Despite their technical chops, it’s no secret that many classically trained musicians who cross over to popular song sound stiff and ungainly, like musical mimics. Not so with classical violinist Javier Chaparro, whose years with the Austin Symphony and as guest soloist with orchestras around the world haven’t prevented him from making a graceful and lovely album of original pop songs in a variety of Latin styles. Born in Lima, Peru, Chaparro has lived in Austin since the 1980s and was inspired by the area’s songwriter culture to try his hand at writing his own songs. Singing in Spanish and given skilled and supple support by Salúd — Paul Glasse on mandolin,
Mitch Watkins on guitar, Stephen Jarrard on guitarron and Laura Mordecai on percussion — Chaparro delves into samba, cumbia, waltz, ballad, rumba and Mexican polka and is sure-footed in each, though he seems most at home in the sambas, where his gentle vocal sits comfortably with the nimble rhythms and glancing melodies despite a vibrato a skosh wider than most. Except for “Cachetito Polka” and the comic “Mil Pretextos,” the dominant mood is romantic and the lyrics sentimental, verging on cloying at times, but they’re in Spanish, where sentimentalism rarely sounds wrong. There aren’t many debut albums as fine as this.