Flamenco and Jazz, Andreas Arnold’s Two Hearts

Andreas Arnold – Odisea

Andreas Arnold – Odisea (Galileo Music, 2019)

Andreas Arnold is a US-based, jazz-trained German guitarist who fell in love with flamenco and spent some time in southern Spain immersed in flamenco culture. Odisea is his third release and it is deeply influenced by flamenco guitar and Mediterranean music. Unlike other non-Spanish guitarists who play easy listening flamenco rumbas, Arnold plays the real stuff: soleas, tangos and other forms.

Odisea is a melting pot of musical ideas and cross-pollination. Andreas Arnold incorporates jazz, flamenco, Greek and other world music influences. This project showcases a skilled trio format that includes Arnold on guitars, Greek musician Petros Klampanis on acoustic bass and Japanese percussionist Miguel Hiroshi, who was raised in Granada, Spain.

I think this album is sort of a homecoming for me,” says Arnold about Odisea. “Back to a looser and improvised approach, while incorporating many things that I’ve learned during my travels across the vast seas of flamenco. Back to jazz elements, even back to classical elements that are rooted in my childhood.”

The recordings took place in Brooklyn (New York) and also in Cadiz and Madrid (Spain) and feature additional guests who provide additional authenticity to the flamenco side of the album. Guests include Carlos Ronda on cajon and palmas (flamenco handclap percussion); Cristian Soto on vocals; David Enhco on trumpet; Guy Mintus on piano and melodica; Jeremy Smith on percussion; Juan Carmona on percussion and palmas; Lucas Carmona on palmas; Maria Manousaki on violin; Ricardo Piñero on electric bass and palmas; and Rocio Parilla on vocals and palmas.

Odisea is a remarkable journey through the spirited sounds of western Mediterranean flamenco, eastern Mediterranean Cretan and Greek music and contemporary jazz.

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Artist Profiles: Maria Emília

Maria Emília

Maria Emília was born in São Paulo, Brazil, but always had a strong connection to fado. Her Portuguese grandfather introduced fado to Maria Emília and her father.

She moved from Brazil to Portugal at a young age, and began singing fado early at Taberna do Ganso and other well-known venues in the Minho region.

Althoug she returned to Brazil and sang in the Alfama dos Marinheiros, Maria Emília had a longing for Portugal and fado. She returned to Portugal and began her career as fadista. She performed at the most iconic fado houses and toured Brazil, Spain, Switzerland and Belgium.

Throughout her career, she has demonstrated a steadfast devotion not only to the music’s deepest traditions but also to its expressive possibilities. Her album Casa de Fado features bittersweet fados such as “Perfeito Pecado” and “Sou um Fado desta Idade”, as well as emotive classics such as “Um dia cheguei-me a ti” and “Agora.”

Discography:

Casa de fado (EMI, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Ana Sofia Varela

Ana Sofia Varela

Ana Sofia Varela Fernandes, better known as Ana Sofia Varela, was born in Lisbon on March 28, 1977).

She was a finalist in RTP’s contest “Selecção Nacional” and later performed in Festival RTP da Canção in 1995.

In 1997, Carlos Zel invited her to perform at Lisbon’s fado houses. She began a collaboration with Mário Pacheco and was a regular act at his Fado club.

Ana Sofia Varela participated in António Chainho’s album “A Guitarra e Outras Mulheres” (A Guitar and Other Women), along with Marta Dias, Teresa Salgueiro and Filipa Pais.

In 1999 she participated in a show in New York put together by João Braga and that would culminate in the recording of two songs for the CD “A Guitarra e Outras Mulheres” (One hundred Years of Fado).

Ana Sofia rose to prominence in the early 2000s as one of a small group of young and dynamic new fadistas, initiating a period of vibrancy and innovation that continues to the present.

Her first release was a single with two songs: “Quem canta na minha voz”, with lyrics by João Monge and music by Rui Veloso, and “Rosa Nocturna” by Vasco Graça Moura and Mário Pacheco.

Ana Sofia’s debut album, the self-titled Ana Sofia was released in 2002 by Universal Music.

In 2006, she met José Peixoto and Fernando Júdice who invited her to participate in the Sal project.

In 2009, Ana Sofia released her second album, “Fados De Amor E Pecado” made in collaboration with João Gil and João Monge. That same year, she appeared in Rao Kyao’s album “Em’Cantado.”

Discography:

Ana Sofia Varela ‎(Universal Music Portugal, 2002)                            

Fados De Amor E Pecado ‎(iPlay, 2009)

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Artist Profiles: Camané

Camané – Photo by Felipe Ferreira

Carlos Manuel Moutinho Paiva dos Santos Duarte, better-known as Camané, was born on December 20, 1966 in Oeiras, Portugal.

He started getting appreciation in Portugal in 1979 after winning the ‘Grande Noite do Fado’ (Great Fado Night) contest. He became one of the leading male singers and achieved commercial success with six certified gold albums: Uma Noite de Fados (1995), Na Linha da Vida (1998),  Esta Coisa da Alma (2000), Pelo Dia Dentro (2001), the live recording Como sempre… Como dantes (2003), and Sempre De Mim (2008).

Infinito Presente (2015), the product of an extended collaboration with the writer José Maria Branco, includes lyrics and arrangements that are deceptively simple. The songs express the mysterious emotion that the Portuguese claim as uniquely and exclusively theirs: saudade, which is at once the happiness that brings sadness, and the sadness that brings happiness.

On Camané’s 2017 album, Canta Marceneiro , he revisits the repertory of Alfredo Marceneiro, an early 20th century fado singer who, though only moderately competent as a technician, completely changed fado’s possibilities for artistic expression through unrestrained inventiveness and wit. Camané’s Canta Marceneiro is filled with mischievous stories that reveal the common cares and fears in all of us through the lives of astute waitresses, drunken painters, and kings’ courtiers.

Discography:

A Alma Jovem Do Fado ‎(Riso E Ritmo Discos, 1982)
Uma Noite de Fados ( EMI-Valentim de Carvalho, 1995)
Na Linha da Vida ( EMI-Valentim de Carvalho, 1998)
Esta Coisa da Alma ( EMI-Valentim de Carvalho, 2000)
Pelo Dia Dentro (EMI Portugal, 2001)
Como sempre… Como dantes (EMI Portugal, 2003)
Ao vivo no São Luíz (2006)
Sempre de Mim (EMI Portugal, 2008)
Do Amor e dos Dias (EMI Portugal, 2010)
O Melhor 1995–2013 (Warner Music Portugal, 2013)
Infinito Presente ( Warner Music Portugal, 2015)
Canta Marceneiro ( Warner Music Portugal, 2017)

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Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers to Perform Special Concert at Carnegie Hall

Nickel Creek – Photo by Josh Goleman

Chris Thile will conclude his season-long Debs Composer’s Chair residency at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. The special one-night-only performance at Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, includes his celebrated acoustic groups Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers on the same bill for the first time.

Punch Brothers – Photo by Josh Goleman

Nickel Creek
Chris Thile, mandolin
Sara Watkins, fiddle
Sean Watkins, guitar

Punch Brothers
Chris Eldridge, guitar
Paul Kowert, bass
Noam Pikelny, banjo
Chris Thile, mandolin

Wednesday May 8 at 8:00 PM
Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall
57th Street and Seventh Avenue, New York

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Masterful and Reverent Vietnamese Zither

Tri Nguyen – The Art of the Vietnamese Zither

Tri Nguyen – The Art of the Vietnamese Zither (ARC Music, 2019)

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. You see the title The Art of the Vietnamese Zither and I can hear the huff of your sighs and feel you rolling your eyes from here. Perhaps you are imagining a rather spare, academic exploration of the zither and a dense intellectual tour through Vietnamese music with an impossible array of terms to learn and understand in order to grasp the Vietnamese zither. Well, nothing could possibly be further from the truth. Achingly elegant and intricately engaging, The Art of the Vietnamese Zither will have listeners perched on the edge of their seats, anticipating note after note capable of musically expressing a summer afternoon, the rainy season and a young man’s ride on a horse to seek his bride all by way of the Vietnamese zither.

Armed with a musical education that includes the Music Conservatory of Saigon and the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, as well as previous recording credits Beyond Borders and A Journey Between Worlds, Vietnamese composer, pianist and zither player Tri Nguyen has turned out a stunning recording with The Art of the Vietnamese Zither. There’s nothing spare or clinical about this music. It comes across as sweepingly cinematic and deeply personal to Mr. Nguyen whether it is a grand, bold piece like “Strategist Khong on the Fortress” or a delicately intimate song like “Autumn Moon Lullaby.”

Composing and arranging most of the tracks, Mr. Nguyen has gathered up a group of musicians to join his vision and own zither playing on the Art of the Vietnamese Zither like Buynta Goryaeva on violin, Iryna Topolnitska on violin, Carolin Berry on viola, Dima Tsypkin on cello, Son Mach on violin, Thanh Trung on guitar, Trung Tran on monocord, Nguyen Quyet on Vietnamese bamboo flute, Thien Lam on Vietnamese lute, Tran Hien on Vietnamese drums and for an unlikely addition on several tracks Qais Saadi on percussion and oud.

From the very opening track “Exchange of Love” through to the last note of closing track “Black Riding Horse,” The Art of the Vietnamese Zither is masterful in its balance. It’s easy to pick out the reverence to ancient musical traditions of Vietnam and where Mr. Nguyen marries that with Western traditions as on the elegant “Song of the Blackbird.”

The bright delicacy and careful bend of notes allow tracks like “Twilight Mist,” “Sadness of the South” and “Move on Water, Walk on Clouds” to simply flow like fluttering silk in the breeze. Stepping away from the delicate into the bold “Melancholy” and “Strategist Khong on the Fortress” prove that there’s plenty of drama in Vietnamese music. And, if that weren’t enough, Mr. Nguyen dazzles with a kind of hybrid track on “Child Where Are You?” with Mr. Saadi providing percussion and interestingly enough sinuous oud lines, and again on the track “Golden Skies.” Closing with the traditional Vietnamese folk song “Black Riding Horse,” Mr. Nguyen fleshes this track out with traditional Vietnamese bamboo flute, lute and drums to dazzle listeners with this wild musical ride on a black horse.

The Art of Vietnamese Zither is a gorgeously sumptuous listen and well worth the journey across southern Vietnam’s musical landscape.

Purchase The Art of the Vietnamese Zither

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World Music Inspired by Buddhist Philosophy

Sakya Tashi Ling Buddhist Monks – My Spirit Flies to You

The Buddhist Monks Sakya Tashi Ling – My Spirit Flies to You (Fundacion Prevain, 2006)

This is an ambitious world music album inspired by the Buddhist philosophy and musical chanting of Sakya Tashi Ling, a monastery belonging to one of four Buddhist schools from Tibet, the Sakyapa tradition. They later set up the first Buddhist monastery in Spain.

The orientation is mostly toward Western listeners, with the Buddhist chanting adding an exotic ‘Eastern’ appeal over the 14 smooth jazz and lounge tracks.

Our picks include the pleasant piece Emotions and the soaring I Wanna Fly. The music is generally a mix of pop and New Age music, architected by Sergio Medrano and Miguel González.

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Alluring Musical Journey to the Middle East

Various Artists – Journey to the Middle East

Various Artists – Journey to the Middle East (ARC Music, 2019)

Everyone knows that the tin with an assortment of cookies is just so much better than the tins with just a single kind of cookie. It’s just so much better to sample one’s way through dark chocolate covered cookies, white chocolate wafers, shortbread squares, bites of buttery Madeleine cookies or milk chocolate covered cookies with tiny pictures pressed into the chocolate than a beaten up bag of plain old snicker-doodles. That’s just fact.

Interestingly enough it can be the same way with music and our friends at ARC Music know this and have put a wonderful collection for listeners to nibble their way through on Journey to the Middle East. This compilation works its way through the music of Syria, Egypt, Persia, Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon and Turkey. This glorious collection would delight the most seasoned listener or the newbie listener dipping an ear into the musical mysteries of the Middle East.

Listener get a dose of the dramatic right up front with the traditional song and dance from Cyprus titled “Cifdetelli” by the folk ensemble Yeksad. Journey to the Middle East turns hip with Hossam Ramzy and Phil Thornton’s “Planet Egypt” replete with hypnotic percussion and call-and-response interplay between mizmar, argul and kawala from the ARC release Planet Egypt.

Up next is “Aziz Jun” by Zohreh Jooya, originally from the ARC release Persian Nights. Fans will simply not want to miss “Midnight Sun” by Dastan Trio. This track is just simply impressive as Dastan musicians Pejman Hadadi, Hossein Behroozi-Nia, and Hamid Motebassem weave a web of improvisational mastery on barbat, setar and tombak that includes some spectacular percussion.

If that weren’t enough to lure listeners to Journey to the Middle East, there’s the sly and sassy “Iraqi Jazz” by Ahmed Mukhtar, the sweetly soulful “Mi Yitneni Of” by The Burning Bush, originally from the ARC release Folksongs from Israel. There’s also “Amaken” by Andre Hajj & Ensemble, the sultry vocals on the Syrian song “Hayyamatni” by Zein Al-Jundi and Armenian dance song “Karoun, Karoun/Nooneh” by Alan Shavarsh Bardezbanian.

The Iranian percussionists of Zarbang have on offer “Cycling Feast” and it is a powerful Sufi trance, ancient Iranian call to the wild and percussion extravaganza all rolled into one. Journey to the Middle East keeps up the wild ride all the way to the end with a final track from Ensemble Huseyin Turkmenler called “Rumeli Karsilamisi.”

Journey to the Middle East is a whole assortment treats and everyone knows that’s the best.

Purchase Journey to the Middle East

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Elegant and Graceful Piano Tango


Hakon Skogstad – Two Hands To Tango

Hakon Skogstad – Two Hands To Tango (Avantango Records, 2018)

Norwegian musician Hakon Skogstad delivers an exquisite interpretation of tango through the prism of the piano, combining tango, jazz and classical music elements.

Skogstad extracts the passion, romance and longing feelings of tango with ease. The material includes eight tango classics, as well as two original pieces including a tribute to Astor Piazzolla.

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Ravi Shankar’s Vision of Peace


Pandit Ravi Shankar – Vision of Peace

Pandit Ravi Shankar – Vision of Peace (Deutsche Grammophon/Universal, 2000)

This double CD showcases some of Pandit Ravi Shankar’s international prowess. The first CD has Japanese-Indian collaborative tracks featuring Pandit Ravi Shankar on sitar and Ustad Alla Rakha on tabla, accompanied by Japanese musicians Susumu Miyashita and Hozan Yamamoto on flute and string instruments. Our pick on this CD is the energetic track, Rokudan.

The second CD is more traditional, with Raaga Jogeshwari and Raaga Hameer. In sum, a fine listen for an afternoon of relaxation.

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Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion