Hoot/Wisdom Recordings produces second Latin Grammy nominated album

The album was nominated for “Best Folk Album” in the Traditional Music category.


Members of the production team pose with the Quinteto Leopoldo Federico ensemble and guest artist María Isabel Saavedra after the final recording session. From left to right: commercial music major Joel Iglesias, assistant professor and recording/mastering engineer on the album Matt Baltrucki, violin player Daniel Plazas, bass player Kike Harker, bandoneon and musical director Giovanni Parra, guest artist María Isabel Saavedra, associate professor, album producer/engineer Alejandro Sánchez-Samper, guitar player Kike Harker, Iván Beltrán, who has a masters in music. Photo courtesy of Hoot/Wisdom Recordings

Hope Dean and Katrina Scales

A musical group that records their albums at FAU has been nominated to receive a Grammy — for the second time.

Quinteto Leopoldo Federico, a Colombian music ensemble, was nominated for a Latin Grammy award in the Best Folk Album category for their latest album, Pá Qué Más.

Their debut album, recorded at FAU, Bogotá – Buenos Aires, was also recommended for a Latin Grammy in 2015 for the Best Tango Album.

Both albums were recorded at FAU’s recording label, Hoot/Wisdom Recordings, under associate professor Alejandro Sanchez-Samper and the director of the Colombian ensemble, Giovanni Parra.

Documentary about the making of the album ‘Pa’ que mas’. Video courtesy of Giovanni Parra.

Sanchez-Samper first became involved with Parra online through Skype lessons concerning the musical instrument bandoneon, where the two of them first started discussing music.

Parra, who was involved with Quinteto Leopoldo Federico, told Sanchez-Samper of their plans to record their first album in Bogotá or Argentina, and the associate professor’s reply was for them to record it at Hoot/Wisdom Recordings instead.

What sealed the deal? A grand piano.

Grand pianos are hard to come by in recording studios, and FAU’s recording label owned both a Steinway and a Kawai.

Sanchez-Samper said that the stylistic direction of the album is quite different than most. The album features Colombian Andean music both new and old, but is played with tango instruments such as the bandoneon, piano, double bass, violin, and electric guitar.

“That’s almost like saying, ‘let’s do hip-hop with mandolins and banjos,’” Sanchez-Samper said.

A defining moment during the recording of the album was when Parra sent the first level of mixes to Daniel Binelli, one of the most eminent bandoneon players in the world. His comments were overwhelmingly positive, and he was thrilled at this “bold step into folklore,” Sanchez-Samper said.

“It’s one of those magical moments,” he said.

Three tracks on the album’s nine-track playlist are newly imagined versions of traditional Colombian Andean music. Notable among the re-compositions is La Cucharita, the last commercial hit of folk music to punch into the mainstream in the 1980s. The song was originally composed by Jorge Velosa, but Sanchez-Samper decided to give the well-known classic a new spin.

“In the first part of it I just present the melody…and then what I do in the arrangement is take it through so many different places that it’s never been before,” Sanchez-Samper explained.

Alejandro Sanchez-Samper points out the quintet’s feature in a Colombian music magazine. Katrina Scales | News Editor

But giving such a popular song a facelift came with its concerns.

“It could’ve gone either way,” Sanchez-Samper said. “It could’ve either done well like it did…or it could’ve backlashed.”

The song was well-received despite this risk, remaining in the Top 20 songs of La Radio Nacional de Colombia for 13 consecutive weeks, and peaking at the No. 2 spot.

More important than the awards, however, is the cultural significance and meaning behind the music. Sanchez-Samper describes the music as “a window into a different world,” a type of art that reflects the nature of where it originated.

“I look at the landscapes of Colombia – green mountains, just these really beautiful patches of green, you know? Then you see a lot of where the music comes from,” he said.

Students helped with the editing process, a job that took hours of work and judgement calls of their own. The commercial music business majors also led a marketing campaign to promote the album.

This project allowed students to get hands-on experience in their respective fields, an element that Sanchez-Samper believes is integral to the learning process.

A press release from Hoot/Wisdom Recordings credits assistant professor Matt Baltrucki, graduates Iván Beltrán, Carlos Patiño and Joel Iglesias, along with current commercial music students Patrick Montanari and Chris Moragne as being integral to sound engineering.

As for the music experience itself, Sanchez-Samper asks for people to listen to this album with a different approach.

“We have become so accustomed to music that is utilitarian in nature. I listen to music when I’m driving so I don’t get bored,” he said. “I listen to music in the gym so that I’m all upbeat…so music becomes this thing that matches the mood of what it is you are doing. But that’s not all that music is. Not all music is intended to be used by you.”

Pá Qué Más can be found on Hoot/Wisdom Recordings Youtube page, Spotify, and Bandcamp.

Quinteto Leopoldo Federico will find out if it received a Latin Grammy when the Latin Grammy Awards are held Nov. 16.

Hope Dean is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected]

Katrina Scales is the news editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].