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A former backup singer for Leonard Cohen, Perla Batalla returns Thursday to the World Theatre at CSU-Monterey Bay.

For her latest CD, "Lazy Afternoon," Los Angeles-singer Perla Batalla returned to her jazz roots to record with pianist Karen Hammack.

The result is a collection of standards from the Great American Songbook that would do her mentor, Leonard Cohen, proud.

Batalla will share those songs with the Peninsula during a performance at 7:30p.m. Thursday at The World Theatre on the CSU Monterey Bay Campus.

Batalla earned acclaim as a backup singer for Cohen on his world tours. The master songwriter encouraged her to pursue a solo career.

She's released several albums over the past two decades, highlighted by her Grammy-nominated tribute to Cohen, "Bird On A Wire." In 2004, she was invited by the Kennedy Center in New York City to perform songs from the album as an artist-in-residence.

Batalla has performed several times at The World Theatre, earning a loyal local following.

In 2005, the World Theater's Presenting Series co-commissioned her "Gracias a la Vida" album and produced a DVD of her performance..

She has a unique connection with the local audience, she said in a 2010 GO! interview.

"Once I met the group up here (at the World Theatre), we became instant friends. We kind of share the same mission, which is to celebrate Hispanic culture," Batalla said. "We're all on the same page in that regard. So part of my draw up there is the people of the area, basically."

Batalla is Mexican-American and identifies as Mestiza, in homage to both her Spanish and Native American ancestry.


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She said while her music is delivered from that perspective, she invites all cultures to share in the musical experience.

"It's also the whole community, not just the Hispanic/Latino community (she connects with). I don't like to separate other communities, because I think the community is a combination of both sides," she said. "I think that when I come out to Monterey, and connect with my audience, I think those lines are blurred and everyone comes together to celebrate something that is beautiful. That is my goal in any concert that I do."

"Lazy Afternoon" has earned praise for her covers of songs like "The Nearness of You," "The Very Thought of You," and "What'll I Do."

Phil Esparza, operations manager at the World Theatre, said he's looking forward to one song in particular.

"One of the songs on this album was a great rendition of 'We Shall Overcome,'" said Esparza, referring to the protest song made famous by folk singers like Pete Seeger and Joan Baez. "It's set to an almost jazz (rhythm). I had never heard that before. I'd like to think of that as something that speaks to my past. I'm looking forward to hopefully hearing that."

Esparza said the World Theatre has grown fond of hosting artists like Batalla, who are able to tap into their cultural ethnicity while maintaining their American identity.

"We like highlighting the fabulous American grown talent we have here. We like to support our talented American artists," Esparza said.

Marc Cabrera can be reached at mcabrera@montereyherald.com. GO!


If you go
·What: Perla Batalla in concert
·Where: The CSU Monterey Bay World Theatre,
·When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18
·Tickets: $25-$40. Available at csumb.edu/worldtheater
·Information: 582-4580