Carlos Aguirre dazzles with music of the river

Carlos Aguirre

Carlos Aguirre hails from the Entre Rios province of Argentina, a region that literally means “between rivers.” Fittingly, the music he brought with him was as fluid as his native landscape.

In his U.S. debut Monday evening, Aguirre took his time on each tune, building slow piano crawls into near-jazz, quasi-classical watercolor portraits. He drew on the folklore of his home and of the repertoire of native artists to assemble a sedate set with more than a few moments of towering technical accomplishment.

The gentle Aguirre didn’t seem to mind the folks who nodded off during his rendition of an old South American fisherman’s lullaby. The sleepers must mean he played it correctly, he mused.

While the lower-energy piano ballads fell into place quietly like snow, the more upbeat numbers — such as an original composition based on the continent’s central Parana River — found Aguirre stomping a foot and even humming along to his own springy playing. After, when his fingers slapped the strings of his nylon guitar for another trio of tunes, his lightweight voice cradled the Spanish words tenderly, like a blanket wrapped around an infant.

Aguirre’s biggest challenge was the language barrier. But he even had a solution for that: the onstage translation work of Michael O’Brien, a College of Charleston professor and ethnomusicologist. O’Brien helped Aguirre explain each of his selections, telling of their origins and meanings. There was one moment, though, where Aguirre didn’t need any help finding the right words.

“Thank you for opening your ears,” Aguirre said softly, in English, near the end of his performance. Aguirre exited the stage after a standing ovation. No flashy finisher; Aguirre’s sweet demeanor spoke for itself.

Patrick Hosken is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.