Claudia Gomez: making a rare return to the Bay Area this weekend

By Andrew Gilbert

For Bay Area lovers of Latin American music who’ve been in the region for a while, the name Claudia Gómez should set hearts a flutter.

From the mid-1980s through the mid-90s, the Medellin-born vocalist was an essential part of the Bay Area jazz scene, collaborating with adventurous artists like saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh and body percussionist Keith Terry in Crosspulse.

With her fine-grained translucent voice and supple phrasing she contributed to a wide array of Latin music ensembles, while also developing into an accomplished bandleader with an exquisite book of Brazilian jazz charts.

During her California sojourn, Gómez continued to expand her creative endeavors, delving deeply into jazz and Cuban music, while honing her skills as a composer and arranger. By the time she departed for Madrid in 1998, she had recorded several gorgeous albums, including 1992’s “Salamandra,” which was produced by percussion master Michael Spiro, and 1996’s “Tierradentro,” a collaboration with percussionist John Santos focusing on her original songs and arrangements of folkloric Colombian pieces.

She’s been back in Colombia since 2002, and makes a rare return to the Bay Area this weekend for a series of gigs, including yesterday’s free afternoon performance at Yerba Buena Gardens and Saturday at Berkeley’s La Peňa with Venezuelan-born cuatro and percussion expert Jackeline Rago, flutist/saxophonist Donna Viscuso and Venezuelan percussionist Lali Mejía.

The concert at La Peña Cultural Center is Saturday July 23 at 8 p.m., $18 adv. $20 door, 3105 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, 510-849-2568.

Andrew Gilbert lives in west Berkeley and covers music and dance for the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and East Bay Express.

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