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Natalie Cressman and Ian Faquini release "Auburn Whisper" April 15, appear at Seattle's Royal Room March 27

album cover, Auburn Whisper
courtesy of GroundUp Music
album cover, Auburn Whisper

When touring and performing were made impossible by the pandemic, the trombone-guitar-vocal duo focused on writing, arranging and recording new music.

Trombonist and singer/songwriter Natalie Cressman and composer, guitarist, and singer Ian Faquini have created a uniquely intimate duo collaboration, drawing from impressionism, jazz, and the Brazilian songwriting tradition.

As children, Natalie and Ian accompanied their parents to Brazil Camp, a week-long retreat in the redwood forests of Cazadero, California. Musicians from around the world gather there annually to attend masterclasses offered by some of Brazil's greatest talents.

Ian's mother taught Portuguese at Brazil Camp, and Natalie's parents, Jeff and Sandy Cressman are both professional musicians with strong attractions to Brazilian music.

Natalie and Ian unknowingly played their first notes together at seven and eight years old, respectively.

After picking up the guitar at age 11 to play classic rock, Ian Faquini turned to the music of his Brazilian heritage when he was 15. At Brazil Camp that year, he met the revered guitarist and composer Guinga. "He completely changed my life," says Ian. "He's a huge influence of mine."

Natalie and Ian's latest album, "Auburn Whisper," pays tribute to the origins of their relationship, and expands their musical collaboration into arranging and producing.

"We were supposed to be in Japan in March 2020 to do some shows, and that obviously didn't happen," says Natalie. "We found ourselves in the Bay Area without any gigs or anything to do. So we started working on the music and the only people we were really meeting up with were my parents," she continues.

"My dad has a great home recording studio, Natalie explains. "So we just started, on a weekly basis, going over there and making a nice dinner and sleeping over. The next day we would spend all day in the studio with my dad."

The ability to spend so much time in the studio led to production techniques that make this recording stand out from their first album, "Setting Rays of Summer." The layering of trombone parts and vocals gives the music a surprising depth.

Chega De Saudade (Jobim/Moraes) -Natalie Cressman & Ian Faquini

The remarkably warm, smooth tone of Natalie's trombone playing she attributes to her father's guidance, and her mother's influence is evident in Natalie's singing. When mixed with Ian's guitar and voice, the result is otherworldly.

"Ian has such a wonderful tone on the guitar," says Natalie. "I think not every guitarist and trombonist would necessarily mesh the way that we do, but we kind of have a similar approach on our instruments, so we blend together in a special way. We are really enjoying exploring that now."

"Auburn Whisper" releases on April 15.

Listen for "Benção de Iansa" and "Ralando Coco" from the new album this week on Saturday's Jazz Caliente.

Natalie Cressman and Ian Faquini play Seattle's Royal Room on March 27. Get more information and tickets here.

Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5 p.m. The show is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio.

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Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.