TEKA sings “Silent Night” with a Brazilian Twist

December 13, 2014

Brazilian singer/songwriter/guitarist Téka Penteriche wishes everyone a joyous Christmas in the way she knows best: by getting together with guitarist Chris Judge and singing her favorite Christmas carol, backed by the irresistible rhythms of Brazil.

 

A joyous holiday and a happy new year to all, from Téka, Chris and all her friends at the International Review of Music.

 

 


Jazz (and beyond) With An Accent: A Bad Moon Rising for The Final

July 12, 2014

By Fernando Gonzalez

After a month of a World Cup, many Americans have come to learn some of the, umm, peculiarities of fútbol (soccer if you must), including its rituals both in the pitch and the stands.

Yes, Virginia, in places such as Argentina and Germany, who meet in the final, fútbol is a religion.

The chanting by the followers of a team can sometimes be as distinct as the colors of a club´s shirt. Perhaps the most obvious example is British Premier League’s Liverpool´s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” — a Rodgers and Hammerstein tune from their show Carousel, of all things.

(For a history check click HERE. )

Starting at about 4 minutes into this video you can hear about 95,000 people sing it along. You don´t need to even be interested in soccer to be moved by it.  Click HERE.

This Sunday, Argentina’s followers will support their team with a song that, if you pay attention, will sound familiar to many Americans: yep, that’s Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.” With new lyrics, in Spanish of course, including some needling of arch rival Brazil, and the eternal argument among fans over Maradona and Pele, it has become a favorite of the Argentine fans.

Why that song? Why now? (The song was popular in 1969.) How did it make it to the stands? That’s a mystery for a story, another day. In the meantime, there’s one more game to play.

Go Argentina.

 


Live Jazz: Herb Alpert, Lani Hall and Sergio Mendes at the Hollywood Bowl

July 18, 2013

By Don Heckman

The 2013 summer season of jazz at the Hollywood Bowl clicked into place Wednesday night with the performances of Herb Alpert, Lani Hall and Sergio Mendes.

Alpert and Hall, in particular, offered a musically rich, rhythmically energetic program of material ranging across jazz classics and American Songbook standards spiced with the music of Brazil.

Although he may be best known for the establishment of the Tijuana Brass in the sixties, and for shaping it into one of the most successful groups in pop music history, Alpert has always been a determinedly jazz-focused trumpet player, as well.  And his performance at the Bowl offered an impressive recollection of the depth of his skills as a jazz artist. Add to that his similarly gifted talents as a visual artist, which were on display in the form of a large Alpert painting as a backdrop.

Bill Cantos, Lani Hall, Hussain Jiffry, Herb Alpert and Michael Shapiro

I’ve heard Alpert many times, playing impressively in many settings over the past decades.  But this time out, his opening set was a performance to remember.  Standing alongside his wife, singer Lani Hall — backed by pianist/keyboardist Bill Cantos, bassist Hussain Jiffry and drummer Michael Shapiro – he played with the cool,  musically imaginative aspects that have always been at the heart of who he is as a jazz improviser.  And he revealed the impressive extent of those aspects, no matter what he was playing – in songs reaching from the Tijuana Brass memories of “A Taste of Honey” to such far-ranging song classics as “Besame Mucho,” “Moondance,” “Lets Face the Music and Dance” and “La Vie En Rose.”

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

Lani Hall and Herb Alpert

The always captivating musical presence of Hall added another convincing jazz element to the set.  The lush timbres of her voice, combined with a brisk sense of rhythm, have always been a vital part of her style, reaching back to the early ’70s.  But in recent years, Hall has become an even better musical story-teller, finding the heart of a song in all her expressively intimate performances.  And, in this concert, she did so in deeply musical, lyrically compelling readings of songs such as “Fly Me To The Moon,” “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”  The latter tune, in particular was interpreted by Hall with a uniquely personal rendering that reached far more deeply into the song than the jaunty, often-imitated Sinatra version.

Alpert and Hall were extremely well served by the presence of Cantos, Jiffry and Shapiro.  Each is an impressive player in his own right.  But they also added a collective, even symbiotic, coming together to find an utterly memorable approach to each of the songs in their program.

Sergio Mendes Band

Sergio Mendes Band

Less can be said for the Mendes part of the evening.  Performing with an ensemble of singers and instrumentalists comparable to his Brazil 66 (etc.) ensembles, he devoted most of his set to such familiar items as “Waters of March,” Agua De Beber” and “The Look of Love.”

The Brazil 66 sound and style of the ‘60s had its appealing qualities – qualities that underscored the band’s many pop music successes.  But in an apparent effort to reach out to a broader listener demographic, Mendes added a rapper to several tunes.  And the results largely obliterated the most appealing aspects of the Brazil 66 memories.

Fortunately, Alpert, Hall and their fine accompanists had already brought jazz authenticity to the Bowl’s 2013 schedule in their opening set.  Hopefully, their world class program will represent the start of an equally memorable summer at the Hollywood Bowl for Southland jazz fans.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz


Live Music: The Lado B Project at Vitello’s

May 17, 2013

By Don Heckman

Studio City, CA.  Brazilian music nights are not uncommon in Los Angeles.  Not with the city’s substantial population of world class Brazilian players – along with the American musicians who have developed considerable competence with Brazilian music over the years.

The Lado B Project is a combination of both, blending a collection of players who brought a full palette of musical perspectives to a compelling musical evening.  Their performance at Vitello’s on Wednesday night was a magical display, underscoring the rich, panoramic qualities of Brazilian music.

Catina DeLuna

It could only have been done this way by some of L.A.’s most versatile musical artists.

Start with Brazilian-born singer/pianist/composer Catina DeLuna, whose many diverse activities include the founding in Sao Paulo of Serenata Braxileira, which specialized in classic Brazilian songs from the ‘20s and ‘30s.  Singing solo, playing hand percussion, occasionally moving to the piano to accompany herself, she was the central focus for most of the songs.

Otmaro Ruiz

Otmaro Ruiz

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Add the eclectic Venezuelan pianist/accordionist/arranger Otmaro Ruiz, whose resume, overflowing with credits reaching from Herb Alpert and John McLaughlin to  Arturo Sandoval and John McLaughlin, underscores his remarkable, genre-crossing skills. In addition to his solid piano accompaniment, he brought some atmospheric accordion playing to a few of the selections.

The guitar is an essential element in Brazilian music, and one couldn’t have asked for a more skilled player than guitarist Larry Koons, who is at the top of the list for virtually all music contractors, largely because he brings so much musicality to whatever genre of music he plays.  On this night, he used acoustic guitar, roving freely across the many Brazilian rhythms filling the evening’s program.

Larry Koonse and Catina DeLuna

The rhythm team added their own appealing qualities. Aaron Serfaty was a first call drummer in his native Venezuela before he moved to Los Angeles.  And bassist Edwin Livingston, also with an impressive resume, lists the Marsalis brothers, David “Fathead” Newman, Natalie Cole and Stanley Jordan among his many associations.

Directed by DeLuna’s informative musical guidance, with Ruiz’s arrangements, Koonse’ authentic guitar work, and the propulsive rhythms of Serfaty and Livingston, the music came vividly to life.  Much of it, reaching back to songs of the ‘20s and ‘30s, was unfamiliar to American audiences.  But there was no denying its appeal – or, for that matter, the appeal of more easily identifiable songs from Antonio Carlos Jobim, among others.

The only thing missing was some background on the earlier musical selections.  Printed programs are rarely present in night club performances.  But a list of song titles, composers’ names and genre descriptions of the selections from the pre-WWII years would have further enhanced this otherwise fascinating evening.

* * * * * * * *

Photos by Faith Frenz.


Jazz CD Review: The Daniel Bennett Group

May 9, 2013

The Daniel Bennett Group

Clockhead Goes to Camp (Manhattan Daylight Media Group)

 By Brian Arsenault

When Clockhead Goes to Camp this summer, you should go with him. Like summer, this album is irrepressible.

I was reminded recently that Charles Mingus said “Making the simple awesomely simple . . . That’s creativity.“ The Daniel Bennett Group takes us to a whimsical place where the simplicity and sensibility of children has not been lost.  Rather, it has been found in this music.

The Daniel Bennett Group

The Daniel Bennett Group

I will soon be giving this album to a near one-year-old not because it is a children’s album — I generally hate the sing songy drek that is passed off as kids’ music — but because it is beautiful enough to delight a child. Or the child in you.

Oh yeah, the song titles.  They’re all like that:  the title song, “An Elephant Buys a New Car,”  “The Old Muskrat Welcomes Us,” even a scary one — “Cabin 12 Escapes into the Night.“

In fact, I was so pleased — nay, delighted — by the album’s whimsy that it wasn’t until the fourth track, “Dr. Duck’s Beautiful New Kitchen” that I went, hey, this is a jazz album. And that it is.

The title song is a remarkable piece full of nuance.  Bennett is as adept on flute and clarinet as he is on alto saxophone. On this tune, you may not always know where the instrument changes occur. At least I wasn’t.

Daniel Bennett

Daniel Bennett

Tyson Stubelek’s percussion work is outstanding throughout; rhythmic from here to Brazil and on to Africa. Peter Brendler is one of those bassists whose playing you aren’t constantly aware of because he lays it so naturally underneath; self effacing for the player but deeply satisfying for the listener.

What I have to say about guitarist Mark Cocheo can’t be separated from Bennett, not because he isn’t excellent in his own right but because the two seem like brothers musically, picking up from each other seamlessly.

Two great examples of that connection come on “Whatever it Might Be” — with an imbedded poem by Rimas Uzgiris that is hardly childlike — and “Paint the Fence.”

On “Paint the Fence,” the acoustic guitar and flute are partnered, not simply played together. On this loveliest piece of the album you may envision Tom Sawyer on a great spring morning carrying the paint pail he intends someone else to labor with.

Bennett’s flute on “Nine Piglets” is like a warm breeze through the trees.  Cocheo’s guitar smoothly picks up the freedom of the melody.

“Sandpaper is Necessary” (more great song titling), gives us Bennett playing his sax alone. But he’s not really alone.  His notes dance along as Charlie Parker might have played them.  Bennett has listened to them all — Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins come to mind as well as Bird. I flatter myself that I recognize a tribute to them all in the fleeting two and a half minutes here.

On “John Lizard and Mr. Pug” near the end of the CD, we return to the gentleness of the opening songs as Cocheo’s guitar counterpoints Bennett’s alto saxophone. Lizard and Pug walk down a country lane.  I wonder if “Pressed Rat and Warthog” were ever this happy.

The “Ten Piglets” and Coceho’s guitar lead us out of the album‘s magic. Regretfully. A bit like leaving childhood, at least if your childhood included lots of very fine music.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.


Live Music: Dori Caymmi at a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast

February 23, 2013

By Cathy Segal-Garcia

Los Angeles, CA.  Here I am, sitting in the Kirk Douglas Theatre, waiting for the world-renowned guitarist/vocalist/composer/arranger/producer, Dori Caymmi, to come out to start the show. A beautiful theatre, slanted up seating, with a medium large stage on the floor, the newest and most intimate of Center Theatre Group’s family of theatres.

We scored a seat in the very front center, so I’m pretty turned on because I love being close to musicians.  Being a singer, I like to feel up close and personal, feeling like I’m actually part of the band.  There’s a stool in the center with an expectant mic, a piano and keyboard, a stool in the center back, and drums.  I’m excited!

The group, a quartet, comes out after an introduction from Jazz Bakery founder Ruth Price. Dori’s voice is at once beautiful and distinct.  A rich baritone, with depth of emotion that make my insides release.  Add that voice to a slow bossa beat, with subtleties of the rhythms and harmonies coming through the players…and it’s romantic and beautiful from the very first moment.

The music is harmonically leading and surprising, which is part of what makes it so amazing to listen to.  Within the same song, there are passages of different lengths, that are significantly different, but they relate and flow out of each other and into the next; like a river, running gently and endlessly, around rocks and curves, on and on.

The 2nd song showcased the pianist, Bill Cantos, singing his own keyboard solo… Wonderful!   Vocally exciting, and great musical ideas… motifs repeating and developing into an exciting build and gentle drop.

Dori Caymmi

Dori Caymmi

A slow, painfully beautiful “Corcovado” was next.  How do the great Brazilian musicians create this gorgeous style, time and again?  Dori is having a love affair with the song, with the notes, the way they sit in the harmony, the Portuguese lyrics….

And yet right after, this sweetheart of a man makes a joke relating to his “depressed versions of Brazilian music,” before going into a mind blowing arrangement of “Brazil.”  I have never heard or imagined a more beautiful and interesting arrangement.  It took me at least  32 bars before I recognized it.  The form seemed different, the chords were definitely beautiful substitutions, and even the melody, sung and played by Dori at first, seemed only slightly familiar. At a slow, sensuous groove, with all the rest, it was truly a holy experience.

Jerry Watts on electric bass was a prominent part of the music.  A versatile and strong musician, in this setting, as each musician, he held his reins and released at just the right times.  Playing his bass like a guitar, his rhythmic choices seemed comfortable and perfect, even with their complexity.

The drummer Aaron Serfaty was unobtrusive in the best way, to say the least.  Percussive, as if adding to an orchestra, light and perfectly rhythmic on his small drum set

Dori , soon to be merely 70 (how lucky are we, to be able to hear him more) was relaxed and talkative in between songs…making the audience love him all the more.  He talked about his father and mother, Dorival Caymmi and Stella Maris, both famous Brazilian musicians.   And an upcoming recording project he will do with his sister (famous vocalist Nana Caymmi) and brother (famous musician Danilo Caymmi)…dedicated to their Dad.  Then he played one of his Dad’s hits …”Acontec Que Eu Sou Baiano.”   Dorival was known as “the poet of the seas of Bahia.”

It was difficult to make notes while I listened; the music was so touching to the soul and the ears that I didn’t want to be distracted from it.  And yet, when I’m excited by music, I want to write about it.

And speaking of making love to the songs…how about making love through the songs?  Like a good lover, the music and the musicians find a sensuous wonderful groove, lock into it, stroke it with notes and harmony until, building slowly and gradually, it’s obvious that it must release…

“The Harbor”…(sigh).  Dori told a beautiful and sad introduction about the music of his father…about how he would tell about seemingly simple things like stepping on pieces of wood in the water that led to the boats.  And how, now, there is no more of that; it’s all been commercialized.  Dori wrote “The Harbor” as an ode to the old way.

Brazilian musicians and singers tend to state the melody as written, milking it with the tone of the instrument and the emotion of the voice.  That’s why listeners fall in love with the basic songs, with their melody and harmony.  American jazz singers, however, learn that the songs of the Great American Songbook were written down very basically.  A singer learns them, then changes them – with the phrasing, the melody, the rhythm.  And I believe not even the composer expected or desired you to sing it as exactly as it was written.

One gets the idea that Brazilian composers want something else.  Or perhaps it’s the culture that leads the performing artists into this kind of musical perspective.  A perspective in which the language and flow of the story – via both the lyrics and the music — communicate deeply the imaginative tales of their rich history and culture.

I left the concert with a lovely CD, my soul filled with beauty, and a desire to sing with Dori.  The perfect response to a perfect musical evening.

To read more about Cathy Segal-Garcia on her own website, click HERE


Jazz CD Review: Emy Tseng’s “Sonho”

January 23, 2013

Emy Tseng

 Sonho (Self Produced)

 By Brian Arsenault

If the reality of burgeoning world music can be encapsulated in a single individual, I submit in nomination Emy Tseng.  Taiwanese born, raised in the American Midwest, Ivy League educated (she appears to have overcome it) singing Brazilian jazz, in Portuguese of course, with a couple of American jazz standards thrown in for good measure. (More about that later.)

Her debut album Sonho, Portuguese for Dream, is just that in places.  Dreamlike. There’s the very first tune, “Aquelas Coisas Todas” (“All Those Things”); Brazilian dreams: beaches, beauties, beverages, bistros, bossa nova.  Brazil has a myth, a legend, a romantic sense of passion and languor that Tseng acquired in Greenwich Village and honed in the Washington D.C. Brazilian music scene.

Emy Tseng

Emy Tseng

Don‘t sneer. The legend, the essence, is often sensed most strongly by those who know first  only the myth. But Emy Tseng is real. A remarkably clear voice. An adept student working hard at her craft. More than that, a gifted artist starting on a long path.

You don’t have to know the language to hear the allure in “Berimbau” with her sultry voice playing off Andy Connell’s soprano sax. (More about this guy later.) And if “Berimbau” flirts, Caetano Veloso’s “Coração Vagabundo” seduces. Again a dream: It’s deep dusk and a few dancers move smoothly on the floor. Andy Connell’s clarinet doesn’t accompany, it sings with her.

You see, I don’t know Portuguese. Like a lot of gringo Americans I have a passing acquaintance with English, some street slang, and little else. So I have to respond to the music and her voice as instrument.

Except in a few places.  “California Dreamin’” is a surprise – yes, the Mamas and Papas song — but it fits because she does it as melancholy and mournful and gives it a greater depth than a cold, broke hippy. Another dream.  Matvei Sigalov, an acoustic guitarist, plays wonderfully here and elsewhere on the album.

There’s her marvelous closing rendition of the classic jazz standard, “Close Your Eyes,” where she is accompanied only by David Jernigan’s wondrous acoustic bass. What’s created are spaces, silences between the notes of the two that would please even those discerning guys at ECM. Did I close my eyes? Yeah, for a moment, to hear those most comforting words  “I’ll be here by your side” in pure tones. Delicious.

On another standard that has become a jazz classic, “I Thought About You,” I thought about Emy doing a big piece of the Great American Songbook on a future album. Johnny Mercer songs, Cole Porter songs, Gershwin maybe.  It wouldn’t be better than her Brazilian jazz but, I think it might be very good indeed.

Still, she needn’t stray far from Brazil.  “Na Beira do Rio” shows how that distinctive Brazilian style of rhythm and melody can heighten emotional content with a singer who feels it. Sigalov again helps entrance us.

But the guy who really knocks me out on the album is the previously mentioned Andy Connell, who puts in two distinctive performances on clarinet and two more on soprano sax.

The clarinet is such a terrific instrument to listen to, but it’s often pushed aside, it seems, by our obsession with brass.  I have it too.  It’s, well, it’s brassy, commanding attention. But the clarinet floats on high and rides the wind when played by a guy this good. Similarly, the soprano sax seems often neglected for its larger siblings but is equally evocative.

Tseng, in the best jazz tradition, lets Connell and the others be showcased strongly, often as equals on songs.

If you’re like me, you tend to like your music “from the street” and to be a little suspicious about too much of an academic music background for rock or jazz. Hell, Tseng’s academic credentials even include a degree in Math. Yet the mistrust of learning and over-reliance on “street cred” can be distinctly anti-intellectual. A formal quality education in music also has the potential to expand creativity, not diminish it.

Emy Tseng will prove that, I think.

To read more posts, columns and reviews by Brian Arsenault click HERE.  


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