Tag Archives: Brazilian music

The Enduring Sound of Renato Braz

Renato Braz – Saudade (Living Music, 2015)

Saudade is a collection of beautiful, poetic songs composed by some of Brazil’s greatest songwriters and performed by the remarkable voice of Renato Braz. The album combines Brazilian melodies and rhythms with Paul Winter’s global jazz sound as well as world music elements from Russia and other cultures.

Renato Braz has been an essential member of the Paul Winter Consort family in recent years. Even though he has made recordings in Brazil, Saudade is first release in the United States.

The lineup is quite impressive. His band includes the Paul Winter Consort, the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble, Dori Caymmi, and Ivan Lins.

Saudade is beautifully packaged, featuring an extensive booklet with photos, lyrics and descriptions of the songs.

 

 

 

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Artist Profiles: Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil- Photo by Priscila Azul

A champion of Brazil’s African-rooted traditions who has scoured the vast backlands of his own country and the far corners of the world in search of inspiration for his constantly evolving artistic vision, Gilberto Gil remains one of his land’s most enterprising musicians. His singing and composing career in Bahia, the center of African culture in Brazil, began in the mid sixties as one of the founders of the revolutionary Tropicalismo movement.

Tropicalismo, built on an eclectic mix of native and global influences, turned the conventions of Brazilian popular culture inside out and created its own language. Gil’s quest for new ways to invigorate his personal take on the sounds of Brazil have led to Jamaican reggae, African pop music, R&B and rhythmic and harmonic vignettes that range from Amazonian backwaters to the posh clubs of Tokyo.

Gil has collaborated with reggae singer Jimmy Cliff and The Wailers, Bob Marley’s former band.

In December of 2002, at the age of 60, Gilberto Gil was named Minister of Culture of Brazil by President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Gil was one of the leaders of the Green Party, which shared power with President Lula’s Worker’s Party.

As a musician and as a diplomat, Gil possesses a key role in the constant modernization of Brazilian popular music and culture throughout the world. Gil’s Broadband Band Tour for June and July 2008 followed his unprecedented 2007 solo tour.

Banda Larga (Broad Band), the album and the tour, reaffirmed Gil’s irreversible engagement with the new rules and compasses of the universe of bits and bytes, embracing all of the risks and challenges. This theme that has fascinated him for more than 30 years characterized a previous tour outside of North America, also called Banda Larga, in which Gil made available as much of his work as possible for webcasts, podcasts, cellcasts, etc.

The great novelty of the Broadband Band Summer Tour 2008 was really the set list. Whereas the previous tour was created around the greatest hits, this time Gilberto Gil played a new collection of songs such as Banda Larga Cordel, Nao grude nao and other more recent compositions.

In 2016, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil released a double live album titled Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música: Multishow Live. The set includes 28 tracks from each songwriter and some favorites written by other composers, sung in Portuguese, English, Italian, and Spanish.

Discography

* Louvação (1967)
* Gilberto Gil (with Os Mutantes) (1968)
* Tropicalia ou Panis et Circensis (with Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Os Mutantes) (1968)
* Gilberto Gil (Cérebro Eletrônico) (1969)
* Gilberto Gil (Nêga) (1971)
* Barra 69: Caetano E Gil Ao Vivo Na Bahia (Philips, (1972)
* Expresso 2222 (1972)
* Temporada De Verao Ao Vivo Na Bahia, with Caetano Veloso and Gal Costa (Philips, (1974)
* Refazenda (1975)
* Os Doces Barbaros, with Maria Bethania, Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso (Philips, 1976)
* Refavela (1977 )
* Gilberto Gil Ao Vivo em Montreux (1978 )
* Refestança (1978)
* Nightingale (1979)
* Realce (1979)
* Brasil, with Joao Gilberto, Caetano Veloso and Maria Bethania (Philips, 1981)
* Luar (A Gente Precisa Ver o Luar) (1981)
* Um Banda Um (1981)
* Extra (1983)
* Quilombo (Trilha Sonora) (1984)
* Raça Humana (1984)
* Dia Dorim Noite Neon (1985)
* Gilberto Gil em Concerto (1987)
* Soy Loco Por Ti America (1987)
* Trem Para As Estrelas (Trilha Sonora) (1987)
* Ao Vivo em Tóquio (1988)
* O Eterno Deus Mu Dança (1989)
* Parabolicamará (1991)
* Tropicalia 2, with Caetano Veloso (Polygram, 1993)
* Acoustic (1994)
* Esoterico Live in USA 1994 (1995)
* Oriente Live in Tokyo (1995)
* Em Concerto (1996)
* Luar (1996)
* Indigo Blue (1997)
* Quanta (1997)
* Ao Vivo em Tóquio (1998)
* Copacabana Mon Amour (1998)
* O Sol de Oslo (Blue Jackel BJAC 5031-2, 1998)
* O Viramundo (Ao Vivo) (1998)
* Quanta Live (1998)
* Me, You, Them (2000)
* Milton and Gil (2001)
* São João Vivo (2001)
* Kaya N’Gan Daya al vivo (Globo Warner, 2002)
* Z, 300 Anos de Zumbi (BJ54534-2, 2002)
* Eletrácustico (2004 )
* Ao Vivo (2005)
* As Canções de Eu Tu Eles (2005)
* Soul of Brazil (2005)
* Gil Luminoso (2006)
* Rhythms of Bahia (2006)
* Banda Larga Cordel (2008)
* Bandadois (Warner Music, 2009)
* Fé Na Festa (2010)
* Gilbertos Samba (2014)
* Dois Amigos, Um Século de * Música: Multishow Live, with Caetano Veloso (Nonesuch, 2016)

website: www.gilbertogil.com.br

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Artist Profiles: Caetano Veloso

Caetano Veloso

Caetano Veloso is one of the most influential and beloved artists to emerge from Brazil. He’s been an acclaimed artist since the 1960s. Veloso has made more than thirty recordings to date and has developed a strong international following. 

Born in Santo Amaro, Bahia, in 1942, Caetano Veloso began his professional musical career in 1965 in Sao Paulo. In his first compositions, he was influenced by the bossa novas of Joao Gilberto, but rapidly began to develop his own distinctive style. 

Absorbing musical and aesthetics ideas from sources as diverse as The Beatles, concrete poetry, the French Dadaists and the Brazilian modernist poets of the 1920s, Caetano, together with Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, his sister Maria Bethania and several other poets and intellectuals, founded a movement called Tropicalismo.
 
By experimenting with new sounds and words, adding electric guitars to their bands and using the imagery of modern poetry, Caetano became a musical revolutionary. The short-lived Tropicalismo movement, founded in 1968, ended abruptly when Caetano and Gil were briefly imprisoned by the military junta that same year. Both musicians left the country and went into exile for a few years. Veloso lived in London during most of that time. 

Now, generally credited with redefining what is know as Brazilian music, Tropicalismo led the groundwork for a renaissance of Brazilian popular music, both at home and abroad. Caetano and Gil returned to Brazil in 1972 and found that Tropicalismo had remained intact and their admirers continued to grow. 

Although Tropicalismo set the tone for Caetano’s career, his music has evolved greatly over the years. Incorporating elements of rock, reggae, fado, tango, samba canao, baiao and rap – with lyrics containing some of the best poetry in a musical tradition rich in verse – Caetano’s music is sometimes traditional, sometimes contemporary, often hybrid. 

Caetano is a skilled social commentator and balladeer of highly emotive love songs, one of the most respected poets in the Portuguese language. Indeed he is one of only a handful of artists who has resolved how to be musically modern and still undeniably Brazilian.

Veloso followed his 1999 Grammy Award-winning Nonesuch Records’ release Livro, an album that received widespread critical acclaim in the United States of America and brought with it his first-ever US tour, with a soundtrack for the Carlos Diegues film Orfeu. 

In Spring 2001, Nonesuch released Noites do Norte (Nights of the North), a meditation on themes of race, slavery and Brazil’s quest for a national identity. Caetano also completed a book on Brazilian music and culture, published in the US by Knopf. 

Caetano later released Omaggio a Federico e Giulietta, a live recording made in 1997 in Rimini in honor of two masters of Italian cinema, Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina. 

Caetano’s long-awaited memoir, Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil, was published by Knopf in Fall 2002, alongside the release of a new 2-CD set, Live in Bahia, on Nonesuch Records.

On April of 2004, Caetano Veloso released his first album sung entirely in English. A Foreign Sound (Nonesuch Records) reveals the diversity of American songwriters he has loved and studied over the years, from Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, and Cole Porter to Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and David Byrne.

A Foreign Sound is a culmination of Veloso’s longstanding exploration of American music. Surprising and imaginative interpretations of American songs have been a staple of his recent live shows, and they have made occasional appearances on his studio albums over the years.

As he explains in his acclaimed memoir, Tropical Truth: A Story of Music & Revolution in Brazil (Knopf 2002), he came to some of his favorite American singers and musicians, including Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, and the Modern Jazz Quartet, by tracing the steps of his foremost musical hero, Joao Gilberto.

Caetano Veloso – Photo by Fernanda Negrini

On A Foreign Sound, Veloso interprets several songs he first learned listening to these artists in the early 1960s, including ‘So In Love,’ ‘Love for Sale,’ ‘Manhattan,’ and ‘Body and Soul.’ Other songs have particular significance in the context of Brazilian culture, such as the1970s hit ‘Feelings,’ which is widely used to teach English there.

Veloso’s approach to the music varies from track to track. While on some songs he is backed by a 28-piece orchestra, on others his only accompaniment is his signature acoustic guitar playing. ‘Love for Sale’ is recorded completely a cappella. Among the many accomplished musicians featured on the album are Caetano’s son Moreno and his longtime collaborator Jaques Morelenbaum, who contributes as arranger, conductor and cellist.

In 2016, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil released Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música: Multishow Live. It’s a live two-disc collection, recorded during a 50-show worldwide tour. The album and tour celebrate 50 years of friendship and artistic collaboration.

Discography

* Transa (1971)
* Caetano E Chico Juntos E Ao Vivo, with Chico Buarque (Philips, 1972)
* Temporada De Verao Ao Vivo Na Bahia, with Gal Costa and Gilberto Gil (Philips, 1974)
* Qualquer Coisa (Philips, 1975)Joia (Philips, 1975)
* Os Doces Barbaros, with Maria Bethania, Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso (Philips, 1976)
* Muitos Carnavai (Philips, 1977)
* Bicho (Philips, 1977)
* Muito (Philips, 1978)
* Ao Vivo, with Maria Bethania (Philips, 1978)
* Cinema Transcendental (Polygram, 1979)
* Brasil, with Joao Gilberto, Gilberto Gil and Maria Bethania (Philips, 1981)
* Outras Palavras (Polygram, 1981)
* Cores, Nomes (Polygram, 1982)
* Uns (Polygram, 1983)
* Brazil Night Montreaux ’83 (1983)
* Velo (Philips, 1984)
* Caetanear (Philips, 1985)
* Bethania, Caetano e Amigos, with Maria Bethania (Philips, 1985)
* Caetano Veloso (Nonesuch, 1986)
* Totalmente Demais (Polygram, 1986)
* Melhores Momentos de Chico e Caetano, with Chico Buarque (Sigla, 1986)
* Caetano (Polygram, 1987)
* Estrangeiro (Elektra, 1989)
* Sem Lenco Sem Documento (Verve 836 528, 1990)
* Circulado (Polygram, 1991)
* Circulado – Ao Vivo (Polygram, 1991)
* Tropicalia 2, with Gilberto Gil (Polygram, 1993)
* Personalidade, Best of (Verve 514 137, 1993)
* Fina Estampa (Polygram Latino 522 745, 1994)
* Fina Estampa – En Vivo (Polygram Latino 528 918, 1995)
* Tieta Do Agresta, with Gal Costa (Blue Jackel, 1996)
* O Quatrilho (Blue Jackel, 1997)
* Livro (Philips, 1998/USA Nonesuch 79557, 1999)
* Prenda Minha (Mercury, 1999)
* Orfeu (Brazil: Natasha/USA: Nonesuch, 1999)
* Omaggio a Federico e Giulietta (Mercury, 1999/Nonesuch 79599)
* Noites Do Norte (Universal-Globo, 2000)
* Noites Do Norte Ao Vivo (Universal, 2001)
* Eu Não Peço Desculpa, with Jorge Mautner (Universal, 2002)
* Live in Bahia (Nonesuch Records 79761, 2002)
* A Foreign Sound (Nonesuch Records, 2004)
* Onqotô, with Jose Miguel Wisnik (2005)
* (2006)
* Caetano Veloso e Roberto Carlos (Sony/BMG 2008)
* Zii e Zie (2009)
* Abraçaço (2012)
* Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música: Multishow Live, 2CD, with Gilberto Gil (Nonesuch, 2016)

Sources and credits

Photo by Fernanda Negrini

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Artist Profiles: Antonio Carlos Jobim

Antonio Carlos Jobim

Antonio Carlos Jobim was born Antonio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim, January 25, 1927 in the Tijuca neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. He was also called Tom Jobim.

Jobim was a Brazilian composer, arranger, singer, pianist and perhaps the greatest legend of bossa nova. Jobim’s compositions, many performed by Joao Gilberto, gave birth to the genre in the early 1960s.

Antonio Carlos Jobim’s roots were planted firmly in the works of Pixinguinha, a legendary musician and composer who, in the 1930s, began the development of modern Brazilian music. He was also influenced by the music of French composer Claude Debussy and by jazz.

Jobim found prominence when he teamed up with writer and poet Vinicius de Moraes in providing part of the music for the play Orfeu de Carnaval (1956), that later gained wide recognition in the film Black Orpheus. The lyrics for his most popular songs were written by de Moraes.

One of his best known works was the classic Elis & Tom album. After having commemorated 10 years with Jorge Ben and Jair Rodrigues as part of the cast of artists in 1973, the director of Philips Brazil, Andre Midani, verified that the following year Elis Regina would be celebrating 10 years with the label. Having had massive success with such songs as ‘Casa no Campo’ and ‘Aguas de Marco’ over the previous years, Midani asked Elis if there was anything she really wanted. ‘Record an album of music by Tom Jobim… with Tom Jobim’.

The inspiration for the project was an LP of songs by Tom and Vinicius de Moraes, released in 1959 on the Festa label ‘ ‘Por Toda a Minha Vida’, performed by Lenita Bruno (1926-1987), which featured arrangements by her husband Leo Peracchi (1911-1993), ex-professor of Tom. The arranger Cesar Camargo Mariano (married to Elis at the time) and Elis herself were both big fans of this record.

In January of 1974, Antonio Carlos Jobim received a telephone call from Andre Midani, president of Phonogram (Phillips), proposing the recording of a record with Elis Regina. Tom accepted the invite.

Philips invited Aloysio de Oliveira (1914-1995) to be producer of the project he was already a friend of all involved. The original budget didn’t allow for sending everybody to the US, where Tom had been living for some years. It would be cheaper to record in Brazil, but for some motive Tom couldn’t travel.

So, on the 20th of February, Elis Regina and her husband Cesar Camargo Mariano went to Los Angeles, accompanied by Aloysio de Oliveira and Joao Marcello (son of Elis and Ronaldo Bescoli), as well as members of Cesar’s band : Helio Delmiro (guitar), Luisao (bass) and Paulinho Braga (drums). They were followed a few days later by Roberto de Oliveira, Elis’ manager and responsible for the idea of the whole project along with the mission of recording a documentary for television.

At the airport in Los Angeles they were received by Tom Jobim, who had a flower for Elis, and invited them to go firstly to his house for a chat, before heading on to the Sunset Marquis Hotel. There was already tension in the air, not least due to the age difference between the couple and Tom (Elis was 29, Tom 47). Arriving at the house, Tom asked Aloysio who’d be doing the arrangements on the recording, and wasn’t pleased when he discovered it would be Cesar Camargo Mariano. Tom tried ringing Claus Ogerman and Dave Grusin but couldn’t get them. Neither was he pleased to hear that some musicians would be arriving from Brazil the next day. ‘//It doesn’t make sense. We already have excellent musicians here!//’

The following day Cesar began working on the arrangements, while Elis brought Joao Marcello to Disneyland. His work was constantly interrupted by Tom, asking if everything was going OK and the interruptions continued until he delivered the final mix to Tom.

The recording sessions were delayed while Cesar worked out the arrangements. Bill Hitchcock had been contracted to direct the string quartet (because of local laws, Cesar couldn’t do so). The first 2 of the 4 days in the studio were slotted for recording Tom ‘s piano and guitar, accompanied by the string quintet and flautist. ‘Elis would rarely do other takes‘, Cesar recalls, who accompanied Aloysio on the rest of the sessions – with the quartet that had accompanied Elis since the beginning of the 1970s, with special participation from Oscar Castro Neves.

The climate between Elis and Tom was also rocky on occasion. Happily, Aloysio was present to smooth out most of the problems. He was the only one who could put up with two strong personalities. Also, Tom wouldn’t initially accept the electric piano programmed by Cesar Mariano. The artistic director of Phonogram, Roberto Menescal, was in Rio but he accompanied by phone the recordings. He phoned almost every day to talk with Aloysio who told him how things were.

But the record itself was a work of tranquility. Tom and Elis sang together on Aguas de Marco, Soneto da Separacao and Chovendo na Roseira. Tom hummed on Corcovado and sang in the background on Inutil Paisagem. He also played piano and flute.

The crowning moment is Aguas de Marco, presented as a spontaneous take but in fact was done various times to get the perfect take. Bonita wasn’t included in the final album because Elis didn’t like her English. The bonus version of Fotografia is the original recording from Los Angeles; the version included on the final album was recorded later in Sao Paulo.

The final result left everyone involved happy. Tom was later quoted as saying: ‘It was excellent because Elis is an incredible singer. The record featured a great repertory accompanied by excellent musicians. And a fantastic pianist, Cesar Camargo Mariano.’

American jazz singers Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra prominently featured Jobim’s songs on their albums Ella Abraca Jobim (1981) and Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim (1967), respectively. Jobim is recognized the world over as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century.

A chat about back catalogs between Joao Marcello Boscoli (president of Trama) and the artistic vice-president of Universal Music Brazil, Max Pierre, led to the idea of mixing the timeless Elis & Tom in stereo and 5.1 surround. During three months, Cesar Camargo Mariano, who co-produced, played piano and did most of the arrangements on the original 1974 recordings (and who was also married to Elis at the time), ensconced himself in the Trama studios alongside sound engineer Luis Paulo Serafim. Cesar first concern was to change nothing of the original recording. He created a map with the positions of the instruments during the recording at the MGM studios in Los Angeles.

The new version of Elis & Tom (special edition) came out in on Trama Records in 2004. The special stereo edition includes bonus tracks and a DVD.

Jobim died December 8, 1994 in New York City. He was buried in the Cemiterio Sao Joao Batista in Rio de Janeiro. The International Airport of Rio de Janeiro is now named in his honor.

Discography

Sources

The biography contains some material from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, as well as Trama Records.

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Brazilian Jazz with a Great Groove

Brazzamerica – Brazzamerica

Brazzamerica – Brazzamerica (indie release, 2016)

As the name implies, this trio plays a mix of Brazilian music and influences from the United States. It’s a jazz format of piano, bass and drums that incorporates samba, maracatú and other Brazilian styles.

The three members of the group are Brazilians who moved to New York. The performances are exquisite, with notable interplay and more jazz focused than world music oriented.

The lineup includes Cidinho Teixeira on piano, Leco Reis on bass, and Edson Ferreira on drums.

Brazzamerica has a fine balance of upbeat and calmer material, always with a great swing.

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A Passionate Tribute to Cartola

Teresa Cristina – Canta Cartola (Nonesuch, 2016)

Teresa Cristina is one of Brazil’s most popular singers. Canta Cartola is her tribute to one of the most famous samba songwriters, Angenor de Oliveira. His artistic name was Cartola (top hat in Portuguese).

Canta Cartola is a passionate live performance released on CD and DVD by Teresa Cristina who specializes in samba and Brazilian Popular Music (MPB). She sings Cartola’s numerous classics that are well known to many Brazilians. The performance took place at Theatro Net in Rio de Janeiro. It’s an acoustic performance Teresa Cristina on vocals and Carlinhos Sete Cordas on guitar.

On Canta Cartola, Teresa Cristina and Carlinhos Sete Cordas deliver a flawless, intimate performance, rich in virtuosity, passion and good humor.

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L&T: Egberto Gismonti

I will be writing a column on Length & Time in music, in each presenting an album and its strategies that pertain to addressing Length & Time.

The year is 1979. Historically, string instrument is itself and its opposite in the game of political ideology: both an instrument of folk-ish fight and of sublime pleasure for the privileged. It was the lyre. It now fuels trova.

The Guitar. The left is tres popular: the Berlin Wall has yet to fall in ’89. However, though some are aware of the instrument’s history, most now revere (quietly) the violin or the cello, for example, as Art, though most listen to the guitar much more. It’s the 20th century of high art’s luster. It is why the 21st is such.

It’s 1979 and Egberto Gismonti releases Solo.

Orpheus holds court in 1979. The Carnation Revolution in Portugal had been sparked by the guitar in 1974. Bossa Nova has also happened: Tom Jobim, etc. The guitar is on the radio, in 20th century salons, but also in nightclubs.

In 1979: Gismonti plays “us” a single 8 string guitar, alone, along with piano, and surdo (drum,) placing his own ideas and ideals onto an agora’s stand. Which party have you pledged Gismonti? Do you dream of a guitar’s song that will lift the people, le peuple? 

Perhaps neither to be political nor to be a flaneur but to, instead, draw his society and others a Sun, life, art, for “not forgetting, even without seeing” to quote the Brazilian poet Armando Freitas Filho, in 1979.

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Dom La Nena’s Favorite Songs

Dom La Nena’s Cantando EP (Six Degrees Records, 2016)

Brazilian singer-songwriter, cellist and world traveler Dom La Nena has released Cantando, an EP that includes cover versions of some of her favorite songs from various international composers. Cantando features Dom La Nena’s whispered vocals in Portuguese, Spanish, French and English.

Although Dom La Nena sings her own material, from time to time she also wants to sing and record the songs composed by other artists. The songs that appear in “Cantando” are at times included in her live concert set, others she only sings at home. “All of the songs selected for this EP are long time favorites of mine, many of which I have enjoyed since I was a child,” says Dom La Nena. With these four songs, Dom offers a diversity of feelings, languages, impressions, and time periods, revisiting her musical roots.

Dom La Nena kept things simple on Cantando. She only used her cello as accompaniment. The song selection includes “Felicidade” (happiness) from Brazilian composer Lupicinio Rodrigues, a song that reminds Dom of her childhood. “It is one of the first songs I learned to play…I have a strong sense of contentment whenever I hear or perform this song. I think Lupicinio makes me feel so happy because he transports me back to my hometown of Porto Alegre (Lupicinio was also from there), back to my family roots.”

Acclaimed Chilean songwriter Violeta Parra is one Dom’s biggest musical inspirations. Dom remembers passionately singing Parra’s “Gracias a la Vida” during her teenage years while in Buenos Aires.

“Scenic World” appeared in Beirut’s first album, “The Gulag Orkestar. The song reminded Dom of samba while she was living in France.

“Les Vieux,” by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel is Dom’s mother’s favorite song. She introduced Dom to Brel’s music during her childhood in Brazil before Dom arrived in France. It was with this song that Dom became familiar with the French language.

Cantando is a dreamy, ear friendly set of songs by much-admired songwriters performed by Dom La Nena’s soft vocals and cello.

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Clarice & Sergio Assad’s Exquisite Guitar and Vocals

Clarice & Sergio Assad - Reliquia
Clarice & Sergio Assad – Reliquia

Clarice & Sergio Assad – Reliquia (Adventure Music, 2016)

An album by one of the great musical families of Brazil. Reliquia showcases the talent of one of the great musical families of Brazil, the Assads. Sergio Assad is one of the finest guitarists from Brazil. His daughter Clarice is an equally talented vocalist.

On Reliquia, the duo perform a splendid set of musical pieces where Brazilian roots music is intertwined with jazz. Clarice’s style includes songs in Portuguese as well as jazz-style wordless vocals. Sergio plays exquisite guitar, ranging from delicate passages to dazzling fast finger work. On some of the cuts, Clarice and Sergio are joined by guest musicians.

The lineup on Reliquia includes Clarice Assad on vocals and piano; Sergio Assad on guitar and vocals; Derek Bermel on clarinet; Mike Marshall on mandolin; Keita Ogawa on percussion; Yasushi Nakamura on acoustic bass; Angela Olinto on vocals.

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Tradition and Getting Around it

Being a self-styled traditionalist doesn’t mean my musical tastes are so staunch that I shun any sonic adventurousness that steps over traditional boundaries. Cross the line into an over-reliance on gimmickry (which can take the form of too much technology or pop pandering for commercial purposes), and you’ve lost me. Taking chances by mixing traditions or styles in ways that leave musical integrity unscathed? You’ve got my attention.

 

Aziza Brahim - Abbar el Hamada
Aziza Brahim – Abbar el Hamada

 

Aziza Brahim, a Sahrawi woman who was born in an Algerian refugee camp as the war over the Western Sahara region was raging, doesn’t exactly go in for traditional Sahrawi music on Abbar el Hamada (Glitter Beat, 2016). Having lived and studied in Cuba and currently a citizen of Spain, some of her songs have an expected, and very welcome, Iberian and Latin edge. She even sings in Spanish for much of the album, the title of which refers to rocky desert landscapes and subject-wise deals with activist concerns like the ongoing plight of the Sahrawi.

The disc also digs into a measure of the “desert blues” sound that many Saharan musicians have become known for, as well as a few galloping rhythms that suggest a more laid back version of Senegalese m’balax (which has always had its own Latin flavors).

 

 

Brahim isn’t as frequent in her use of wailing, undulating tones as a lot singers with Arabic roots tend to be. Her approach is more pensive, but she sharpens her tone when needed, and partly because she also plays the bowl-shaped tbal drum while she sings, her voice fits the grooves as naturally as the grooves themselves, be they acoustic or electric. A stunning release all around.

 

Ana Alcaide - Leyenda
Ana Alcaide – Leyenda

 

She’s already a groundbreaker for use of the Swedish nyckelharpa (keyed viola) in the music of her native Spain, and now Ana Alcaide takes things a few steps further with Leyenda- World Music Inspired by Feminine Legends (ARC Music, 2016). Female folkloric characters from various cultures (including Spain, Mexico, China, Scotland and Alcaide’s own imagination) are celebrated in songs that range from lullaby-like softness to ritualistic and pulsating.

Nyckelharpa, baroque guitars and bouzouki are sweetened with other strings, reeds, percussion and celestial production values that surround Alcaide’s gracefully penetrating vocals and construct a pair of instrumentals that seem to tell otherworldly tales without any words at all. This is music that could serve as a soundtrack for any ancient or modern fantasy worth conjuring, or bring about just enough of a dream state to take you blissfully away from reality for a while. Either way, it’s stunning.

 

Money Chicha - Echo En Mexico
Money Chicha – Echo En Mexico

 

Chicha, the Peruvian-originated, organ-tweaked, fuzz guitar-laden psychedelic style of music with similarities to Colombian cumbia and Jamaican dub, continues on its revival path courtesy of Austin-based band Money Chicha. Their debut album Echo En Mexico (Vampisoul, 2016) is an irresistibly throbbing beat fest where unyielding layers of Latin percussion support keyboards, guitars and bass that are as trippy in their wall of sound as they are intertwined in their tightness. And tightness is indeed the key.

The chicha sound is one that must not lag in its skipping rhythms or spot-on melodic mesh that weighs in somewhere between surf rock, alternative Latin, Andean tradition, the ghost of Arsenio Rodriguez and music that simply wouldn’t appeal to polite society in Lima, Bogota or, well, Austin. Money Chicha go their own way by eliminating vocals entirely and giving the tracks a subtle funk push with a little extra breathing room among the instruments, resulting in a disc that satisfies to the frenzied max.

 

Nii Okai Tagoe - West to West
Nii Okai Tagoe – West to West

 

Lovers of African drumming and African music in general will happily tune in to West to West (ARC Music, 2016) by Nii Okai Tagoe. He’s a master of many a drum and percussion instrument affiliated with the Motherland and treads a beaten (beating?) path away from tradition by lacing his danceable pieces with horns, keyboards, violin, harp, bass and guitar.

Some unexpected turns are taken with arrangements as well, such as the blues sway of “3 Monkeys.” Not surprising for a gent who’s played with outfits as diverse as Baka Beyond and African Head Charge. This sort of thing has been done before, but Tagoe certainly does it spot-on.

 

Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus - Chiaroscuro
Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus – Chiaroscuro

 

A very different take on percussion and its relationship to the human voice can be heard on Chiaroscuro (Bent Records, 2016) a collaboration involving Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus. Nexus is a virtuosic percussion ensemble; Prana is a group of singers who all specialize in singing two pitches simultaneously. That dual pitch knack helped inspire Garry Kvistad of Nexus to invent the vistaphone, four octaves worth of chimes gathered into one instrument and the perfect companion to the harmonic series scale of notes that the singers use to achieve their second level of vocal prowess.

The grandiosely-titled tracks on the album (“The Rituals of Dusk,” A Crown of Radiant Fire,” etc.) combine orchestral drums, gongs, glockenspiel, marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, voices and the debuting vistaphone to create music that I can only describe as equal parts refined and primal, rhythmic and atmospheric, structured and seemingly spontaneous, eerie and comforting, earthy and not of this earth. Repeating patterns of percussion and wordless voices ascend to mesmerizing heights and hover there, exploring in sonic terms the disc’s titular concept of light and dark contrasting yet harmonizing.

The three concluding compositions (including a mind-and-ear-altering Balinese monkey chant) are voices unaccompanied and lose nothing in the absence of their percussive counterparts. So is this disc the pinnacle of traditional music, the complete lack of it or something else altogether? Get it and decide for yourself. And prepare to be spellbound.

 

9Bach Anian
9Bach – Anian

 

I don’t know a great deal about traditional Welsh music and thus can’t say how closely 9Bach adheres to it with their latest release, Anian (Real World, 2016). But I am quite taken with the shimmery emotiveness of singer/pianist/composer/lyricist Lisa Jen’s lead vocals, as well as the sparse yet very sturdy support her bandmates offer on guitar, bass, percussion, harp, hammer dulcimer and harmonies.

 

 

While some of the instruments used reportedly stray from tradition, the end result is a perfect fit, with modern production adding a kind of cool mist to softly enveloping music that often has a melancholy, longing feel offset by pure beauty. Anian is one to savor repeatedly.

There’s also a bonus disc, Yn Dy Lais (In Your Voice), that features Welsh-influenced poetry and storytelling rendered in English by the likes of Peter Gabriel and Rhys Ifans. It’s meant to make the nuances of the Welsh language more accessibly artsy and is worth a listen, but the lovely sounds on the first disc are the true reason to get this album.

 

Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars - Gulfstream
Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars – Gulfstream

 

A world away but still bringing tradition to a different level, Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars take music with roots as old as the Louisiana bayou itself and jolt it full of rock, soul, blues, zydeco and funk energy. Gulfstream (Octavia Records, 2016) is a swampy, sultry, swaggering, sizzling slab of deep-south musical gumbo that will delight anyone who loves the celebratory sounds of New Orleans and Lafayette and appreciates the need to cool down for a ballad like the Aaron Neville-ish title track. It’s a party, albeit from the heart.

 

Richard Bona - Heritage
Richard Bona – Heritage

 

Richard Bona, the “African Sting,” melds his smooth Cameroonian roots music with the sounds of Afro-Cuban band Mandekan Cubano on Heritage (Qwest Records, 2016). African and Latin musical traditions have been best friends for a long, long time thanks to their shared origins, and Mandekan Cubano’s piano, dual percussion, trumpet and trombone lineup expertly underpins Bona’s joyous salsa-infused numbers and his softer side. Primarily a bassist but adept on numerous instruments, Bona adds unexpected touches like electric sitar to the range of Afro-Latin delights that comprise a very fine release.

 

Luisa Maita - Fio da Memoria
Luisa Maita – Fio da Memoria

 

Brazilian music, a familiar world staple for decades, has more recently been fused with electronica to degrees that some traditionalists have accepted and others rejected. Put me in the former category. It’s telling that Luisa Maita waited six years since her first album to put out a followup; perhaps she wanted to see how the Brazilian/electronica scene would play out in the interim. Her sophomore release Fio da Memoria (Cumbancha, 2016) has the breathy, sensual feel that’s nearly a given when it comes to female Brazilian singers, and the tunes roll out on a foundation of grooves rooted in samba, even if they’re not always rendered on organic instruments.

Maita’s steamy sentiments translate well, as the sung-in-English “Around You” demonstrates, and she’s got some stories of substance to tell, like “Na Asa,” a musical tale of dreams realized. Fio da Memoria is a keeper for sure, but Maita’s vocal mix of subtle and searing would benefit even more from backing that likewise balances real and electronic sounds equally.

 

Various Artists - The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz
Various Artists – The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz

 

If you need a reminder of how well traditional Ethiopian music meshes with jazz, The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz (World Music Network, 2016) will handily serve. Trailblazer Mulatu Astatke kicks off with the horn-heavy proclaiming of “Gamo” and things jump ever further back into the Swinging Addis feel of the 60s and 70s from there.

While at only 9 tracks the collection can’t cover the whole spectrum, what you get is choice. Serpentine instrumentals are the bulk of it, including NYC’s Budos Band providing impressive overseas translation of the sound, but the soulful vocal thrills of Tlahoun Gessesse and Gabriella Ghermandi show just how large a role male and female voices also played (and play) on the scene. A superb sampler.

headline photo: Richard Bona

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