Gabriel Garzón-Montano concocts a soulful pop melange with Spanglish flair | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Gabriel Garzón-Montano concocts a soulful pop melange with Spanglish flair

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The first time I saw Gabriel Garzón-Montano in concert was at South by Southwest in 2017. His appearance had generated a lot of buzz; a song from his 2014 EP, Bishoune: Alma del Huila, had been sampled for Drake’s 2015 track “Jungle,” and the multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter had recently released his debut full-length, Jardin. Partway through his performance, he had an audio issue with his keyboard, and as sound technicians addressed it, he kept the crowd engaged by unexpectedly delving into his Colombian heritage: he grabbed a mike and launched into an impeccable a cappella version of the traditional Afro-Colombian fisherman’s tune “El Pescador,” singing in Spanish and gyrating his hips, and then returned to his reconnected keyboard to complete his set. Blessed with a sweet croon and a supple falsetto, Garzón-Montano can cover a lot of territory, and he rarely veers into the conventional. His sound melds influences from both his parents—he was born in New York to a father with Colombian roots and French mother who played classical and experimental music and was once part of Philip Glass’s ensemble—as well as from his own Latino Brooklynite identity. On Agüita the chameleonic musician shape-shifts with Spanglish flair—as usual he combines hip-hop, R&B, funk, and soul, augmented with new forays into reggaeton and trap—and he occasionally frames his mix of genres with string-rich orchestral backing. Sometimes his songs plunge into the pathos of loss and change (he explores his grief over his mother’s passing on “Moonless”) or the possibilities of cathartic frenzy in the dance club (the title track and “Muñeca,” his first tunes recorded fully in Spanish), but no matter the topic, Garzón-Montano never fails to intrigue and delight.   v

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