-jazz and the sharp angularity of the avant garde (one track is “Dedicado a Frank Vincent Zappa”). The saxes (plus clarinet and flutes) sometimes create the sound of modern French wind music and other times the breathy tenor sax sounds like it was lifted straight from a Charles Mingus recording.   When Arlette sings over a spare piano she reminds me of Dagmar singing with Henry Cow – but I like her voice better.

The longest piece runs only a bit over six minutes, the shortest slightly over one minute, and most of the nine tracks are in the four-minute range.   These are separate and distinct musical works, covering a wide spectrum of emotions.

Although everything about this CD seems to indicate that it was self-released by the group, it comes with a 24-page booklet which is professionally designed and produced, presenting individual photos of the group members and the lyrics and credits for each piece. It’s a handsome job.

South America has produced a number of good progressive rock bands and – separately – important jazz artists. Fulano encompasses both, and their album – if you can find it – is highly recommended.


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