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Guillermo Klein: Jazz Heard Through Filters

Jazz composer Guillermo Klein uses filters the way a photographer uses lens filters: Only certain frequencies of light are allowed to pass. In the ear of the beholder, Klein's Filtros can change a listener's perspective, allowing different music styles to make perfect sense together.

Take "Vaca," a simple Argentine children's song about a cow. Klein found a way to sing the song to his daughter in a 9/8 time signature — making the song resemble an Argentine folkloric form, the chacarera, but with an extra beat. "Vaca" is also based on a composition by drummer Jeff Ballard of Los Guachos, Klein's eleven-piece ensemble. Ballard's song "Child's Play," itself based on a native Ghanaian rhythm, lends "Vaca" its 9/8 rhythmic foundation.

But there's more. Klein also finds a way to add modernist composer Gyorgy Ligeti's "Hungarian Rock," a chaconne composed for harpsichord players who like to shred on a Baroque-era instrument. This music, like Ballard's "Child's Play," also has nine beats to a measure, but the rhythm is counted differently.

Klein's writing for large ensemble creates a space where these genres warp under the sun of jazz improvisation. In "Vaca," the composer and his cohorts in Los Guachos do little to protect the purity of essence. They're far too busy making indescribable, essential music.

Wednesday night at 9, WBGO and NPR Music present Guillermo Klein y Los Guachos, live at the Village Vanguard. Click here for more information.

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Copyright 2008 WBGO

Josh Jackson is the associate general manager for content at WRTI in Philadelphia.