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Galicia, in Northwestern Iberia, has a long tradition of dance halls and cafes where special dance music and song was heard in the period between the 1930s and 1950s in cities like Vigo and A Coruna, and in smaller towns as well. This music, which includes elements of tango, bolero, waltz and habaneras, has a very special sound of its own, brought to us on this well-produced and genre-defying disc by the quartet Marful.

Fronted by Ugia Pedreira, a folklorist and singer with an impressive vocal range and quality, Marful has emerged fully formed in the midst of the dynamic Galician scene. Their sound has elements of light jazz, Latin and folk in almost equal measure. I also detect the strong influence of Brazilian popular music on this group.

The culture of the Western corner of Iberia (seen in Portugal and its colonial offshoots as well as Galicia), seems to appreciate and nurture quality women vocalists. Pedreira stands in this long line of Lusophone female singers and on this disc, she has warmth and shows she can handle a range of styles. In "Je suis comme je suis" (Juliette Greco's song) she signs a French-cafť-style jazz influenced by klezmer. Other songs are in her native Galician. On "habaneira da fin" she is slow and sultry. "Tris-tras" is something like Bossa Nova, but with a Euro touch.

Instrumentally, this group has it all. Marcos Teira on guitar, brothers Pedro Pascual on diatonic accordion and Pablo Pascal on clarinet, round out the band and each contribute to the sound. On "Menina" a tune worthy of Caetano Veloso at his best, an impressive Teira and Pedreira duet introduces the tune before the clarinet and accordion arrive.

Pedro Pascual , a first-class accordionist, has collaborated with masters like Alasdair Fraser and Kepa Junkera. Pablo Pascual, also a classical and jazz musician, provides a solo opening on "Tango sen paz," joined later by the band plus Quim Farinha of BerrogŁetto (with some manouche flashes on violin), and Luis Alberto Rodriguez (drums) on this, the disc's only instrumental.

Other notable guests on Marful's debut include Xacobe Martinez (bass), Xabier Dias (vocal), Joao Balao (percussion) and BerrogŁetto's Guillermo Fernandez (electric guitar) on "Pido Talvez."

The only odd thing about this disc comes at the end, a John Cage-like 10-minutes of silence before a brief "Tango do Fresco," what this means in practice is that this 54-minute disc, as advertised on the sleeve, is a short, but sweet, 44 minutes. - David Cox

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