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

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Image courtesy of allmusic.com

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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Image courtesy of altoeclaro.blogspot.com

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

 

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Master Composers: Ana Caram

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Images courtesy of laban.rs (above) and avxhome.se (below)

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Born on October 1, 1958 in Sao Paolo, Ana Caram has enjoyed quite a career as a well versed Brazilian guitarist, flautist, and singer.

To her credit, she has composed ten albums between the years 1989 and 2014.

My Album Picks of the Week include a two-fer from 1995 and 1998, respectively.

After graduating from Sao Paolo University with a degree in both musical composition and conducting, it was Antonio Carlos Jobim himself that convinced Ana to move to New York.  Talk about lucky timing, as she would hit it big in what Allmusic.com explained briefly of her pairing with jazz saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera at the JVC Jazz Festival.  One executive on the Chesky record label took notice and eventually signed Caram to a multi-album contract.

Whether it was doing a cover of past bossa nova greats or putting her own unique spin of Academy Award winning movies from days gone by, her voice comes off so smoothly and is a great pleasure to listen–no matter what time of day or night.  Her take on the 1960’s classic tune, “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” is not to be missed.

She is also active on Facebook, keeping fans up to date on her latest musical stops throughout Brazil.

And since she managed to hit double digit albums, she continues as one of many links in the long chain of Master Composers.  There will be similar profiles like Ana that I hope to be covering in the weeks and months to come.  Just keep checking back periodically for more.

Throughout March, please look for my jazz album reviews on Wednesdays–since I have to spend way more time and energy to my other blog on WordPress.  I hope to explain more on the afternoon of Monday, March 12 on why this is the case.

In the meantime, I hope your March is fun and cool.  I know it will be for me, in more ways than one.

Master Composers: Pery Ribeiro

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Image courtesy of music.meo.pt

Pery Ribeiro (1937-2012) began his career dubbing the voice of Bashful, one of the Seven Dwarfs while his mother took on the role of Snow White herself.

It would not be until 1959 when he began his long and illustrious singing career.  While being employed as a camera operator for the first South American TV network called TV Tupi–famed announcer Cesar de Alencar gave the singer his stage name that would last the rest of his life.

In the early 1960’s, Ribeiro recorded many 78 RPM records plus he teamed up in 1961 on an album with the songs “Manha de Carnaval” and “Samba de Orfeu” by Luiz Bonfa and Antonio Maria.  According to the Wikipedia page, both gentlemen were given integral parts to the soundtrack of the 1959 film Black Orpheus (of which you can read my review in an earlier blog).

But perhaps his biggest claim to fame was recording the classic bossa nova number, “Garota de Impanema”, or “The Girl from Impanema” in 1963.  The song was part of his second LP, “Pery é todo bossa” (translated meaning, Pery is all bossa).

He mostly did concerts both in Mexico and the United States before calling Miami home in 1988, where he would remain for 23 years.  Sadly, Pery died of a heart attack in Rio on February 24, 2012.

My Album Pick of the Week features his best work in a 17 song compilation album, which is available on Amazon.  The songs are good natured, relaxing, and sometimes soothing–great for anxious times as we are all experiencing following a rather perplexing time at the XXIII Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The disk by Movieplay Music lasts about 54 minutes in length, and in general is a great disk for weekday listening.  Overall, it is a very good album and definitely worth adding to your Brazilian jazz library.

Say Goodbye To (Most Of The) Master Composers, And Hello To More Rising Stars

With the notable exception of Halie Loren recently announcing on Kickstarter her tenth (!) album scheduled for a late April release, I will continue to focus on artists of these current times on a periodic basis.

If you wish to have a general definition of what a Master Composer is:

It is defined in my world as any man or woman who successfully produces at least ten albums in their lifetime.  And certainly, Halie Loren has deserved this amazing title after all of the things she has been through in her early years.

Otherwise, please continue to enjoy more Artists Worth Checking Out as I continue to pursue other artists that mostly flew under the radar in the early days of the Internet, let alone social media’s early beginnings from around 1995 to 2006.  My pursuit of searching for more quality albums to listen to, both on physical CD, plus via online streaming sites such as Apple Music and Spotify will help me greatly in my pursuit of chronicling as many artists as possible at least until this decade is out.

After Christmas 2019, who knows what I will decide which direction this blog will take?  At least, I plan to keep it up–thanks to the many cool artists that I have come to know as great people in their own individual ways.

Later this week, as we flip the calendar to the always exciting month of March (mostly because of the many thoughts I have in my other blog as we get down to the final weeks of covering men’s college basketball in the United States), I will profile an artist who did an entire album chronicling many movie scores from past Academy Awards.  And with the Oscars airing on Sunday, March 4–this is going to be nice timing as I introduce a two-fer of Ana Caram.

The rest of the blog posts throughout the rest of March will appear on your inbox on Wednesdays, so I can concentrate more on my other blog here on WordPress during the other days of the week.

But yes, I have not forgotten–

The Sixth Annual Marco Locoura Tournament Will Return on March 12.

Same regional names you have known and love, but plenty of new and upcoming artists are looking to knock off a bunch of old faves in my makeshift brackets.  Is this the year for Terra de Sul or Basia to break through, or will Sylvia Brooks make a dramatic entrance?  Maybe Zanna or Danni Carlos might crash the party, thinking like Loyola of Chicago hoping to make their first NCAA trip since Madonna hit it big on MTV way back in 1985.

Please stay tuned, because it is going to be fun.  I will explain more about my unique part of this blog on the afternoon or early evening of Monday, March 12.

See you all again later this week.  Take care, everybody.

Master Composers: Leny Andrade

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Image courtesy of grooves-inc.com

Born as Leny de Andrade Lima on January 26, 1943 in Rio, she began her music career mostly singing in clubs in the 1960’s.  After that, she would spend five years living in Mexico and a better chunk of her life in both the United States and Europe.

Tony Bennett once referred to Leny as “The Ella Fitzgerald of Brazil”.  Not very well known in commercial circles, her page on Wikipedia mostly said that she earned the title as ‘Brazilian First Lady of Jazz” when her stops in Europe included countries such as Italy and the Netherlands.

Between 1961 and 2014, she was featured or co-produced in 28 different labels–including three on the CBS record label from New York (twice in 1979 and once more in 1988).

My Album Pick of the Week is on one of her last efforts from 2014, when guitarist Roni Ben-Hur was asked by Leny to do the guitar work on 14 different tracks.  According to the liner notes, all but two of the songs were recorded in intense Rio heat during the last week of January 2014 inside the famous Castelo Studio.  While New York and most of the New England region was suffering through the polar vertex during that winter season (thank you, ABC Meteorologist Ginger Zee for educating us Americans on Twitter and Facebook on why that term became so popular).  Five months later, the tracks “Balanco Zona Sul” (Track 2) and “Ana Luisa” (Track 12) were recorded across the Hudson River at Teaneck Sound in New Jersey.

The songs flow so effervescently from her microphone to the listener’s ears, just like the calm waves from the many kilometers of Rio beaches that dot the major streets.  All of them play in a very relaxing, intimate vibe–great for kicking off your shoes (or heels in the case of the ladies who might be reading) and also nice companion music if you happen to reading your favorite book either in print or using your Kindle or Nook device.

Perhaps the best quote from Leny herself said it best,

“I chose songs that will touch people through their emotions, songs of high quality…They know that I sing with my heart in my throat, because of the emotions I truly feel from the lyrics, otherwise I won’t sing.  I want, I like and I only accept making good music.”

And the best part, Leny is still around to experience mostly the good times.  Isn’t that what life should be all about in the first place?  More good times than bad–I would say yes to that statement any day, any hour of the week.

Same goes for my final tribute to the pioneers of bossa nova as I will profile the work of Pery Ribeiro next week.  To kick off March will be another two-fer featuring Ana Caram–as we draw closer to the annual Academy Awards, of course being pushed back from its’ customary February time slot due to NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics from South Korea.  See you all next week.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day:)

Yes, I realize Brazil’s Valentine’s Day isn’t until the beginning of summer on June 12, but I could not resist.

And for my longtime fans of this blog, you might have noticed that many of my Q&A subjects have been of the female gender.

It isn’t because the guys have not been accessible online, but I have found out often that the ladies have plenty of great stories to tell.

Halie Loren is great at what she does, while Fabiana Passoni, Sabrina Malheiros, Monica da Silva, and Alexia Bomtempo are great in their craft.  Same goes with Sylvia Brooks, Luciana Souza, Marcela Mangabeira, and Patricia Talem.

Similar to peeling off the layers of a large onion, my subject today of Liz Rosa is another name to keep an eye on before this decade is out.

Bottom line, from the mind of this mostly hopeless romantic hoping to find “the one” someday, somewhere:

I like interviewing and profiling each woman that covers Brazilian jazz equally.

Otherwise, without your continued comments and support–I would probably end up doing a middle-of-the-road cooking blog (but that might be another subject for another day).

Without more virtual adieu, here is my present for this special day for every lover out there.  There are some Brazilian jazz tunes sprinkled with lots of smooth jazz that I first heard on the radio during my time in college, and yes–some 1980’s rock that had some fun lyrics about love and romance sprinkled in:

 

Similar to a baseball lineup, here would be my Starting Nine if you feel like constructing a playlist of your own (the positions I posted here are for laughs):

1. Halie Loren, Center Field

2. Fabiana Passoni, Second Base

3. Monica da Silva, Right Field

4. Paula Fernandes, First Base

5. Alexia Bomtempo, Left Field

6. Liz Rosa, Catcher

7. Marina Elali, Third Base

8. Sabrina Malheiros, Shortstop

9. Either Patricia Talem or Marcela Mangabeira pitching

Diana Krall and Ivete Sangalo would be the first to come off the bench.

 

Master Composers: Jorge Ben

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Image courtesy of music.meo.pt

Born on March 22, 1942 as Jorge Duilio Lima Menezes in Rio, he would later be known as Jorge Ben Jor–or simply in this blog as Jorge Ben.

As a teen, Jorge sang in a church choir a few years after picking up his first pandeiro (of which Wikipedia refers to as a specific type of Brazilian tambourine).  He was seen playing in carnaval blocos (common name for street festivals) in the weeks leading up to Carnaval.

By 1960, he would be performing in nightclubs and parties in and around Rio.  It was at one of these parties when he sang the popular single, “Mas Que Nada”.  The people left were impressed.  When the Tropicalia cultural movement brought along elements of samba combined with funk, and rock–Jorge Ben also chimed in with lyrics that blended humor and on most occasions, dealt with subject matter so esoteric–most locals did not understand him.

When his name eventually circulated to television, Jorge became a really big star.  African jazz would become a major part of his repertoire by 1976.  Electric guitar would be his instrument of choice, and after winning an out of court case in 1979 when the song “Taj Mahal” was remade after one of Rod Stewart’s popular hits–his star continued to blossom.

In 2002, he contributed to the Red, Hot, and Riot album, a tribute to the music of Fela Kuti.  However, one of his biggest personal moments came when President Barack Obama cited him in a speech given on March 20, 2011 at the Theatro Municipal.

And he is also a huge fan of the Brazilian soccer team Flamengo, of which he took the time to write six songs on behalf of the team.  Overall, Jorge Ben has produced and/or contributed on at least 35 albums between 1963 and 2008.

My entry is from the year 2000, and you can a very good sense of his music in the first three tracks.  Lots of horn action and groovy piano sets are featured on the first two tracks, especially on the English version of “Take It Easy My Brother, Charles.”  The third track resembles most general wavy, good natured, calm bossa nova sounds of the 1960’s with “Que Maravilha”.  The other 11 tracks execute these similar patterns.

Small break from the past and getting back to the present

Next week, I will hope to do my first Q&A of the year featuring a budding artist from Los Angeles.  As a young girl, she witnessed many concerts from some of jazz’s biggest stars–including Peggy Lee, Stan Getz, and Sarah Vaughan.  After a brief period experimenting in television, jazz singing became her true calling.  Since 2009, Sylvia Brooks is becoming a star on the rise.  On one of her albums released in 2012 titled Restless featured songs like, “Stormy Weather” and the Green Day rock tune, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” for her expanding jazz catalogue.  In May 2017, her third album The Arrangement featured songs like “Besame Mucho” and “Sweet Surrender.”

Look in your inboxes sometime next week for her thoughts on her 2009 debut album, Dangerous Liaisons.  One look at her album cover, you would instantly think she was typecast as being a “damsel in distress”.  Rather, it is trying to tell you a story–a story through song about love, passion, heartbreak, and courage in the face of adversity.

In the years prior to making her debut, Sylvia had to survive a personal family tragedy.  Having gone personally through this myself in the last several years, key parts of Sylvia’s story definitely deserve to be told.

When I first read an article about her in the fall 2017 issue of JAZZIZ Magazine, I knew right away this would be a great addition for my blog.

And one of the first questions she asked me via email was simply, “How many followers do you have?”  I immediately told her that “I was hopefully looking for more.”

There is always room for more.  I am sure the wait will be worth it by the time this blog is linked on her website alongside many other blogs and people’s reviews of her albums going all the way back to August 2009.

I will have a few more reviews of artists from the 1960’s starting up again in February.  Please have a nice weekend before the sudden rush of hype that is Super Bowl week takes over most of the United States.

Master Composers: Quarteto Em Cy

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Image courtesy of dustygroove.com

A really nice album for a typical workday, along with the MPB Em Cy work…my Album Picks of the Week…this Brazilian girl group got their names in a very interesting way.

According to their Wikipedia page, they hail from the northeast region of Brazil in a town named Ibiraataia.  Their real names are Cybele, Cylene, Cynara, and Cyva.

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Image courtesy of soundfluency.com

The group started performing in 1959, and according to the Cherry Red Records liner notes in the album I highlighted above–Christopher Evans mentioned about the group producing a whopping seven albums in a three year period.  They would take their act to the United States by the mid 1960’s by appearing on The Andy Williams Show and also with Joey Bishop.

Appearing on the legendary Forma and Elenco labels, their Som Definitivo album with Tamba Trio from 1966 represents the true heights of their work.

The “very intricate rhythms” featuring various progressions of the chords and the intricate rhythms of the group’s voices are also being used today by indie alternatives such as Stereolab and Belle & Sebastian to a certain degree.

The songs present an almost hushed tone, great music for any workplace.  Pace wise, some songs are fast and many of them are good natured, slow tempos–but not at a snail’s pace.

Eventually, the group gained even bigger popularity in Japan where three of the four sisters continue have been touring regularly since 1980.  Sadly, Cybele died on August 21, 2014 at at the age of 74 while having a lung ischemia at her Rio home.

Both albums are available for physical CD purchase on both eBay and Amazon.  Streaming media should have both albums available as well.  I give both albums very high ratings.

Next week, we are back to cover the guys for a change as I will highlight briefly the interesting career of Jorge Ben followed by someone in the current jazz genre making graceful waves out in Los Angeles.

Thank you again for continuing to read and follow my blogs.  Comments are always welcome anytime.  Please try to enjoy the rest of your day and try to stay warm, especially to anyone reading in the Deep South.