Tag Archives: pop

The Blue Dahlia International Family

The Blue Dahlia – La Tradition Américaine (Dahlia Dumont, 2018)

American singer-songwriter Dahlia Dumont is the artist behind The Blue Dahlia. The New York-based group brings together musicians from various countries who play a cross-cultural sound with vocals in French and English.

The mix includes, pop, Americana, dancehall reggae, French accordion melodies, blues, ska, jazz, soca, klezmer, and Mexican influences.

La Tradition Américaine is a musically diverse and lively album recorded on two continents.

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Flamenco Pop and EDM

Elena Andujar – Flamenco In Time

Elena Andujar – Flamenco In Time (Wake Up! Music, 2018)

Elena Andujar’s Flamenco In Time intends to bring together electronic dance music (EDM), flamenco pop and hip hop. Several other artists like Shpongle have successfully mixed flamenco and EDM. In this case, the results are less satisfactory with its repetitive vocals and flamenco-ish pop.

The opening track features flamenco-inspired vocals with a steady, slow and dull electronic beat and smooth jazz.

The electronic beats on the second track are much more exciting. This is followed by two versions of El Despertador where Elena introduces rapping and three mixes of Es Así.

The lineup on the album includes Miami-based Andujar on vocals; Antonio Andujar on percussion and cajon; Matt Warren on electronic instruments; Pepper Gomez on background vocals; Bruce Gomez on lead guitar; Frank Schabold on bass and keyboards; and Ron Haynes on trumpet.

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Humanity at the Heart of Eleanor Dubinsky’s Songs

Eleanor Dubinsky – Soft Spot of My Heart (Eleanor Dubinsky, 2018)

American composer, songwriter and vocalist Eleanor Dubinsky uses various musical genres to express her finely-crafted songs. She has a delightful, engaging vocal style and her lyrics transmit her concern for the marginalized, longing and understanding of human beings from diverse cultures.

On Soft Spot of My Heart you’ll find a captivating collection of songs that incorporate jazz, gospel, soul, Americana, pop and world music elements.

The album was recorded in Portugal and New York City, which allowed Dubinsky to collaborate with a group of artists representing different musical genres and nationalities, including musicians from New York, Brazil, Cape Verde, and Portugal.

Eleanor Dubinsky spent several years abroad in Europe, Argentina and Mexico, where she learned French and Spanish. She writes her songs in English, French and Spanish. Meanwhile, she was exposed to Cape Verdean and Angolan music. Portuguese-Cape Verdean singer Sara Tavares became a major influence. Eleanor Dubinsky met of the musicians Tavares works with frequently. Three of these talented musicians, bassist Rolando Semedo, percussionist Miroca Paris, and drummer Ivo Costa appear on Soft Spot.

Dubinsky sings in Spanish on two songs. “El sabor de la vida,” includes a fascinating mix of world percussion, soulful vocals and gospel. “Cuando voy a mi trabajo” features vocals in three languages and is the most world music-oriented track featuring global rhythms, great bass lines and acoustic guitars.

There’s a great blues-infused climactic song titled “I Let Go,” in which Dubinsky adds cello, which is one of the instruments close to her heart.

Buy Soft Spot of My Heart

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Artist Profiles: Vassar Clements

Vassar Clements

Vassar Clements was one the United States’ most versatile fiddle players. His career began at a very early age. His phenomenal ability to virtually play any kind of music (bluegrass, country, pop, rock, jazz and swing) garnered him various awards including five Grammy nominations and a track record that involves multitudes of recording performances.

Vassar was a prolific composer of instrumentals and played seven instruments: violin, viola, cello, bass, mandolin, guitar and tenor banjo.

Vassar’s career spanned over fifty years. His association with Bill Monroe began when he was only 14 years old and still in school. He started with Bill as a regular Bluegrass Boy in 1949 and was with him through 1956. From 1957 to 1961 he performed with bluegrass artists Jim & Jesse McReynolds. In 1962 he took leave from his music to pursue other interests but returned to full time music when he decided to make Nashville his home in January 1967.

Vassar did recording sessions and played tenor banjo in Nashville’s Dixieland Landing club until October 1969. He then started touring with Faron Young and doing occasional solo dates when time permitted. In February 1971 he joined John Hartford and his Dobrolic Plectral Society, initiating a professional association and personal friendship that has grew stronger through the years. After ten months and earning an enormous amount of recognition and popularity, the group decided to disband. Vassar then found himself with the legendary Earl Scruggs and the Earl Scruggs Revue.

During that time, one of the most important milestones in his career was his participation on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 1972 Landmark album Will The Circle Be Unbroken. This historical event was produced by William McEuen and featured an extravaganza of bluegrass, country and folk’s greatest artists. It was the turning point that re-kindled Vassar’s career and at the same time introduced him to a much younger non-country audience.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Will The Circle Be Unbroken

Within a few short months Vassar was recording and/or performing with Dicky Betts, Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, David Grisman, Paul McCartney, etc. In May 1973, The classic Old & In The Way album was recorded in San Francisco during a live performance. The Sales from this project have exceeded other albums of like kind and has formed staunch cults that still exist after twenty three years.

Since 1973 when Vassar signed his first major label deal with Mercury/Polygram records his personal discography ranged from country, waltzes, swing to jazz. Ironically, in 1992 he recorded his only straight bluegrass recording for Rounder Records titled Grass Routes.

His early experience growing with jazz and swing music left an indelible mark on his style. Vassar said: “bands like Glen Miller, Les Brown, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and Artie Shaw were very popular when I was a kid. I always loved rhythm so I guess in the back of my mind the swing and jazz subconsciously comes out when I play because when I was learning I was always trying to emulate the big band sounds I heard on my fiddle.” Understandably the form of jazz music created by Clements was a mix of the diverse influences that touched him throughout his career but particularly his affinity for the jazz and swing music of his youth.

Therefore it is no surprise that even though early in his career, as he learned and developed bluegrass and country styles, he also gained respect as a jazz player. Hence classic number two: Once In A While which resulted from a jam session with Miles Davis’s ex-band members Dave Holland, John Abercrombie and Jimmy Cobb. Classic number three: Together At Last. with Stephane Grappelli was produced by Tim Yaquinto and recorded in Vassar’s former studio.

Back Porch Swing was Vassar’s first album to feature the Little Big Band. Recorded between September 1997 and September 1998 at the Historic RCA Studio B in Nashville Back Porch Swing was performed almost entirely live with the exception of vocal and string overdubs.

Vassar Clements participated in Dead Grass (2000) a bluegrass twist on some Grateful Dead favorites.

Full Circle (OMS Records) released in 2001 had Vassar returning to his bluegrass roots with an all star cast that included Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Bryan Sutton, Peter Rowan, John Cowan, Josh Graves, Jeff Hanna, Jimmie Fadden, J. D. Crowe, Billy Troy, Alan O’Bryant, Ricky Skaggs, Jim & Jesse and Jake Landers.

In May of 2004 Runaway Fiddle (OMS Records) came out. This project was a labor of love of two of the greatest American fiddle players of modern times Vassar Clements and Buddy Spicher. Buddy Spicher is one of Nashville’s most recorded session artists and arrangers. On Runaway Fiddle these two legends teamed up to record tunes they grew up loving playing and internalizing but for the most part never recording. Selections include 192’s show tunes Western Swing Dixieland. Several songs are interpretations of songs popularized by country music icon Bob Wills who created the new art form called Western Swing.

His CD Livin’ With The Blues (Acoustic Disc) was released in August of 2004. It was his first blues album. While Vassar Clements has often been considered the ?bluesiest? of the bluegrass fiddlers it wasn?t until producer Grisman asked him what kind of record he wanted to make that the soft spoken septuagenarian replied “I’ve always wanted to make a blues record.”

Livin? With The Blues includes Skip James? swampy “Cypress Grove ” with Vassar’s lonesome fiddle accompanied by Bob Brozman’s slide guitar. Elvin Bishop cleans house with his own “Dirty Drawers” and “That?s My Thing ” while Maria Muldaursings with Vassar on “Honey Babe Blues” and Bessie Smith?s “I Ain?t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle.” Other tracks include Roy Rogers desolate take on Robert Johnson?s “Phonograph Blues ” “Mambo Boogie” featuring Dave Mathews and the Booker T. Jones classic “Green Onions ” given a new twist by Charlie Musselwhite and Vassar. “Rube’s Blues” featured blues guitar whiz David Jacob-Strain (who was 19 at the time) helping Vassar reinvent a bluegrass standard and Norton Buffalo with his unique soul treatment of his own “Don’t Stand Behind A Mule.”

In November of 2004 Vassar Clements joined bluegrass quartet The Biscuit Burners onstage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Vassar played on two of the band’s original songs “Come On Darlin'” and “Red Mountain Wine”. The surprise appearance was part of the historic Ryman Auditorium’s $1 on the 1th Mystery Artist Series celebrating the 1 year anniversary of the legendary theater’s renovation.

On March 11, 2005 Vassar was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died at his home August 16th, 2005 at 8:25 am. He was 77.

[Biography adapted from Vassar Clement’s official biography].

Discography:

Vassar (Mercury Records)
Superbow (Mercury Records)
Southern Waltzes (Rhythm Records)
Vassar Clements John Hartford & Dave Holland (Rounder Records)
Crossing The Catskills (Rounder Records 1972)
Vassar Clements (MCA Records)
The Bluegrass Session (Flying Records 1977)
Grass Routes (Rounder Records)
Saturday Night Shuffle – A Celebration of Merle Travis (Shanachie Records)
Hillbilly Jazz (Flying Records 1978)
Hillbilly Jazz Rides Again (Flying Records)
New Hillbilly Jazz (Shikata Records)
Together At Last with Stephane Grappelli (Flying Records 1987)
Nashville Jam (Flying Records)
Westport Drive (Mind Dust Records)
The Man The Legend (Vassillie Productions)
Country Classics (Vassillie Productions)
Vassar Clements Reunion With Dixie Gentlemen (Old Homestead)
Once In A While, Jam with Miles Davis’ ex-band members (Flying Fish Records 1992)
Live in Telluride 1979 (Vassillie Productions 1979)
Music City USA (Vassillie Productions)
Old And In The Way – Volume 1 (BMG Music)
Old and In The Way – That High Lonesome Sound – Volume 2 (Acoustic Disc)
Old and In The Way – Breakdown – Volume 3 (Acoustic Disc)
An Americana Christmas with Norman Blake (Winter Harvest)
The Bottom Line Encore Collection (Bottom line 1999)
Vassar’s Jazz – Golden Anniversary (Winter Harvest)
Back Porch Swing (Chrome Records 2000)
Dead Grass (Cedar Glen Music Group)
20 Fiddle Tunes & Waltz Favorites
Full Circle (OMS Records 2001)
Will The Circle Be Unbroken – Volume II – 3th Anniversary Edition (Capitol Records)
Will The Circle Be Unbroken (United Artists)
Will The Circle Be Unbroken – Volume III (Capitol Records)
Old & In The Gray (Acoustic Disc)
Runaway Fiddle with Buddy Spicher (OMS Records)
Livin’ With The Blues (Acoustic Disc 2004)
The Fiddle According to Vassar (Homespun Tapes). Taught By Vassar Clements. 9-minute DVD or VHS Includes music book
Vassar Clements In Concert – Vassar Swings (Shikata Records)
Vassar Clements In Concert – Ramblin’ 81 (Shanachie Records)

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Artist Profiles: Rosario

Rosario

María del Rosario González Flores, better known as Rosario, was born November 4, 1963 in Madrid, Spain. She grew up in a family of renowned Spanish Gypsy performers. She is the youngest daughter of one of Spain’s most famous pop stars during the late 20th century, Lola Flores, also known as La Faraona. Her father Antonio Gonzalez was known as El Pescailla.

I was born in Madrid. My mother and father was a couple of artists that devoted their lives to art. My mother was a great artist. The most charismatic figure and the most popular in Spain, this is why they called her La Faraona [The Pharaohness] or Lola from Spain.”

I grew up rapidly, I was the youngest of the family taking part of artist gatherings accompanied by guitars and submerged on magical flamenco chanting.

My father was the creator of the Catalan rumba which he created inspired in geniuses of Caribbean music such as Compay Segundo. His artistic name was El Pescadilla, his style was the one the Gypsy Kings made popular around the world, in a modern version that is.”

Art and music are revealed in each and every one of Rosario’s productions. She was predestined to be the artist she has become. She initiated in the artistic world at the short age of five taking part in a dozen movies and television series such as Al fin solos (Alone at Last), Cale Mariana Pineda (a masterpiece of Federico Garcia Lorca) among others.

Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Camaron, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, Rolling Stones, Carole King, etc. are great musicians that have become part of her life. Her harmonious personality is a result of this fusion of cultures and styles including bossa nova, funk, Gypsy rumba and contemporary pop. An exceedingly music blend is what Rosario has established as being her most authentic expression. According to the singer Camaron de la Isla she is a genius for the flamenco history.

Her recording career begun in 1992 with the album De Ley (About Law), ongoing with Siento (I Feel) in 1994 and later on came Mucho por Vivir (Much to Love) in 1996.

Subsequently, she published Jugar a la Locura (Playing Insanity) in which Rosario wrote ten of the eleven songs and for which she was nominated for a Latin Grammy. This was an electrifying album, a bit of a rocker, full of energy power and sentiment. She sold over 1 million copies out of these first productions only in Spain.

I don’t want to look back, I’m going forward with no repudiations of my origins because there is nobody that will take away my blood. I miss Antonio, my brother, who always helped me and died very young. He was one of the biggest Spanish musicians and singers of the new generation. I’m devoted to the stage because I think my parents brought me to this world to sing and act: this is my life.”

My production Muchas Flores (Bunch of Flowers) is a music evolution; it’s made up of bolero, bossa nova, Catalan and Caribbean rumba as well as pop-for the good music lovers. This album is alive, acoustic in presence and essence, enclosing my own lyrics as well as my friends’ Calamaro, Jorge Drexler among others.” The album also includes flamenco blues guitarist Raimundo Amador as well as Antonio Carmona and Jose Miguel Carmona, guitar Ketama’s guitar player.

Rosario has sold about five million copies of Muchas Flores, an album that got her a 2002 Latin Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Album. She also obtained a Premio de la Musica award as Best Song for Como quieres que te quiera (How do you want me to love you).

Hand in hand with acclaimed film director Almodovar she played the roll of a bullfighter in the film Hable con Ella: the outcome was as celebrated as her album. In January 2003 Hable con Ella obtained the Golden Globe Award for Best Film, an award that preludes the Oscars in the US. The film was also nominated for the 2002 Oscars for Best Director and Best Original Script.

De Mil Colores (In a thousand colors) was released in 2004. The album is a blend of rumba and bossa nova, Andalucia and Brazil, the flamenco guitar and the Cuban tres, funk and ballads. The album was produced entirely by Fernando Illen with Antonio Carmona’s collaboration in two songs. Rosario also shared her inspiration writing five of the 11 tracks included in the record.

Discography:

De Ley (1992)
Siento (1995)
Mucho Por Vivir (1996)
Jugar a la Locura (1999)
Muchas Flores (Sony, 2001)
De Mil Colores (2004)
Contigo Me Voy (2006)
Parte de Mí (2008)
Cuéntame, TV soundtrack (2009)
Raskatriski (2011)
Rosario (2013)
Gloria a ti (2016)

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Artist Profiles: Rebecca Pidgeon

Rebecca Pidgeon

Rebecca Pidgeon, the acclaimed American actress has also displayed her gift as a singer-songwriter on her several well-received albums with Chesky Records. Pidgeon’s style includes elements from folk, pop, jazz and Celtic traditions.

Rebecca Pidgeon was born October 10, 1965 in Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA). While a teenager in Scotland, music came as naturally to Pidgeon as breathing. She sang along with the radio and her parents’ Beatles and Joni Mitchell records as a light escape from her demanding acting studies. In Edinburgh, a friend asked her to sing on his demo tape. “I didn’t know I was a singer at all,” she recalls. “At first I felt ridiculous because I hadn’t trained to be a singer hadn’t even planned it. I didn’t feel like a genuine singer and the first songs I wrote didn’t feel like real songs. It was only when people started saying to me ‘That’s a wonderful song’ that I finally began believing I was a singer and a songwriter.”

Pidgeon made two celebrated British albums with the folk-pop band Ruby Blue, shared the stage with Lyle Lovett and Van Morrison and played a series of New York gigs with Anthony Coote while she was starring in the New York stage production of Oleanna.

By the age of 23 the actress had found work in theater film and on BBC television starring with Anthony Hopkins, David Warner, Ian Holm and Dame Peggy Ashcroft. She had just played a lead in a star-strewn BBC production of Uncle Vanya when she moved to the United States in 1990 and married playwright David Mamet. “Coming to America was a huge change. I didn’t have a plan in my head and I had to start all over again with both my acting and my music,” she says.

After returning to the United States, Pidgeon happened to hear a Kenny Rankin album that was released on Chesky Records, the New York-based audiophile record label. “It was recorded without overdubbing and the sound was so beautiful and natural that I knew it was what I wanted. I wished to get away from the over-produced approach I’d known in England.” So began Pidgeon’s relationship with Chesky Records.

Her first Chesky release, The Raven featured Pidgeon’s striking version of “Spanish Harlem.” The Raven went on to become an audiophile classic thanks to Pidgeon’s crystalline voice and Chesky’s high-fidelity recording techniques. Her second album, New York Girls Club brought her unique singing and songwriting to more music lovers. “Songwriting became a very important form of self-expression for me a rich part of my life,” Pidgeon explains.

While growing up in Scotland Pidgeon’s father knew many Scottish songs in addition to American and British music. Pidgeon’s third, Four Marys showcases Rebecca’s unique interpretations of timeless Celtic folk songs.

Between album projects, Pidgeon has starred in the Mamet plays Oleanna, Speed the Plow, The Old Neighborhood and the motion pictures The Spanish Prisoner, The Winslow Boy and State & Main.

Discography:

Down From Above with Ruby Blue (1990)
The Raven (Chesky Records, 1994)
New York Girls Club (Chesky Records, 1996)
The Four Marys (Chesky Records, 1998)
Tough On Crime (2005)
Behind The Velvet Curtain (2008)
Slingshot (2012)
Blue Dress On (2013)
Bad Poetry (2014)

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Artist Profiles: Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel

 

Peter Gabriel has earned a worldwide reputation for his support of world music, his groundbreaking work as a progressive rock pioneer, his innovative recordings as a solo musician and writer, and for and his creative video productions.

Gabriel was born February 13, 1950 in Cobham (Surrey, England). While at school in 1966 he was a member of two bands The Spoken Word and The Garden Wall. The latter included two schoolmates, keyboardist Tony Banks and guitarist Anthony Phillips. In 1967 Gabriel, Banks, Phillips and bassist Mike Rutherford formed Genesis which would later become one of the most famous progressive rock bands of all times.

Initially, Peter Gabriel was a flute player but soon became the lead vocalist. He also became the main lyricist for Genesis. Gabriel also introduced theatrical elements to the band’s shows. He used makeup and various costumes during the band’s live performances. Genesis became a legendary band thanks to its charismatic vocals, its elaborate lyrics, outstanding music and innovative visual effects. Progressive rock fans worldwide consider the band one of the finest in the history of the genre and numerous groups and singers were heavily influenced by Genesis and Peter Gabriel.

 

 

In 1975 after tensions during the recording of the double LP The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Peter Gabriel left and started his solo career. Soon, Peter Gabriel reached success with a series of pop hits such as “Solsbury Hill,” “Here Comes The Flood,” “Games Without Frontiers” and the anthemic “Biko,” a tribute to slain South African activist Steven Biko.

 

 

In 1980 he got together with a group of people to found word music organization WOMAD (World of Music Arts & Dance). In a series of international festivals held in various countries and continents each year WOMAD brings together traditional and modern world music as well as arts and dance from every corner of the globe. Peter Gabriel is currently an advisor on the board of WOMAD.

Shortly afterwards Peter Gabriel established Real World Studios in Wiltshire England designed as an ideal environment for performance. It also became the base for Real World Records a label that is dedicated to recording and promoting a wide range of world music and eclectic artists.

Gabriel has released over 1 albums and in 1986 he won his first Grammy with his seventh album So. The videos from this project established him as a leader in video production and included ‘Sledgehammer ‘ which won the most music video awards ever including a No. 1 position in Rolling Stone’s top 1 videos of all time.

 

 

Peter Gabriel has been involved in a broad spectrum of human rights and environmental issues. His song,Biko, was the first pop song which talked about the effects of apartheid and in 1988 and 199 he was involved in the Nelson Mandela concerts at Wembley. In 1988 he also worked with Amnesty International to set up the Human Rights Now tour visiting many countries with Sting Bruce Springsteen Tracey Chapman and Youssou N’Dour.

Following this he initiated the,Witness” program which was launched in 1992 in conjunction with the Reebok Foundation in the USA. The organization aims to arm human rights activists from around the world with hand-held video cameras and other tools of mass communication. To date they have supplied hundreds of cameras to over fifty countries and have also set up a bi-weekly Witness web broadcast via Macintosh’s Quicktime Channel.

In 1989 Gabriel visited the USSR to help launch Greenpeace and also contributed to the One World One Voice album – a collaborative project which featured artists from all over the world.

The first two-CD anthology of Peter Gabriel’s solo career Hit (Geffen/Universal Music) was released November 4 23. Simultaneously the record company released Growing Up Live a long-form concert DVD from Gabriel’s most recent tour up to that point. Hit was compiled with Gabriel’s full participation. It featured 29 recordings each newly remastered. Three of the selections were previously unreleased: Burn You Up Burn You Down, the radio edit of “Blood Of Eden” (the original is on the Us album) and a live “Downside Up” (the original is on Ovo).

At the end of 1997 Gabriel was invited by Mark Fisher to help create a show for the central space of the London Millennium Dome. 1998 was spent brainstorming ideas on the narrative and visual concept. In 1999 while continuing to be involved with the show’s development Gabriel composed the music. The show was opened on January 1st 2000.

Peter Gabriel’s music was censored after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Clear Channel Communications one the largest radio networks in the United States sent out of a list of 15 songs that were recommended to be pulled from airplay. One of the songs on the list was When You’re Falling, a collaboration between Gabriel and Afro Celt Sound System.

In the year 2000 Peter Gabriel entered the world of digital music distribution. He founded On Demand Distribution (OD2) together with Charles Grimsdale. The objective of the company is to sell and promote the music that the company manages through a diverse set of on-line retailers and to find new channels for music sales. These services will allow record labels and artists to securely distribute digital music and get paid.

The album Scratch My Back was released in 2001 and consists of cover songs written by David Bowie Lou Reed Arcade Fire Radiohead Regina Spektor Neil Young and others. The concept for the record was that Gabriel would cover songs by various artists and those artists in turn would cover Gabriel’s on a future follow-up album. The follow-up finally came out in 2013 titled And I’ll Scratch Yours.

Discography:

From Genesis to Revelation, with Genesis (1969)
Trespass, with Genesis (Charisma, 1970)
Nursery Cryme, with Genesis (Charisma, 1971)
Foxtrot, with Genesis (Charisma, 1972)
Genesis Live, with Genesis (Charisma, 1973)
Selling England by the Pound, with Genesis (Charisma, 1973)
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, with Genesis (1974)
Peter Gabriel 1 – Car (ATCO, 1977)
Peter Gabriel 2 – Scratch (ATCO, 1978)
Peter Gabriel 3 – Melt (ATCO, 1980)
Peter Gabriel 4 – Security (Geffen, 1982)
Plays Live (Geffen, 1983)
Birdy – soundtrack (Geffen, 1984)
SO (Geffen, 1986)
Passion (Geffen, 1989)
Shaking The Tree (Geffen, 1990)
Us (Geffen, 1992)
Secret World Live (Geffen, 1994)
Ovo (Egg) – The Millennium Show (2000)
Long Walk Home (Real World, 2002)
Up (Geffen, 2002)
Hit (Emi/Virgin, 2003)
Scratch My Back (2010)
New Blood (2011)

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Artist Profiles: Paul Simon

Paul Simon – Photo by Myrna Suarez

 

Folk singer Paul Frederic Simon was born October 13, 1941 in Newark New Jersey. His music career started in Forest Hills High School when he and his friend Art Garfunkel began singing together as a duo occasionally performing at school dances. In 1964 Simon and Garfunkel got signed by Columbia Records. Their first LP, Wednesday Morning 3 AM was released in 1964.

The first album didn’t do very well so Simon moved to England where he released The Paul Simon Song Book in 1965. He returned to the United States to reunite with Garfunkel. They recorded several albums that had considerable commercial success, including Sounds of Silence (1965); Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966); Bookends (1968); The Graduate soundtrack (1968); and Bridge Over Troubled Water (1969).

Paul Simon’s early relationship with world music was clearly visible in Bridge Over Troubled Water which featured an Andean song called “El Condor Pasa.”

Simon and Garfunkel disbanded in 1971. Simon released a solo album titled Paul Simon in 1972. Subsequent albums included “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon” (1973) that contained the hit songs as “Something So Right”, “Kodachrome”, “American Tune” and “Loves Me Like A Rock.”

In 1975 Paul Simon released “Still Crazy After All These Years” featuring the hit single “5 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” The next albums were “Greatest Hits Etc.” (1977) and “One Trick Pony” (1980). The One Trick Pony recording, Simon’s first album with Warner Bros. Records was also paired with a major motion picture of the same name, with Simon in the starring role. The hits dried up by the time he released Hearts and Bones (1983).

Paul Simon’s commitment with the USA for Africa project led him to perform on the famine relief fundraising single ‘We Are the World.” The Africa connection continued in 1986 with the Grammy-winning “Graceland”, which featured South African vocal ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo. His fascination with rhythm continued in 1990 with “The Rhythm of the Saints” that included Brazilian sounds.

 

 

On May 9 2006, Warner Bros. Records released “Surprise,” Paul Simon’s first release since 2000, which was produced by Simon, and in collaboration with Brian Eno. Said Paul Simon: “Working with Brian Eno opens the door to a world of sonic possibilities; plus he’s just a great guy to hang with in the studio”, or for that matter in life. I had a really good time.” Surprise includes contributions from musicians including Steve Gadd, Herbie Hancock and Bill Frisell.

During his distinguished career, Paul Simon has been the recipient of many honors and awards including twelve Grammy Awards three of which (Bridge Over Troubled Water, Still Crazy After All These Years and Graceland) were albums of the year. In 2003 he was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as half of the duo Simon and Garfunkel.

He is an inductee of The Songwriters Hall of Fame and is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame both as a member of Simon and Garfunkel and as a solo artist. He was a recipient of The Kennedy Center Honors in 2003.

Of Simon’s many concert appearances he is most fond of the two concerts in Central Park in New York (with his partner and childhood friend Art Garfunkel in 1981 and as a solo artist in 1991) and the series of shows he did at the invitation of Nelson Mandela in South Africa-the first American artist to perform in post-apartheid South Africa.

Paul Simon’s philanthropic work includes the co-founding of The Children’s Health Fund (CHF) with Dr. Irwin Redlener. The CHF donates and staffs mobile medical vans that bring health care to poor and indigent children in urban and rural locations around the United States. Simon has also raised millions of dollars for worthy causes as varied as AMFAR, The Nature Conservancy The Fund for Imprisoned Children In South Africa and Autism Speaks. In 1989 The United Negro College Fund honored him with its Frederick D. Patterson Award.

On May 23rd 2007, Simon was the recipient of the first annual Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Named in honor of George and Ira Gershwin, this newly created award recognizes the profound and positive effect of popular music on the world’s culture and will be given annually to a composer or performer whose lifetime contributions exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins.

 

 

Discography:

Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., with Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia Records, 1964)
The Paul Simon Songbook (CBS, 1965)
Sounds of Silence, with Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia Records, 1966)
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, with Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia Records, 1966)
Bookends, with Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia Records, 1968)
Bridge over Troubled Water, with Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia Records, 1970)
Paul Simon (Columbia Records, 1972)
There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (Columbia Records, 1973)
Paul Simon in Concert: Live Rhymin’ (Columbia Records, 1974)
Still Crazy After All These Years (Columbia Records, 1975)
One-Trick Pony (Warner Bros. Records, 1980)
The Concert in Central Park, with Simon & Garfunkel (Warner Bros. Records, 1982)
Hearts and Bones (Warner Bros. Records, 1983)
Graceland (Warner Bros. Records, 1986)
The Rhythm of the Saints (Warner Bros. Records, 1990)
Paul Simon’s Concert in the Park (Warner Bros.Records, 1991)
Songs from The Capeman (Warner Bros. Records, 1997)
You’re the One (Warner Bros. Records, 2000)
Live from New York City, 1967, with Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia Records, 2002)
Old Friends: Live on Stage, with Simon & Garfunkel (Warner Bros. Records, 2004)
Live 1969, with Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia Records, 2008)
Surprise (Warner Bros. Records, 2006)
So Beautiful or So What (Hear Music, 2011)
Live in New York City (Hear Music/Concord, 2012)
Stranger to Stranger (Concord Records, 2016)
Paul Simon – The Concert in Hyde Park (Sony Legacy, 2017)

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Ive Mendes and the Bossa Nova Repertoire

Ive Mendes – Photo by Paulina Tendera

 

Music criticism does not derive from musical censorship; it is based on conventional rules. Ive Mendes performed in Krakow at a jazz festival; criticism, according to convention, is based on the fact that Ive does not sing a jazz; therefore, in accordance with the same neat convention, I assert that the organizers acted… unconventionally.

The world music scene, like many other spheres of culture and art, is created basically in one of two ways: bottom-up or top-down. The story of a typical bottom-up musician begins somewhere in the home, a school, a small town, a musical family, often poor and devoid of cultural roots; this is the story of many masters of jazz, as described in biographies and memoirs. The story of typical musicians whose careers are built top-down usually starts a little later, not in childhood but in early adulthood. Wherever a business, a manager, or ready-made material for a record appears, it’s only a question of finding someone to perform the material on stage.

About Ive Mendes, one thing can be stated with certainty: she is a typical product of the global policies of the music scene, the product of interventions by an entire staff of managers, arrangers, and other members of a “shadow cabinet” who stand proudly (not without reason!) behind her success. This time it was Kevin Armstrong, the producer of Mendes’s latest album, who was promoted to the head of this cabinet. Nothing like this is possible in the jazz field, where musicians make their choices strictly according to musical criteria, and a stage-managed career is an absolute contradiction in terms.

Ive possesses a powerfully crafted charm and grace in the visual sphere. It is precisely her superficiality that affirms the misleading conviction that she comes from Brazil, yet it is indeed difficult to perceive any connotations from the musical culture of the region from which she originated. The artist herself does not conceal her inspirations, mentioning a fairly wide range of essentially pop music styles: “… I learned that I have a natural facility for moving from bossa nova to smooth pop, drum & bass, and even alternative country. After all, I’m a farmer’s daughter.” [www.newsweek.pl]. Unfortunately, in the same breath she adds bossa nova to this eclectic mix. The problem is that even if we can (though we need not) think of smooth pop, drum & bass, or “alternative country”—whatever that is—as mere categories of arrangements, that is, for the creation of hybrid sound forms (as Ive basically has made use of these styles, though in a different way than, e.g., jazzmen do, using groovy or funk rhythms and R&B just for some kind of dance fun, likewise “ontic background” for improvisation, etc.), bossa nova itself cannot be treated so freely. Indeed, the concept of bossa nova encompasses a deeper philosophy. It is a unique combination of samba and jazz.

The self-proclaimed comparison of Ive to João Gilberto smacks—to put it politely—of immodesty. And indeed, if Ive actually had something in common with bossa nova—apart from “reciting” a few standards—it might salvage her image as an artist fit to share a stage with artists of improvisational music. This, however, is not the case. Ive, in essence, does not understand bossa nova at all.
These are not the only reasons why I state that Ive Mendes is largely a phenomenon of the modern music industry, in which vocal talent is exploited for the benefit of a mass audience. A mass audience at the Jazz Festival? This is, of course, possible, thanks to, among others, Ive. The boundaries of jazz in Poland are not clearly visible to a public which accepts a rather pop Kenny G performance, often with just as much satisfaction as it would Kenny Garret or Nigel Kennedy, and similar case with Ive Mendes vs Kurt Elling. The Polish, indeed European, and perhaps even global (in the era of globalization) mass audience, while occasionally needing to commune with elegance, is thoroughly democratic. And that is a shame, because democracy does not serve the cause of high art. Thus my criticism concerns not Ive Mendes herself, but her presence on a jazz stage.

As a vocal star, Ive obscures the musical potential of the songs with “literary” quality and linguistic content. I am not thinking here at all of the lyrics (which play a less essential role in jazz in any case) of the songs, but of her stage presence. That is, Ive greatly expands the entr’actes, I mean the never-ceasing patter between songs, which at times took the form of motivational coaching, gave the impression of being an integral part of the artistic performance, whereas the songs seemed merely to supplement her verbal tirades, which many of the ladies present in the hall received with blushes of embarrassment.

 

Ive Mendes – Photo by Paulina Tendera

 

Thus, Ive’s performance consists of, first and foremost, a kind of refined dance-calling; second, songs; and, in the background, arranging and musical potential, which usually remain strictly in the realm of the potential. For Ive, music seems to be effortless; it is not an area of great concern or creativity. Sounds, for her, are primarily a matter of a fixed esthetic framework of correctness in which her emotions occur (even if they are exploited extramusically). Ive sings safely within proven registers beyond which she consistently refuses to venture, avoids improvisation (or feigns it), while the band (and after all, Ive has a live band on stage: a smooth rhythm section, violin, cello, etc.), apart from the correct performance of sometimes arduously executed arrangements, is reduced to the role of a karaoke backing track.

There is no room here for improvisation and musical freedom; Ive does not play at all with her voice, with sounds, or with rhythm in the sense of musicality (as deeply understood). Instead, her show is reminiscent of harvest festivals, but obscured by a snobbish veil of supposedly higher culture, while deprived of the vibrancy and unpretentious naturalness of country bands. Ive’s performance is so smooth that she loses, in the correctness of the performances, a whole range of expressive musical possibilities, substituting non-musical stage theatricality, whereas the songs themselves, differing very little from studio recordings, are so safe that they sound like something played on a boombox in an adjoining room. I also have the compelling impression that Ive often sings out of tune, slightly below the correct note. Perhaps this is a question of wrong stage listening monitor setup, but the effect is permanent: she sings consistently sharp.

Ive, however, has several patented theatrical devices up her sleeve to exert a narcotic effect on the emotion-seeking audience. She possesses the ability to stimulate the emotions of a large crowd with two or three stage tricks. Undoubtedly, she also possesses an original voice, with a characteristically deep, rather low, vibrating, sensual color. There is a distant similarity to Sade, and, still more distant, to Cassandra Wilson, but without their musical consciousness, personality, or charisma. Other aspects which attract attention include her stage image, exotic beauty (probably the most authentic aspect of her Brazilian heritage), outfits, mysterious gestures, movements, dances, etc. This is essentially a good recipe for the conquest of the unsophisticated heart of a standardized, democratic listener.

In Krakow, the singer performed the repertoire from her latest album, Bossa Romantica, about which she says in one of many interviews: “This is music characterized by complex chords and rhythm guitar in a free samba rhythm. I made this music in the same way that João Gilberto created bossa nova: trying to create versions of American songs in a specific way, in a Brazilian atmosphere.” [www.polskatimes.pl]. The album was supposedly created under British (Ive recently obtained British citizenship) and Brazilian influence, which Mendes often mentions (although the comparison to Gilberto is lip service as well as an exaggeration) along with the musical inspiration of smooth jazz (or rather, perhaps, smooth pop), with which the singer is also identified. These were, I believe, her intentions, but their effect can be described simply as free eclecticism. Her album is not a very good example of World Music; no matter whether it draws from Brazil, England, or “smooth,” the esthetic and artistic effect of this album was a foregone conclusion before Ive entered the studio. It betrays her superficiality, the excessive esthetization of her style, idealized romanticism, and the renunciation of harsh or folk-derived elements.

Among other songs from the album Bossa Romantica, Ive performs covers like “The Girl from Ipanema.” This performance, however, blends in with the overall character of her music, blurring in places the expressive syncopation of bossa nova which we associate even with the singing of Astrud Gilberto. Freshness, lightness, and the aforementioned unpretentiousness are also lost. Another cover, “Killing Me Softly,” is played for no apparent reason, or, as already mentioned, as a sure-fire heartbreaker, completely devoid of expression or of any ideas.

In jazz, performing standards makes some sense, if only in terms of musicians making use of familiar themes for further musical exploitation. Themes are only pretexts, or gateways to great adventures on the verge of beginning. With Ive, everything starts and ends with the theme. This would make sense, of course, if the artist proved the value of her contribution to the work, if the listener at least discovered individual hallmarks of musical expression. With Ive, this never happens. This is not another beautiful rendition, as we hear with Perry Como, Roberta Flack, or even the pop Fugees. Instead, Ive turns it into hack work, potboiler gig, potboiler gig, a number trotted out for shows like The X Factor.

 

 

Ive Mendes says that her voice works in many styles. Certainly the concert at Krakow’s ICE Arena was a good showcase of her vocal abilities and her typical stage esthetics. Her emotions are expressed primarily extramusically; they are naively feminine, romantic … which means that her repertoire appeals to the taste of many—but not to fans of jazz, improvised music, or (as widely understood) world music.

Ive Mendes deserves a much more favorable review, on the condition that we evaluate her in terms of pop music, though here I am not referring to great pop music artists such as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, or female celebrities to which Mendes might be compared, such as Alicia Keys, Whitney Houston, the quasi-Latino Shakira, or even Lady Gaga. She is not in that league, but rather in a class with festivals of the Eurovision type, connoisseurs of soap operas … in Poland, Ive can also count on fans with a sentimental attachment to the old Brazilian serial feature A escrava Isaura [Isaura the Slave Girl], whose main heroine recalls Ive to mind.

In the press there are many extremely passionate positive opinions about the work of Ive Mendes; thus the present critical opinion, expressed here with the conviction of its justice, may serve as a badly-needed counterbalance in contemporary reflections on music.

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