BWW CD Review: SONGS BY AN IMMIGRANT Makes Bold Statements At Every Theatrical Turn

It's all about telling your story, in the way you are meant to tell it.

By: Nov. 28, 2020
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BWW CD Review: SONGS BY AN IMMIGRANT Makes Bold Statements At Every Theatrical Turn The first thing you notice when you turn on SONGS BY AN IMMIGRANT is that this is not pop music; neither is this music that the record stores of the past would have labeled "World Music". While it is true that Jaime Lozano is Mexico-born, can write pop music, arrange jazz treatments, and produce any genre of music he puts his mind to, what he has created on this album is show music. This collection of songs is one that was created for the musical theater stage. Although it has been performed, of late, on the stages of nightclubs, saloons, and cabarets, this song cycle should be performed in a theater. This song cycle should be performed in a theater with actors playing characters that have names, preferably with sets and costumes, and a book worked around the songs because THIS is theater.

On this one-hour/12 track recording, Jaime Lozano has provided thirteen plays. Twelve of the plays are short one-acts running from three to eight minutes and telling individual stories - it's sort of like that playwriting competition where the plays have to be cast, devised, written, rehearsed, and made performance ready in the time it takes to ride the train from Inwood to Wall Street. They are like that filmmaking contest for which filmmakers must make a movie while in quarantine, one minute in length, using only their iPhone. These twelve one-acts are Jaime Lozano's stories, informed by his life as a person living in America who was not born in America and influenced by the music of his homeland, and a heart that lives both there and in the theater. The thirteenth play is all twelve of them, up on their feet, in one glorious piece of theater. Jaime Lozano should be writing book musicals all the time, but for this moment he is focusing on song cycles like Songs By an Immigrant and A Never-Ending Line - and it's working for him, it is, perhaps, wrong to suggest that they should be made into more than they are; these are, though, theatrical songs too big in their nature for a "revue" and too weighty for nightclubs. So where do they belong?

That's right: in the theater.

Note the way that each of the songs is character-driven, how Lozano's verbiage and vivid grammar paint pictures that live as comfortably between a proscenium arch as they do between your ears. Observe the anger, the heartbreak, the wistfulness of a dream on the horizon, the tenacity of a goal to be accomplished at all costs. Within the poetry of "Like a River" and the truculence of "You Gotta Change Your Last Name" lie a wealth of acting opportunities into which actors will want to dive and swim around until they have uncovered every nuance and image to be found until they have made their story a part of the song, and the song a part of their story. Mr. Lozano has a clear simpatico with the lyricists providing the verbal artistry in these songs: Noemi De La Puente, Marina Pires, Neena Beber, Mark-Eugene Garcia, David Davila, Jorge "Georgie" Castilla, and Miggeul Anggelo. It looks, in fact, like Lozano has an enviable ability to relate to and collaborate with everyone, for he is, indeed, lucky in the actors chosen to perform the Songs By An Immigrant. From the moment the cd starts, it is clear that no punches will be pulled. "The Generic Immigrant Welcome Song" announces the album, and the fact that there will be no pandering, no explaining, no apologizing: this is an album of raw, human, honesty and listeners will either get on board, listen to the stories (not just hear them), open their eyes, and walk away as enlightened as they have been entertained. To have a group of LatinX singing actors, all at the top of their game, performing these one-acts, is essential, and Lozano has gathered around him and around the microphones, artists with whom he has so intimate and intricate a working relationship that they have been dubbed The Familia. Too many to name in one review without it becoming a laundry list, too exceptional to single out just one, suffice it to say that these are performers whose names you will want to learn, whose work you will want to seek out on Spotify and on YouTube. The Familia is the future of musical theater, especially Jaime Lozano, who has come to tell stories, to be honest, to dispel misinformation, to provide hope, particularly as this country segues out of a dark time for immigrants and into a better, optimistic, loving and empowered one. And even though Lozano and The Familia are performing their songs and stories on the small venue stages, don't doubt that they will make a leap onto bigger ones, and around the world, too.

The proof and the profundity are to found right here on this CD.

Jaime Lozano & The Familia SONGS BY AN IMMIGRANT is a 2020 release on the Broadway Records label and is available on all streaming platforms.


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