Artists Worth Checking Out: Paulo Ramos


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Born in Sao Paolo, Paulo Ramos has enjoyed a very interesting musical career.  According to his website, he began learning percussion at the age of nine.  Three years later, his instrument of choice became the acoustic guitar.

Teaming up with Dan Gigon on bass and his wife Yves Gigon on drums, the Paulo Ramos Group formed in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1986.  The group toured in many different countries from the likes of Italy, Belgium, Malaysia, Sweden, Finland, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, France, and the United States in addition to Canada.

In fact, the album Africa Do Brasil won a Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent to the Grammys) in 1997 for Best Global Album.  Three more albums would follow between the years 2002, 2006, and 2010.

My Album Pick of the Week goes back to 1991, when Futuro was released on the Mesa/Bluemoon Recordings label.  The album lasts about 47 minutes, and mostly features calm and relaxing songs.  Personally, the two best songs are on Track 4 “Sincopado” (or “The Edge of the Night”) and Track 7, “Ana.”  Plenty of trumpet action can be found throughout Track 3, “Lembrancas”.  Otherwise, the rest of the tracks are great dinner party fare.

Pitching in was a Who’s Who of jazz artists as the New Age era was getting ready to end.  Tim Weston did both acoustic and electric guitar, while Don Grusin performed admirably using the synthesizer.  Ralph Rickert did the trumpet, while John Bonine was on the trombone.  Finally, backup vocals were done by Karen Blake, Shelby Flint, and Marilyn Scott.

The album is available both on physical CD and online via YouTube.  I give the album four out of five stars, because simply–my ears could not take the horn action too well.

My next entry will be tomorrow, so I hope you can join me in.

Please enjoy the rest of your day.


Master Composers: Flavio Venturini


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Born as Flávio Hugo Venturini on July 23, 1949 in the Belo Horizonte section of Minas Gerais, he has had a nice 44 year career as a songwriter and composer.

He took up an early interest in music by agree three.  When Venturini was 15, he began his musical training in interest–first with an accordion and later on when his father gave him a piano.  After being a member of two groups (O Terco between 1974 and 1976, and helped found the band 14 Bis in 1980), he decided to pursue a solo career in 1989.

This review is from his fifth solo album out of 15, Noites Com Sol.  Released in 1994 by Velas Records, it is an excellent album for a Saturday night.  Excellent slow paced songs with cool lyrics and a decent beat.  Track 5 is a cover version in Portuguese of the May 25, 1990 song “Across the River” by Bruce Hornsby and The Range from their third and final studio album, A Night on the Town.  The most popular hit is on Track 10, the great love song track titled, “Cabaret da sereia” (or “Mermaid Cabaret”).

Overall, the album gets five stars because it is nice music to relax to, so you can kick off your shoes (or heels in the case of all the ladies who might be reading), and the songs definitely put your mind at ease.

And for the record–I typed this blog smack dab in the middle of watching 2 of the 3 YouTube channels from the popular rock festival Coachella.  The Haim sisters from southern California and other fellow indie rock artists hailing from Toronto in Alvvays were playing at the same time, albeit both groups began playing approximately 20 minutes apart.  What a great time to be a music fan.

See you all again next week when I will do another pair of Brazilian jazz albums for your reading pleasure.  Take care, everybody.


Master Composers: Ithamara Koorax Sets The Right Mood With Serenade In Blue


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Ithamara Koorax was born in Rio on May 23, 1965.  She has worked with many greats from Brazilian jazz past including Antonio Carlos Jobim, Edu Lobo, and Larry Coryell.  Among present day artists, Koorax has worked alongside Ron Carter, Jay Berliner, and the group Azymuth.

Between 1993 and 2007, Ithamara has produced 32 albums and two concert DVD’s.  My Album Pick of the Week features her work from May 2000, minus the 2001 bonus cuts and the enhanced disk released by Concord Records in 2006.

The 45 minute compilation album is great for late night listening.  It starts out at a snail’s pace with the seven minute number, “Bonita”.  By the time we hear her version of “Mas Que Nada” on Track 3, it started out great and then it got into many Ow!’s towards the final minute.  Thankfully, the good moments outnumbered the bad.

Her takes on “Moon River” (Track 5) and “The Shadow of Your Smile” (Track 8) are true showstoppers.  She continues to perform all over the world, especially in Europe and Japan where she has received huge acclaim for her singing.  When she sang in English, she never skipped a beat in addition to doing some French and her native Portuguese–each song was beautifully done.

Perhaps it was said best on the Fantasy Records label liner notes penned very neatly by Lee Jeske.  He took up nearly four full pages of the CD insert explaining all of the accomplishments that Ithamara did throughout the 1980’s and into the 1990’s.

However, the last small paragraph struck an interesting chord with me as a loyal, passionate fan of smooth jazz in general and Brazilian jazz in particular.

The quote went something like this:

“She’s a singer of her time, and this is an album of its time.  Bossa nova, lounge music, drum-and-bass, jazz, samba, English, French, Portuguese.  Electric, acoustic.  Everything is mixed and matched and blended and constructed in a way that speak of no time but all time.”

That is an excellent reason that Ithamara Koorax definitely belongs as a true Master Composer and deserves a nice place in your music library of choice.


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I plan to do my next entry on Saturday.  Hope to see you then.


Master Composers: Johnny Alf Brought Some Very Pleasant Memories


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Born as Alfredo José da Silva on May 19, 1929 in Rio, some observers used to know Johnny Alf simply as “The Father of Bossa Nova”.

He barely knew his own father, who died in combat during the Brazilian Civil War of 1932.  His mother primarily worked as a maid while Johnny learned classical piano as a student in the Brazilian-American Institute (or IBEU).  An instructor by the name of Geni Balsamo gave him the last name of Alf.  Of course, the name would become wildly popular when Gordon Shumway popularized an extra terrestrial character on a popular NBC sitcom that aired during the years 1986 through 1990.  (And for you trivia buffs out there, ALF was an acronym which simply stood for Alien Life Form).

Instead of falling in love with the piano, his love of music came from listening to the likes of George Shearing and in particular the Nat King Cole Trio.  Not a bad combination to start with, I must say.

By 1952, he gained his first break as a musician.  On the recommendation of Dick Farney, he frequented many night clubs which offered food as a reason to stay and enjoy the tunes.  Nowadays, if you heard that kind of recommendation–you would probably be thinking that you got ripped off.  The Guardian of the United Kingdom mentioned that the now-defunct Hotel Plaza in Copacabana was quite the hotspot in its’ day.  Future bossa kings managed to hear his work, names such as Roberto Menescal, Carlos Lyra, and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

My album pick meaning “Me and The Breeze” dates from 1966, roughly at the beginning of what would be a 38 year career and 12 albums as lead artist plus another 19 credited as a writer to artists from Tania Maria and Azymuth to Joyce and Leila Pinheiro.

The songs are a great option for dinner music, nice flowing lyrics and carry a decent pace throughout.  The best part IMHO, the 12 tracks only last around 36 minutes.

Albeit the liner notes inside are written in Portuguese, I managed to translate one of the last key sentences:

“Each note, every word, not yet heard, not felt.”

Liner notes translated from Fabricado Por Sonopress Records release on CD

He died on March 4, 2010 just outside of Sao Paolo in the town called Santo Andre of prostate cancer after a nearly 45 year career teaching in conservatory.

In an interview with the New York Times that appeared as the last sentence from his obituary, he commented in 2009 about his legacy:

“At least I’m not completely forgotten.  My music was always considered difficult.  The record labels sensed the value of my music, but it never had the commercial appeal that they would have liked.”

Although Johnny Alf produced only 20 albums, he left quite an impact.  The album is available for purchase online via eBay and Amazon and should also be available for instant streaming on your music player of choice.

Next week, I will go back to profiling some modern artists.  Hope to see you all then.



Joyce Cooling Again Comes Out On Top

Just like Villanova when they dominated Michigan on Monday night, Joyce Cooling emerged to take away the virtual title for the second time in three years as Brazilian Fun Jazz Champion in the 2018 version of Marco Loucura.  Djavan, just like in 2013 when he lost fair and square to California’s own amazing songwriter Fabiana Passoni–this time around, it was no contest.

Sadly, I have no new pics to share.

Instead, I invite you all to read my past blog when I crowned her the 2016 Champion.

Enjoy and let us all send a hearty congratulations again to Joyce Cooling:

Artists Worth Checking Out: Steve Barta Helps Guide Fans Through A “Blue River”

Born on Christmas Day 1953, Steve Barta has been a successful jazz pianist, author, educator, arranger, producer, and composer since the 1980’s.

Best known for his interpretation of classic holiday carols, in 1995 he teamed up with the likes of Herbie Mann, Ricardo Silveira, Ricky Sebastian, Jerry Watts, and Mike Shapiro on a smooth jazz classic called Blue River.

The 48 minute starts out very slow, a more calm and soothing type pace before picking up a bit of steam by the second minute of the opening track, “Wish Upon A Canvas.”  The best tracks are Track 3, “In Another Life” and Track 7, “The High Road.”

Another cool highlight is reading some cool liner notes inside the album.  This CD is widely available on eBay, Amazon, plus other online outlets such as,, and

Later on this week, I will profile Johnny Alf–and no, he is not related to the former fun loving character on that short-lived NBC sitcom in the 1980’s.  Hope to see you then.

No Surprises For Final Two In Marco Loucura

Patricia Talem and Marisa Monte were mostly forgotten on Saturday night, so it will come down to these two talented artists later tonight:



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vs. Joyce Cooling


We will all find out together later on this evening on who will be crowned the champion of this Brazilian Fun Jazz tournament.

Will it be the 2013 runner-up in Djavan finally getting his first true taste of virtual glory, or will it be Joyce climbing the mountain for the second time in three years?

Hope to see you then.