Lauren Henderson – Sombras (ENG review)

Brontosaurus Records – Street Date May 31th 2024
Jazz, Latino
Lauren Henderson – Sombras

Every year, like spring, Lauren Henderson releases a new album. While technically they are always sumptuous albums, not all are equal. We adored the previous one, “Conjuring”, but this one seems somewhat lacking. By overemphasizing interpretation, one ends up getting lost and no longer understanding the real intentions behind each track. Lauren Henderson is certainly the most interesting artist from Latin America. Here, the tracks that seem most polished to me are “Shadows”, where Lauren reveals her true emotion, and also “Tormento”. For these two tracks alone, this album deserves your attention. “Sombras”, which gives its name to the album, is clearly formatted for radio but remains pleasant to listen to.

“Sombras” was born from an idea that burned in Henderson’s mind all her life: how does an individual’s cultural heritage shape who they are? As someone whose roots extend to Panama, Montserrat, and the Caribbean but was raised in North America, Henderson embarked on a journey of discovery to answer this poignant question in the kaleidoscopic culture of contemporary society. Throughout “Sombras”, Henderson unveils her own journey through original compositions, shaping stories reflecting her African diasporic origins.

And this is where this album gains its significance. Once informed of the foundation of this album, one can understand the musical propositions it contains. The album title, “Sombras,” is a Spanish word that translates to “Shadows” in English. This title evokes the idea that someone’s ancestry is their shadow self. It represents a metaphor wherein present actions and the self are the light and visible world, while genealogy is the unspoken and hidden driving force that subtly shapes a person into what they are. Wrapped in mystery, each song on “Sombras” plays with this balance between the visible and the invisible, and the many elements, decisions, and events that have led each person – even generations before – to where they are today.

So, I set out to re-listen to this album. Initially, I couldn’t grasp the thread because I lack that culture. Where I saw a sort of void, it’s actually the most personal album Lauren has produced to date. What Henderson presents is not just an album; rather, “Sombras” stands as a testament to the power of an idea brought to life. By posing a bold question, Henderson has generated a response as diverse as the range of cultures she delves into. With a sparkling passion, “Sombras” hauntingly oscillates between the light and shadows of identity as Henderson depicts the formation of the person and the soul.

In fact, by the third listen, I began to feel the intentions, doubts, and risks taken by the artist on each track. It’s an album that needs to be tamed, listened to deeply, and appreciated for the work of Joel Ross (vibraphone), Sean Mason (piano), Jonathan Michel (bass), and Joe Dyson (drums, percussion). The album was recorded by Daniel Sanint of Flux Studios, who has recorded Henderson’s entire discography. What I appreciate in this kind of album is the need to be tamed, and in this case, this album quickly becomes indispensable. Let’s hope Lauren Henderson continues to bless us with such beautiful albums.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, May 10th 2024

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