When Bob Telson, a Tony and Oscar nominated composer from the US, moved to Argentina ten years ago, he never thought he would have a chance to bring his more soulful R&B compositions to the country. That was until he met his musical partner, jazz singer María Puga Lareo.
“María is very interesting: She’s Argentine, but she sings with no accent, and she phrases the songs like she’s a singer coming straight out of a black church, which is quite rare for (Argentina).”
Bob Telson came to work with María by nearly complete chance. He is best known for his Oscar-nominated song “Calling You,” from the movie Baghdad Café, which has been covered by the likes of Natalie Cole, Barbara Streisand, and Céline Dion.
Occasionally Telson searches online for other covers of the song. “I just love seeing all these versions of my tune,” he said. “A songwriter’s dream is to see other people singing his song.”
“I saw a version that I really liked, and I looked up the woman who was singing it, and was surprised to find she lived ten blocks from my house,” he said.
The rest is history. The two started making music, and a year later, they are bringing their act to the cozy venue of Clásica y Moderna, where they will perform for the next eight weeks.
“This venue is good for this show because I’m certainly not an arena act, and it’s a very intimate setting,” Telson said. “The songs are a wide range, the only criteria being that they are things I want to sing and that María wants to sing.”
Those criteria made for a playful, impassioned journey through many hits of Bob Telson, as well as songs written by other composers. The show opened with “Don’t Go,” a loud, brash gospel tune. In a sparkly blue dress, Lareo belted out the notes, accompanied by the harmonies of Telson (on Piano) and back-up vocalist Andrea Baéz.
It transitioned into a slow, sad ballad, “Goodbye to that Boy,” which was sung mostly by María. As the show proceeded, the songs were pretty evenly split between Telson and Lareo. The tight harmonies and lively performance of “He’s a Rebel” had the whole club clapping along.
Shortly before the intermission, Telson played his most famous piece “Calling You,” for which he was nominated for an Oscar. Franco Luciani, a friend of Telson who happened to be at the performance, joined him on stage and finished the tune with an incredible harmonica solo. The entire club erupted into cheers and applause when the song finished.
The second half of the show featured the only Spanish-language song of the night, a piece from the Argentine film, “La Vida Según Muriel.” The bossa nova beat had many patrons dancing in their seats and featured another harmonica solo by Luciani.
The set closed with a song that Telson described as “almost disco, but more R&B” and by the end of it, the entire audience was clapping along to the beat.
For a club that frequently features quieter, more subdued jazz shows, this loud, brash R&B and gospel-based show is a refreshing change for the Argentina music scene. Throughout the night, Telson and Lareo seemed to be having even more fun than the audience. The magnetic energy and hard-to-find R&B culture of this show make it well worth a visit.
Tickets are $120, and as Clásica y Moderna doubles as both a venue and a delicious restaurant, you can enjoy a great dinner and a glass of wine with the show. For more information, call 11 4812 8707