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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo via http://claudiaacuna.com

What does Claudia Acuña sound like? Newsday proclaims that she sings with “the voice of an angel.” The New York Times praises her “strength and grace,” and the LA Times marvels, “she has mastered the essential elements of jazz with startling effectiveness.”

Great artists share the sentiment of the press: Claudia has toured and/or recorded with the likes of George BensonBilly ChildsRoy HargroveTom HarrellChristian McBrideDanilo Perez and more. The vocalist signed with Verve for her first two albums, Wind from the South and Rhythm of Life, the MaxJazz imprint followed with Luna, and, most recently, Marsalis Music released En Este Momento. In addition to her musical commitments, Claudia was also recently appointed as a spokesperson for World Vision Chile, an organization which helps fight poverty through child sponsorship.

A native of Santiago, Chile, Claudia was raised in Concepcion. Though surrounded by the arts in her community from a young age, Claudia found that her parents did not share her enthusiasm. Nonetheless, she decided at a young age that she wanted to further her abilities, eventually making a career in music, and friends and faculty members who heard her recognized her talents from an early age. Yet finding ways to develop her skills proved to be a balancing act:

“I was the only member of a college choir who did not attend the college, for instance, and my parents approved of that because it was at a college. When I became older, and chances to perform with rock or jazz groups arose, I’d start lying about going to a friend’s house. I would also sneak into the conservatory on the way home from high school and try to memorize the lessons. I would sing anything, and after people heard me sitting in and began to hire me, the money I made became the excuse to get work. “

Claudia eventually moved back to her birthplace, continuing to pursue her art while making a living recording jingles and voice-overs for cartoons. Yet she didn’t forget about her dreams, and after meeting a few supportive musicians from New York, decided to move there four years after she arrived in Santiago. While she originally planned to attend one of the local universities, the costs were prohibitive. However, she soon found herself learning quickly on the bandstand from several of the best young musicians on the scene at the time, including, among others, Jeff BallardAvishai CohenGuillermo KleinBrad Mehldau, and Jason Lindner. These experiences solidified Claudia’s foundation, and provided her with a set of like-minded peers: “It was like a little music gang. I knew then that I had made the right decision, and had arrived at the right place. I wasn’t in school, but every note I heard was a lesson.”

Claudia is a Jazz Gallery veteran – this weekend will mark her twentieth performance here since 2003. She will be joined by her collaborators Juancho Herrera (guitar), Michael Olatuja (bass), and Yayo Serka (drums). Tickets are $20, but FREE for members or SummerPass holders (at just $35, the SummerPass lets you in to ALL shows in July and August at no additional charge. Get yours here).

Watch Claudia perform “Vida” live in the studio with keyboardist Jason Lindner, who brings his own group to The Gallery later this summer.