Vinicius Cantuaria and Bill Frisell have played together on dozens of live performances and on record as far back as Cantuaria's Tucuma in 1999. This full-length duo project has been in Cantuaria's head since he arrived in New York City from his native Brazil in the fall of 1994 and encountered both Brooklyn's rich south-of-the-border cultures and America's welcoming spirit to them. Their 2003 collaboration The Intercontinentals is what convinced him Frisell would be the ideal partner for the endeavor, but it wasn't until 2010 that the pair convened for a solid week in Seattle to make it a reality.
Because they share so many traits — a love of jazz/indigenous folk hybrids, a taste for refinement and restraint that doesn't exclude either acoustic finger-picking or electronic technology, and a preference for delicate, sophisticated textures — Lagrimas Mexicanas is a potently understated, multifaceted gem. Some tracks, like "La Curva" and the slightly more uptempo "Cafezinho," twirl forth simple music-box melodies. Others, such as the title song, feature heavier percussion, more electric guitar and electronic effects, and vocal harmonies mated with a churning rhythm. The opener, "Mi Declaration," splits the difference, adopting the laconic pace of a tune by J.J. Cale, or the Mexican singer Eliades Ochoa, with a crooning trace of Charles Aznavour. And "Lagrimas De Amor," is just a beautiful, gently chiming love song.
Cantuaria and Frisell handle all the guitar work and percussion, with Cantuaria responsible for the lyrics and nearly all of the vocals. There are bits of his native bossa nova, and of Frisell's explorations into heartland country music. But most of all this is a 21st-century global concoction, making cultural connections with familial intimacy in a relaxed and relaxing manner.