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Soundtrack to a city

Piñero: Original Music From the Soundtrack
Piñero: Original Music From the Soundtrack
By Kip Hanrahan

American Clavé; Reston, Va.: 2004
Buy it now

This review first appeared in the Summer 2004 issue of Turbula.

It's a soundtrack first of all; the music here began life with a purpose other than standing on its own. But the man who wrote, scored, arranged and somehow blessed this music is Kip Hanrahan, and if you're at all hip to his work, then the fact that "Piñero" has a construction that lets it stand apart from the film won't surprise.

The movie "Piñero" is a look at the life and work of Puerto Rican poet and playwright Miguel Piñero which came out in 2001. But while Piñero was Puerto Rican by birth, he was Nuyorican by affirmation, and Hanrahan's palette is absolutely New York in attitude, in color, in atmosphere.

And so the music is New York – smart and sophisticated and dark and seedy and ebullient and tired and hard and sentimental, all at the same time. With a beat, always a beat, because New York is a city that lives to its rhythms.

Milton Cardona and Robby Ameen and Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez provide much of the rhythm, a thick, smokey, sweaty rhythm with a relentless meter that gets under your skin and into your shoes and even if you're whiter than Al Gore you're swaying to the groove while Chocolate Armenteros or Jerry Gonazalez lay down a serpentine trumpet passage with a high mute that sounds like Miles in his latter years.

Then it can all change direction in a second; the rhythm is muted, implied. Yomo Toro on cuatro sounding like a harpsichord from Bach's time, maybe, or Alfredo Triff's violin adding a shimmer to the sound.

This is powerful music, the sort of sounds that bring visions both beautiful and troubling, music that needs no projector to create images, music that lives in your deepest dreams.