BWW Review: JAIME LOZANO: SONGS BY AN IMMIGRANT at The Green Room 42
Jaime Lozano made his debut at the Green Room 42 to a packed house on Sunday November 24th. His show, Songs by an Immigrant, explored the immigrant experience through a series of songs from various points in his songwriting career.
In his own right, Lozano is a talented composer. Lin Manuel Miranda called him "the next big thing." However, his work is even more important in the current political climate. He made a point to have an all-Latinx line up and band (Lozano was accompanied by Rudyck Vidal Espinosa on bass and Joel Mateo on drums). He joked that one singer told him that his concerts felt like a Miss Universe pageant when he introduced people by their country of origin.
Lozano's songs strike a broad range, from heart-wrenchingly sad to hopeful love songs. He has an expert touch at supporting lyrics, seamlessly matching his music to whatever idea is being expressed or mood is being sung. He's worked with a number of lyricists, including Migguel Anggelo, who sang two of his own songs, including "I'll Start Again," a wistful number from an upcoming project called The Last Supper.
The evening had an excellent ensemble of singers including Hadestown's Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, Mauricio Martinez, and Lozano's wife Florencia Cuenca. Each and every singer blew me away with their heartful renditions of Lozano's songs. An unexpected standout was Elisa Galindez. She wasn't originally on the roster, but when one of his singers had to drop out at the last minute, he remembered that she had asked for the music to "Mountain in the Sky" so she could learn the song, so rather than drop it he asked her to step in. She sang with amazing power and soul, belting the number.
Lozano was promoting his newly released album, A Never-Ending Line: A Female Song Cycle, for which Lozano wrote music for a number of talented female lyricists. All proceeds generated from sales of the album will benefit Maestra Music, an organization that aids female musicians. One of the strongest songs from the new album is "And the Years Go By" sung by Cuenca both in the concert and on the album. It's a bittersweet tribute to the singer's sister, who she left behind in her country of origin. "Oh mi hermana, I know that I'm free now / I'm free to miss you more and more."
Lozano also talked about how transformational it was for him, as a new immigrant to the United States who wasn't yet fluent in English, to hear Spanish lyrics in Lin Manuel Miranda's In the Heights. "That's what I'm trying to do with these talented performers, is to tell our own story." Most of the songs were sung in English, but Gonzalez-Nacer sang an upbeat song called "Te Soñé" with Spanish lyrics by Lozano.
At some points the songs' messages were so on the nose they bordered on cheesy, like "The Other Side" (lyrics by Neena Beber): "fences make good neighbors, is what they say. / Before you build a wall you have to ask who am I walling in? / Who am I walling out?" But the cheesiness worked, in part because the Trump administration is so chilling that it's nice to hear an unabashedly pro-immigration message, even if it's just for a few hours.
Jamie Lozano and Florencia Cuenca
All photos by Jasset González