Bassist and singer-songwriter Tonina casts a spell with soulful multilingual ballads | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Bassist and singer-songwriter Tonina casts a spell with soulful multilingual ballads

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The first time I heard bassist, guitarist, and singer Tonina Saputo, her voice stopped me in my tracks—her delicate phrasing and heart-wrenching poignancy brought Billie Holiday to mind, except that she was singing in Spanish as well as English. The song was a cover of “Historia de un Amor,” a torchy Panamanian bolero written in the 1950s by Carlos Almarán that’s beloved throughout Latin America, and I wasn’t the only one impressed by her version—Barack Obama listed it among his top songs of 2018. Tonina’s songs have lots of soul and the occasional rap, and their textures recall her musical idols, among them Selena and Lauryn Hill. Her debut album, 2018’s Black Angels, also features an abundance of flamenco rhythmic flourishes—a by-product of her studies in Spain. Produced by Madrid singer-songwriter Javier Limón and released on his Casa Limón Label, the record contains Tonina’s interpretations of Spanish-language standards. At this show she’ll likely perform pieces from Black Angels as well as tunes from her recent second album, St. Lost, recorded at Native Sounds studio in her hometown of Saint Louis. The new record comes from a more focused personal perspective, and Tonina seems to have found her true groove in its R&B-infused and lightly jazzy folk-soul, which she propels with the power of her velvety voice.   v

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