On a cool late winter night in Buenos Aires, fans and music lovers gather to listen with much anticipation; a night of jazz, bossa nova, French and, of course, Argentine tango music. The site is the upscale Buenos Aires Design Mall, where Jazz on the terrace plays every Wednesday evening. It may be winter, but even the most casually dressed listener has nothing to shiver about, as the music is hot and the singing sultry and energetic.
On this night, music fans are treated to the sounds of Danisa Fagan
y Dr. Rojo, a duo comprised of the accomplished singer, Danisa Fagan, and the talented guitarist and vocalist Pablo Maitia. Together they make more music than any two musicians can possibly play. The guitar playing of Mr. Maitia conjures the days of Django Reinhardt and other jazz players who primarily play only the acoustic versions of their instruments. It is no mere coincidence that Django is evoked here: the music they play has much to do with “Gypsy Jazz.”
The star of the performance, however, is the singer, Ms. Fagan. She does not merely cover songs; they become real, they become hers in an authentic way. While she pays homage to the great Billie Holiday, she does not seek to imitate her, rather, Ms. Fagan has the uncanny (and unique) ability to bring Holiday into the 21st century. Few singers today have the ability to sing in a range of musical styles and genres; even fewer can sing in a variety of languages and make the songs come to life in a meaningful and cultural way. While singing the plaintive lines of “Mi niña Lola,” Ms. Fagan digs deep inside to create an ambience of sadness, perhaps recalling a moment of sorrow in her own life. Sung in Spanish, this bluesy rendering leaves no doubt that Ms. Fagan is in complete control of her voice, and the subtleties of the song itself. In “No regrets,” a song associated with Billie Holiday, she delivers an incredible rendition in English, one that the great one herself would have favored. On this night, fans are also treated to songs in both Portuguese and French, and, if you close your eyes, you could easily imagine yourself on a Brazilian beach or at a Parisian bistro.
Mr. Maitia has won the admiration of many guitars players with his Django-inflected lines. But he also brings a wit and wisdom to the songs he sings. In “Besame mucho,” he brings the old standard up to date and even starts a whimsical call and response with Danisa, who supports as a backup singer.
This is a pairing that deserves a wider audience. In an era where jazz musicians seem to create their own version of the 1%, calling on each other and rarely bringing in up-and- coming talent into their productions, Ms. Fagan and Mr. Maitia deserve the opportunity to become a world-renowned musical duo. Mr. Maitia also leads the Babel Orkestra, while Ms. Fagan sings and plays bass in her sister Carla’s reggae band, Hijas de Zion, a Buenos Aires based all female group. This is a duo, together or apart, whose talents need a bigger stage.