Artists Worth Checking Out: April Aloisio

aa

Image courtesy of allmusic.com

It is fitting to wrap up the month of April with someone named April in my Album Pick of the Week.

April Aloisio (pronounced as Ah loy see oh) did only three albums in the 1990’s, one for yoga and one general jazz albums.  But during a nine year on and off recording period between 1985 and 1994, this native Chicagoan produced the Brazilian Heart album.  It is a true gem for those who like really calm and relaxing bossa nova.

The album lasts a little over 62 minutes and features plenty of covers ranging from George Gerwshwin’s “The Man I Love” and three tracks from Antonio Carlos Jobim.  The pace is slow, but methodical in nature throughout.

Among the highlights are “One Note Samba,” a nice rendition of Bud Powell’s “Duid Deed” (which lyrics were given by producer Joanie Pallatto, who added backup vocals on four tracks.  She teamed up with a pool of artists ranging from Von Freeman and Redd Holt to Howard Levy and Sergio Pires.  Guitarist Paulinho Garcia also was listed as a contributor to the album.  The physical CD is available online via Amazon and eBay, and some of her yoga tracks are available for virtual downloads on Spotify.

Later on this week, I plan to profile both a CD and DVD concert performance featuring Claudia Leitte.  Hope to see you all then, as pure spring weather has finally penetrated the North and Midwestern portions of the United States.

Advertisements

Master Composers: “From The Wild Sky” by Halie Loren Is Really Amazing

Popular Oregon singer-songwriter’s tenth album places her in very select company

aa

Image courtesy of jazzmusicarchives.com

From the moment that Halie Loren proudly posted a special video on the Kickstarter page in kicking off her special campaign in autumn 2017 which led to this very moment, yes–at first, I seemed a tiny bit skeptical.  Would it be worth spending some of my hard earned dollars on her first set of songs that she wrote herself?  I still had one more point to consider before I fully committed to the project, and that everything she talked about would be done with lots of care and good intentions for all parties involved.

In all honesty, the more I heard her voice in speaking truly from the heart, plus reading in her own words how passionate and driven she was to see how this project would eventually come to fruition–it made me realize something deep down inside.  It was one of those seminal moments, like if your heart was pretending to briefly skip a beat.  Actually, it was a lot more than that.

I felt personally that very few people can convey in words, let alone proper sentences what this album really meant to me, now that I finally have my own copy to savor.

Was I moved to crying happy tears?  Not really.

Was the inner kid in me finally excited to open the envelope on a nice Friday spring afternoon and read all of the lyrics to each of the first 10 songs (there are two additional tracks which can be found on the Japanese edition, for those of you lucky enough to receive the deluxe version)?

You bet.

Keeping fully in mind the article penned by Bob Keefer, when her face was plastered all over the front page of the Eugene Weekly newspaper on January 11 which thankfully did not in any way temper my excitement.  After reading the parts about what makes this album unique–I kept my level of expectations mostly on an even keel.  It was not nearly as high like when my ears heard her cover, “The Look of Love” or “Mas Que Nada”.  Consequently, the mood was not too low when at times her voice was sometimes drifting away from the microphone–mostly for dramatic effect and not so much to clear any frogs that might have been lurking towards her throat.

As for the album titled “From The Wild Sky”, you cannot help but notice the exquisite artwork she helped design on the digipak cover.  Even in the first set of folds, we see Halie as if she was drifting off to sleep in an attempt to finish writing another song.  Each of the 11 tracks range between 3 minutes on the opening track to no more than 4 1/2 minutes in length (the seventh track).

Besides it being a very cool listen, her album appears to me like she wants to invite the listener on a magical trip to her own world.  Think of it as a place where the distractions are minimal, and mostly fun times are guaranteed for those willing to take a chance on coming up with distinct memories that are both pure and genuine.  Honest people definitely need to apply.

In my case as a blog reporter plus being a fan of jazz music for nearly forty years and a loyal fan of Brazilian jazz for ten years, I decided for the very first time to detail my honest thoughts on each of the 10 songs she came up with–plus a rather eclectic choice for the final track, “A Mi Manera” (a song once made popular by Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra).

Track One–“Roots”

During the first 40 seconds, Halie gets into this almost chant like rhythm.  Please don’t think of it as a clone to the 2017 independent rock hit from Alice Merton called “No Roots”.  Instead, this opening track almost felt like waking up from a bad dream.  By the end of the second minute, it neatly felt like she was channeling in her inner Chaka Khan circa 1984.  Again, as I listened to it for the first time–I came away with a totally different appreciation of her lyrics and how she expressed them.  The way she enunciates each word is so captivating, it nearly takes your breath away.  That was nowhere evident than on the next track.

Track Two–“How To Dismantle A Life”

Midas well call this ‘The Young Couples Try Their Best To Figure Things Out Song’.  Seriously, I could see scores of ladies trying to use the word “Yay” in an echo faster than Michelle Branch did on her 2001 pop radio single, “Everywhere”.  You remember it–when at the end of each line, she kept using the syllable “uhh”.  Pace wise, it definitely reminds me a bit of Sara Bareilles when she hit it big on the pop charts in July 2007 with “Love Song.”  Similar to Branch, radio stations could not get enough, and I hope over time–whatever jazz stations remain on terrestrial radio and online will hopefully play this particular track on periodic rotation.

Besides, this was an excellent choice to be her first single and what she said on her Facebook Live session on Friday night from CDWorld in Eugene, Oregon–there was a very cool music video that debuted on her YouTube page on May 11.

The main gist of the story is we see Halie rejecting a bouquet of flowers, a ring that does not fit her finger correctly, and smartly getting a rid of a cake that was on the way to become the world’s biggest pre-4th of July fireworks celebration.

We then see Halie pretending to be a high school teacher in the first minute.  Off goes the blackboard, then later some carefully orchestrated building blocks as if some needy kids needed some blocks to play with.  During the second minute, the screen goes Brady Bunch style, as Halie sings in the middle box while the corner boxes politely oblige as if to say, “I get it.”

However, the one box that gave me the biggest laugh of all was in the top middle–as we see her face shift from one end to the next as if to say, “Wow, look at all of these lovely people.”

The final 50 seconds see her get mostly covered in confetti.  I bet that shower felt really good after the video shoot, was I right?

Track Three–“Wild Birds”

A much slower paced song, but the background lyrics were done masterfully by current jazz star Becca Stevens.  In fact, she was also given credit for doing the charango instrument–so, score one for versatility.

The song kindly reminds us to heed nature’s call, just like I detailed in this very blog in January 2017–of which it turned out to be the biggest single day in terms of page views in my time spent with this blog.  Leave your worries at your doorstep and hear the voices of the animals and see for yourselves where they might end up going in their endless adventures.

If you are lucky enough, perhaps you might see one of these little furry creatures flying around my backyard one spring or summer’s day…

IMG_0342

Speaking of “shadows upon an eternal land”–this June 2010 pic I took from a relatively safe distance should make you all feel very happy:)

Track Four–“Paper Man”

No, I never had any dreams about the guy who delivers our paper on Sunday mornings–nice try.  My safe guess is that this song is for all of the clueless guys in the world who cleverly try and most of them end up failing on how to properly communicate their truest thoughts to members of the opposite sex.  Sarah Spain of ESPN Radio did an excellent 73 minute podcast on Tuesday, April 17 when she talked to many ESPN television personalities when they individually discussed their horror stories on how women are being judged as objects instead of their abilities and skills on the job.  Personally, this #MeToo movement has lots of merit and thousands of women’s voices are being heard.  The thing is, will their cumulative actions finally lead to concrete results?  Besides, when guys think decent thoughts–both honesty and kindness will always win out every day and night of the week.

Track Five–“I Can’t Land”

Originally thought of by Halie while spending time in Tokyo, Japan in fall 2017, I think this song should be called the “I Miss My Man So Much While Stuck On the Road” song.  The lyrics are so spot on, it would make even Carole King jealous.  The line that got me the most was, “There is no one, no one but you who shines up my life better than the sun.”  It is simply a song about long lost loves in hoping they will at least text them, let alone try to call so they can hear the sounds of their voice–even if it is in the middle of a rainstorm.

Track Six–“Well-Loved Woman”

Another clapping, chanting number who enjoys referring to herself in several grand ways.  Unicorns need not apply, but “angels singing in jubilation” are certainly more than welcome to join in.  As for Wonder Woman and Batgirl, count them both in as well and even Sydney Bristow from Alias fame when ABC audiences from 2001-2006 saw Jennifer Garner run away from the bad guys, fly off very high harnesses, and did death-defying stunts.  Personally, it felt like every week you had to rewind the VHS tape to see if it really happened (but in the end, it was a body double that did most of the crazy stunts).  In my true and very humble opinion, this song could definitely be Halie Loren’s calling card.

Track Seven–“Painter’s Song”

The longest song in terms of time at 4 minutes and 37 seconds, it begins with Halie at the piano and continues with Michael Olatuja on electric bass backed up by Troy Miller on the synthesizer.  Miller also contributed several other instruments throughout the album, while Femi Temowo was heard on acoustic guitar.

This is definitely another song about lost love and longing to find a new canvas to paint on.  The almost constant repetition in the chorus nearly reminds me a bit of Diana Krall on some of her later songs.  However, the main message is found when you peel back the onion layers is simply not letting things linger when in times of trouble–but rather, letting things go off into the ether and hope that a new outcome brings a better and brighter tomorrow.

Track Eight–“August Moon”

Calling to mind the popular play title of Tea House and The August Moon, it is simply a clever play on words.  The ukulele came in handy paired with the lyrics, “I never felt more real / Oh, as I do when I steal away with you / Our story is the truth I cling to.”  Great song for a late Friday night.  Similar to what British rockers Depeche Mode sang in the 1980’s with “I Just Can’t Get Enough”–just keep the magic alive, my online friends.

Track Nine–“Noah”

The first time that Halie’s voice drifted briefly away from the microphone, but her message could not be more accurate or prophetic.  The lyrics bring to mind the millions of people who were displaced by hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters–and in some cases, still without homes or power in several parts of Puerto Rico.  This particular track carries a very deep message of gratitude and courage, of which it cannot be taken lightly–but Halie’s songwriting made this song simply unbelievable to hear.

Track Ten–“Wisdom”

Taking a small page from Roberta Flack circa 1974, Halie’s words are killing her many thousands of fans softly with so much kindness, she is hitting us right where it hurts with very little mercy.  And that to me is not a bad thing at all, but the lyrics all by themselves managed to carry a ton of weight.

Halie basically is telling us to squeeze every minute of every day like the drops that lemons make inside your tall, ice cold glass of water mixed with a little sugar and you have instant lemonade.  Take advantage of every opportunity that is handed to you and never be afraid to ask for help or guidance whenever necessary.

True life lessons from a self-proclaimed “nerd”, and for that reason along with many reasons explained in some prior blogs–this album gets my highest rating…and not just because she is more than a pretty face.  Halie does everything close to the best.  Throughout this entire process as she explained in over 20 subscriber specific emails, she remains true to her craft and with this being her tenth album will rank right up there with some of her best works when the entire discography of Halie Loren is all said and done.

As for the final track, we managed to get the pleasure of hearing Halie paired up with Troy Miller on the organ and Femi Temowo on percussion as they did a more soulful, less tense version of “A Mi Manera”.  The song was originally made famous by Frank Sinatra when “My Way” appeared initially as a B-side in 1969.  This song marked the return of the Halie Loren we as fans have come to know and enjoy.  And yes, she did pen a few lines in her “Thoughts & Thanks” page to the many hundreds of pledges who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign “that funded this album’s creation.”

Speaking of thank yous, I found this comment as the most interesting:

“Your stories reminded me of the ways in which songs are powerful, alive, and have their own journeys and myriad purposes for being.  You gifted me with your generosity, including the groundswell of crowdfunding that ultimately made this recording possible.  This album exists because of you.”

Yes indeed, I am glad to be remembered as such a small part of reaching a special milestone.

And so, it gives me great pleasure to say…

Halie Loren, you can safely take your place alongside some very popular and well known jazz legends as a true master of your craft in producing at least ten albums.  By no means is this a complete list, but I am sure fans will find it to be very cool:

  • Louis Armstrong
  • Duke Ellington
  • Miles Davis
  • Glenn Miller
  • Benny Goodman
  • Charlie Parker
  • John Coltrane
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Billie Holiday
  • Thelonious Monk
  • Charles Mingus (mostly as a bandleader, also as a sideman)
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Sonny Rollins
  • Art Blakey
  • Stan Getz
  • Sarah Vaughan
  • Dave Brubeck
  • Oscar Peterson
  • Wes Montgomery
  • Chick Corea (mostly as leader or co-leader)
  • Lionel Hampton (mostly in group sessions)
  • Wynton Marsalis
  • Ron Carter
  • Donald Byrd
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • Joao Gilberto
  • Sergio Mendes
  • Herb Alpert
  • Lani Hall (both before and during her marriage to Herb Alpert)
  • Candy Dulfer
  • Diana Krall
  • Becca Stevens (mostly as a guest)

Congratulations once more to Halie Loren on another simply incredible album;).

BRIEF EPILOGUE:

Halie herself sent this comment on Saturday night, via her page on Facebook:

This is such a beautiful and exceptionally thoughtful review, Matt! Thank you so very much!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artists Worth Checking Out: Paulo Ramos

aa

Image courtesy of labibledelawestcoast.blogspot.com

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

aa

Image courtesy of mercidisco.com.br

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

aa

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.

ab

Image courtesy of altoeclaro.blogspot.com

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

 

Master Composers: Johnny Alf Brought Some Very Pleasant Memories

aa

Cover to Vinyl Record courtesy of soft-tempo.com

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:

https://bigzbossanovabeat.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/joyce-cooling-the-2016-marco-loucura-champion/