Singer Rebeca Vallejo Releasing ‘Azucar, Canela’ with Jazz, Flamenco Fusion

The cover of "Azucar, Canela"

After months of hard work, local Flamenco and jazz singer Rebeca Vallejo is releasing “Azucar, Canela,” her new crowdfunded album, this month. The Van Vorst Park resident spoke with JCI about music, her distinctive sound and the new CD itself.

JCI: How did you get started making music?

Rebeca Vallejo: I grew up in a family of singers in Spain. My family comes from many generations of singers and everybody in my family have been professional singers at some point of their lives (in the case of my own mother, she made a living as a vocalist for more than 30 years). So, coming from such a background, I guess my destiny was somehow laid out for me.

JCI: Do you have any training?

Vallejo: I didn’t get any formal musical training until I went to City College University in New York (from which I graduated in 2008), but throughout my life I have had different voice teachers. Also, I played recorder in school and took two years of drum lessons when I was a teenager. In 2009, I was awarded a scholarship to study flamenco vocal technique and singing at the prestigious Flamenco School “Cristina Heeren” in Seville, Spain.

JCI: Your style is really unique. How would you describe it to the uninitiated?

Vallejo: Starting with a base of jazz and holding on to the principles of freedom and improvisation that jazz gives you, my compositions are naturally infused with the flavors and rhythms of my Flamenco ancestors and the colors of Brazilian music, a genre of music I have been exposed to and loved for many years of my life. A clear, clear example of the mixture of sounds explained above is the opener of the album “El Ciego Sol.”

JCI: What do you mean?

Vallejo: This song draws upon very strong Flamenco melodies although its rhythms are very rich and African-based with a strong jazz-improvisational aspect to it. The song features the trio I have been performing with for the last couple of years…with a bass-less trio of piano-percussion-voice, we have developed a sound and performing concept that doesn’t require any more instrumentation than that.

JCI: Do you have any other favorite tracks from the album?

Vallejo: Another song that I would like to highlight is “Despertar.” It fuses a very traditional rhythm from the north of Brazil called bahiao with a very traditional Flamenco rhythm called tango, not to be confused with Argentinian tango. This is the only song on the album that is not recorded with our trio concept of piano-percussion-voice. The instrumentation of this song is accordion, cajón (flamenco percussion), hand clapping (as an instrument in itself) and voice…The spirit of this tune tries to capture street music from Bahia, Seville and New York and how they all meet together.

JCI: What do you hope people take away about your music and you as an artist from this album?

Vallejo: I, personally, take from this album the expression of my evolution as a musician as finding one’s own “sound” is something that can take a lifetime to achieve. In my case, I feel like all the musical experiences that I have been brewing during the last 13 years of my residency in New York have finally come together in what has become my distinctive sound. Finding your sound is like finding love, something surely to embrace and treasure.

What I hope people take from this album is mainly, joy. If my music manages to create an experience while listening to it…if a pleasant memory from the past comes to mind, an invigorating feeling helps you start your day on a more positive note, then I would feel like my little piece of “changing the world” is being fulfilled. The world doesn’t only change by political acts, art is a very powerful force of change as well.

The release party for Rebeca Vallejo’s CD “Azucar, Canela” is Oct. 27 at DROM in New York City. For more information, visit her website.

Photo courtesy of Rebeca Vallejo

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.