What is it about an album or a few songs from an artist that makes you want to see them live? Maybe it’s an artist you’re hearing for the first time, or have heard only a little, and you find yourself listening and wondering, “What exactly would it look, feel and sound like to see them perform this music in person? “
Of course, you’d have to love what you’re hearing to even have this question to begin with. And with Joachim Cooder’s recent debut as a solo artist, the wonderful 7-song EP Fuchsia Machu Picchu, this listener can say wholeheartedly that from the opening title track all the way through to the final notes of the closing song “Country Blues,” I felt a visceral desire for more. I want more of Joachim’s music, and I’m thrilled by the mental image of being at his upcoming show at Denver’s Paramount Theater on Tuesday, August 14th. He will not only be opening for his legendary and iconic father Ry Cooder, but pulling double duty: after his set with his own band, Joachim will be right back onstage as Ry’s percussionist.
I’ve been a fan of Ry Cooder since I was a kid in the early 70s and stumbled across his album Boomer’s Story and found myself hooked for life, but you don’t need to be nearly as steeped in this family’s legacy to know about Joachim. If you’re one of the many who were enthralled and inspired by the movie and soundtrack of Buena Vista Social Club, the 1999 Wim Wenders film that followed Ry through the inception and subsequent performances of a huge ensemble of some of the greatest Cuban musicians of all time, you remember Joachim as an integral part of that group and his father’s vision, as he worked with Ry as percussionist and cohort all through the film. A very young man still in his teens then, Joachim went on to work with many other artists including The Haden Triplets, Matt Costa, Inara George, his brother-in-law Robert Francis and his wife Juliette Commagere. With the combination of his pedigree and two decades of such illustrious collaborations, it’s no surprise that when he finally stepped out as a leader with the release of Fuchsia Machu Picchu in March of this year, it was a formidable debut.
According to press releases, this collection of songs was largely inspired by the birth of Joachim’s daughter, so it’s also not surprising that there is a feeling of freshness, tenderness and a bit of wide-eyed innocence to most of the material. The themes of family, love, solace and hope are running threads throughout. The music is also wildly evocative of colors, light (especially moonlight, which pops out repeatedly through many of the songs), and places. I can’t tell you where I felt I was at different points throughout my listening, but clearly I was somewhere, and more often than not it was somewhere beautiful and warm, under skies that offered not only glowing and glittering illumination, but also most often a sense of the cool darkness of evening. While there’s no lack of pulse throughout this record (of course, coming from a percussionist!), it’s also imbued with a sense of peaceful reflection like a gorgeous evening in some South American country surrounded by nature, and alive with its nocturnal sounds. And while most of us know of Machu Picchu as a historic place of great beauty and Inca legend in Peru, it is also the name of a plant, so it makes sense that another of the themes running through this recording is plant life.
But okay, you may wonder after all these words about peace and quiet and so on, is this music gonna put me to sleep? No, and most emphatically no! Ask me if you can groove to it and I’ll tell you I’ve been grooving to it all week. Joachim Cooder grew up with World music, but he also grew up with his dad’s love of a crunchy bluesy sound, and rhythms that definitely give the butt plenty of wiggle room. One might be swaying gently or even seated, but the movement is always there. Joachim’s music is an appropriately family-centric affair, with Ry’s gritty guitar playing prominently throughout, along with the aforementioned close family members Francis and Commagere and others. If you’ve been to the Paramount before, you know that it’s a beautiful concert venue and also a seated venue. But nobody’s gonna get arrested for doing a little dancing in the aisles.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.