Tag Archive | Masters

Artist Worth Checking Out: Lisa Ono Says Feliz Natal


Image courtesy of music-cool.tw

Born July 29, 1962 in Sao Paolo, Lisa Ono splits her time between Brazil and her family’s homeland in Japan.

By the time she turned 15, she began to learn to play the guitar.  Nearly a dozen albums later (with Dream and Pretty World being the big sellers), my first entry of the Brazilian Christmas CD selections is a spiffy pop entry, especially getting to hear and read the Japanese lyrics.

Albeit it took me two years and half a world to find my copy (some bookstore in Germany fortunately had a copy back in June 2015 at a reasonable price), please don’t be taken aback by her English singing.  I found that each song she sings features very light tones throughout the acoustic guitars on each carol.  It is quite the opposite with the more dramatic orchestral effects heard on the wildly popular Amy Grant album Home For Christmas which was released the year before Boas Festas.

From “Winter Wonderland” to “Let It Snow”, “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Paz Azul” (which almost sounds lyrically like the lullaby song moms sing to their kids before tucking them to bed each night), this album labelled as a Winter Bossa album definitely ranks right up there with Halie Loren’s cool album, Lori Meachem’s near duplication of the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s  A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack and the Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 number on “The Christmas Song”.

The album is very pleasant and an excellent listen, definitely feels like a nice album to unwind to after a long day of baking your favorite holiday treats.  This album is also definite holiday party material if the crowd does not feel like really going all out and just letting things stay chilled through the night.

And yes, she has continued to do more Brazilian albums even while raising two children of her own.  Wikipedia has her credited with doing 22 albums to date, the last one during the first full year after the financial recession in 2009 featuring  jazz standards from both Rio and Los Angeles.

Next week, you will get to read a two-fer from the same artist.  Vinnie Zummo did his holiday compilations over a decade apart.  I will note the key similarities and differences from each album once I get a bit of time separate from the hectic times currently taking place with my other blog in covering NCAA men’s college basketball.
Enjoy your weekend, and please try to pick up a copy online of this holiday album when you get the chance.


Master Composers: Nicola Conte brings on many singers as Free Souls amps up the Wow Factor

Image courtesy of junodownload.com

Image courtesy of junodownload.com

Nicola Conte brought some serious singers on his 2014 album that took five years to produce in Italy.

The likes of Bridgette Amofah, Melanie Charles, Marvin Parks, Jose James, Heidi Vogel, and Tasha’s World (not related to any adult film website) make this album excellent for late night listening or pleasant dinner party conversation.

The first three tracks are first rate, from “Shades of Joy” to the many female background singers listed above along with Kim Sanders doing a superb rendition of “Goddess of The Sea.”  The title track is also an excellent listen.  I wonder also if Bridget had that certain baseball team which resides in the American League Eastern Division and surprised everyone in upsetting the heavily favored New York Yankees to reach the postseason in 2014.  But the song, “Baltimore Oriole” instead talked about the famous bird that you see smiling on their caps and uniforms for many games at Camden Yards.

The other songs offer a decent, melodic pace throughout.  I give this album five stars.

Even as we remember those who lost their lives in that senseless tragedy in Paris, some excellent news for a special fan of this blog

Fabiana Passoni does it again.  She received a special Lifetime Achievement Award in Brazil on Saturday.  I am sure if you follow her on social media, there are lots of cool pics including one shot of her barefoot posing on a row of red clay bricks.

She is back in her homeland as she recorded another single.  More details on when it will be released at a later date.  I wonder if she composed a special song dedicated to the 2016 Summer Olympics?

Next week will be final regular blog review before the annual quartet of holiday reviews as Eliane Elias continues to shine on the Brazilian jazz music scene.  See you all later in the week.

Master Composers: Kenny G brings his powerful sax to Brazilian jazz for an impressive debut album

Known mostly for his superior soprano sounds on the saxophone, Kenny G’s first foray into Brazilian jazz called on him doing mostly tenor and alto numbers.  He cited in one YouTube interview his three biggest inspirations were Stan Getz, Cannonball Adderley, and Paul Desmond (who was famous for helping orchestrate Dave Brubeck’s 1962 smooth jazz classic, “Take Five”).

Image courtesy of getmusicasia.com

Image courtesy of getmusicasia.com

Born as Kenneth Bruce Gorelick on June 5, 1956 in Seattle, he is the best selling instrumental artist in this time.

After dabbling for nearly nine years with different jazz bands, Kenny G went solo in 1982 by signing on with Arista Records.

Fast forward through the 17 albums, including the most successful holiday album ever with Miracles:  The Holiday Album back in 1994, but his first foray into Brazilian jazz was definitely an eye opener when this album was released to the public on January 27, 2015.

Taking the classic “Corcovado” tune on Track 2 and “The Girl from Impanema” on Track 9 is like getting the popcorn maker to work properly and putting up your feet to watch a cool movie.  Also worth a listen are Tracks 3 and 4, the fast paced “Bossa Real” and the slower, more methodical pace of the title track.

Throughout the ten tracks, each song is Kenny G at his purest and his best.  It definitely is one hot album, but longtime fans may be taken aback by how he had to abandon his signature notes in favor of doing something different.

There is also a deluxe version with four live tracks featuring the songs of, “Loving You” (different lyrics than what Fabiana Passoni gave us), “G Bop”, “Forever In Love”, and “Heart and Soul.”

Definitely a worthy addition to anyone’s smooth jazz collection.  Both versions are available online wherever CD’s are sold.

Next week, I will continue my brief foray into some of 2015’s best works by veteran jazz artists with Nicola Conte.  We may know him simply as the Italian man famous for “Bossa Per Due”, but he has really turned his game up several notches back in the spring and really opened up my eyes and ears to some very pleasant sounds.

But not to be outdone, the week of November 15 will feature Eliane Elias and her latest work.  Enjoy your weekend, as it appears Extended Indian Summer is finally going to come to an end for most of the northern United States.  At least, it was nice to go outside and see absolutely no bugs for a chance in spite of the simple fact that all outdoor yard work had to end a full hour before your network news hits the air.

Artists Worth Checking Out: Brazilian Architecture Is A Sure Treat

No tricks, just lots of really cool Brazilian jazz to enjoy any time of year

Image courtesy of allmusic.com

Image courtesy of allmusic.com

My album of the week pick just in time for Halloween is a sure-fire treat from November 5, 1991.

Just two days before Basketball Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson announced to the world that he was HIV positive, the Lindberg Hemmer Foundation must have had one of the Los Angeles Lakers primary team colors firmly in mind.  The disk is embossed mostly in gold.  But the best part, you don’t have to fork over the same amount for Tiffany & Co. designer jewelry in time for Christmas just so you can pair this album with Les Hommes’ The Mood is Modal (another past subject you can revisit from one of my prior blogs, just fyi).

All we know about the band is that they combined simple jazz arrangements with key electronic Minimoogs, bass, other Wurlitzer instruments, and some percussion.

Each member of the band is profiled in a one inch B&W pic, led by Keld Ipsen on trombone, Soren Runge on keyboard, Klavs Norso on percussion, Jens Runge on the choir, Ben Besiakov on the electric piano, Anders Gardmand covered the flute, and Regin Fuhlendorf performed effortlessly on the guitar.

Doing the backup vocals on a few of the songs were Marie Carmen Koppel (no relation to the longtime former ABC News Nightline lead anchor Ted Koppel) and Louise Nordby.  They went under the cleverly designed label simply called Crazy Nation.

Hence, before you put on the “Monster Mash” or the Ghostbusters theme, put this album on as you divvy up those chocolate covered treats for the good little ghouls and goblins that will probably end up rotting most of their teeth before they go back well rested on Monday morning.

But that’s not really my point.

The point I am trying to make is that this CD is a great party album.  Track 3 is an immediate winner in my book with “Manzonetti”, and close behind for a cool number as well is both Track 6, “Madras” and Track 8, “Just Another Party at Tony’s Beach.”


As 2015 prepares to draw to a close in the final weeks, I thought November would be a great time to review three albums that were released during this past year and managed to get mostly rave reviews from many in the music community.

Before the American Thanksgiving holiday towards the end of the month, you will find in either your inboxes or just a thumb’s tap away on your smartphones these reviews:

Week of November 2, Kenny G lends his soulful sax in the Brazilian way for the first time in his storied career.

Week of November 9, Italy’s Nicola Conte brings on 13 neat tracks with Free Souls.

Week of November 16, Eliane Elias dons a rather tropical dress as if she was auditioning to be the first fully clothed subject for the March 2016 issue of Playboy Magazine.  The veteran singer/songwriter does some neat versions of Gal Costa (“Aquarela do Brasil”), everyone’s favorite springtime song thanks to Astrud Gilberto (“Waters of March”) and another longtime favorite tune of “Vida” (“If Not You”) among the 12 tracks included there.

And if I get a brief moment from preparing my residence for the annual big turkey dinner, I will try to give the fans an Olympic update that Monday or Tuesday before the holiday break.

The only major news of note from October was the hiring of longtime San Antonio Spurs and multiple NBA champion head coach Gregg Popovich, as he will be taking over the reins of Team USA Olympic basketball from Duke’s legend in Mike Krzyzewski after the 2016 Rio Olympics conclude next August.

Artists Worth Checking Out: Bill Cunliffe Keeps Up On The Latin Vibe

Born on June 26, 1956 in Lawrence, Massachusetts and graduate of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, Bill Cunliffe has taken on Latin jazz for over three decades and spreading his love to students eager enough to learn while being a Professor at Cal State-Fullerton.

His career led him to many varying gigs through the years, most notably being a regular member of both the Clayton Brothers Quartet and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.  He would later win a Grammy Award in 2009 for Best Instrumental Arrangement.

One of his early musical inspirations was the work done by Paul Simon.  It eventually spawned on to making a dozen album under the Paul Simon Songbook (there is a brief mention on the AllMusic.com site if you want to learn more).

This week’s album entry features his 1995 journey to Rio–complete with simply picturesque postcard views of Sugarloaf Mountain embedded around the rather scary circumstances Bil faced when landing in Rio prior to making the album in June 1994.  Mix in that a wild World Cup champion parade and then he finally meets the likes of Ricardo Silveira, Marcos Ariel, and Oscar Castro-Neves.

I will spare you the details, but I will say this:  For those traveling internationally, always double and triple check to make sure that you do not leave behind every vital document (passport, visa, etc.) needed to gain proper entry and readmission back to your home country.

As for the album itself, it takes on a very methodical, calming, soothing pace.  This would be excellent music for simple parties or just in case you had too many tomatoes mixed in with your favorite dinners–this album would most definitely calm any stomach pains that you might have lingering inside (for any true reason or not).

Besides the standards on Track 2, Vince Guaraldi’s famous rendition of “Cast Your Fate to The Wind” for all of you Peanuts cartoons out there (myself included) and Paul Simon’s rather hoky number on Track 4, “She Moves On.”  The remaining tracks lend a very sympathetic ear…definitely not too fast, nor slow of a pace.

Overall, even by the time he returned to Los Angeles to complete the album, I can safely say that this album is a keeper, definite addition to your jazz collection.

Next week in time for Halloween, there won’t be anything spooky here I promise.

But rather, another nice entry as the leaves are just starting to turn to the gorgeous foliage where normally all of the leaves shed at once.  But with all of the rain most of the northern United States experienced from April on, hopefully next week’s entry from the Lindberg Hemmer Foundation when they dealt with their 2001 entry on Brazilian Architecture should end the month on a very good note.

Look for that hopefully by the middle of this week.  The reason being is that in my other blog–I will be working on some rather big things there with the curtain to rise on yet another exciting season of men’s NCAA Division One college basketball.  Just you wait until the first blog of the new season goes live, it is going to be fun.

At least, I will leave behind some virtual treats to fill your plastic pumpkin bowls just in time for trick or treating.  Leave the ghosts and ghouls behind and stick around here for more goodies yet to come for the rest of the year.  See you then.

Artists Worth Checking Out: Mark Sganga’s Guitar Amps Up The Cool Factor

Image courtesy of allmusic.com

Image courtesy of allmusic.com

Hailing from New Jersey, this longtime guitarist would definitely be a welcome addition if you wish to take a break from salsa dancing (you know who you are;) or watching America’s favorite baseball team advance in the playoffs like the Chicago Cubs did in dramatic fashion shutting out Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.

Although the same cover on the back of the liner notes from this late 2000’s album appears as the permanent background on the back partition of the jewel case, please do not let it deter you from the music that this music definitely conjures up one image–and that is to party.

Let your hair down and kindly kick off those heels, ladies–your feet need a much deserved break after hearing the appropriate lyrics on Track 2, “Rio Carnival”.  I bet someone working in tourism or the travel industry is probably getting a hold on this and maybe adding this song to the 2016 Rio Olympics playlist.

Another song to check out is “Afterglow” on Track 7, very steady and subtle beats throughout the entire nearly four minute track.

The pace is mostly slow and methodical until Track 9, and then you get the feeling that an auto race is ready to break out as the green flag flies for “Chusen Kala Mazeltov”.  Even a delectable dessert makes a clever song title on the final track with “Lemon Merengue.”

Mark keeps up a social media presence on both his website and Facebook if you wish to learn more about his teaching music at a New Jersey college.  This is definitely an artist who should be worth keeping on your virtual radar screens to see what comes next.  An excellent album, great for parties or just relaxing after a long, hectic day.  Like most albums in this blog, I give Sganganova one of my highest ratings.

Next week, it is off to Lipstick City USA and no, I am not talking about the Rembrandts on the mound in National League Cy Young candidates Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I will be heading virtually up the coast and drifting off the beaten path towards California Wine Country and the picture postcard musical journey taken by Bill Cunliffe on his trip to Brazil in 1995.

Enjoy your weekend.  And yes, as promised–I have a really cool Olympic update to share.  For those people residing in Brazil, please pay special attention to the last part of the above blog for some key information.

Artists Worth Checking Out: Kerry Linder Brings On Many Relaxing Sounds

Image courtesy of musicflacworld.com

Image courtesy of musicflacworld.com

Growing up in the Netherlands Antilles on the island of Curaçao, Kerry is a key figure on the New York City jazz scene.

Her 2004 debut album, Sail Away With Me features very calm and nice versions of late 1950’s/early 1960’s samba songs.

The liner notes explain in her own words some of the reasons why she chose the songs.  With Mauro Refosco on percussion and Paulo Andre Tavares on guitar, the songs take on a refreshing, yet soothing vibe.  No two songs are alike in pace or rhythm, but that is part of the fun of hearing this album.

Rather than bore you with sounding off on her key thoughts from each track, my basic thoughts tell me one thing that this is indeed my favorite season of the year:

Nice pic distraction, don't you think? Image courtesy of my own personal collection

Nice pic distraction, don’t you think?
Image courtesy of my own personal collection

The songs bring about a relaxed, not rushed pace.  Kerry’s voice switches from Portuguese to English and back almost as easily as a hand trying on a new glove.

My favorite songs include not only the title track but “St. Judy’s Comet” on Track 5 and the three minute scat number with a simple closing remark, “That’s All.”

Overall, this is a very nice CD to have in your car or welcome in guests for a relaxing night with friends.

For those that are inclined to have a little extra fun, it is time to grab your favorite apple cider drink and start kicking around some newly fallen leaves on your way to your favorite orchards and take in the autumn season.

As we have often found out especially in the northern half of the United States, autumn only lasts for a few days and Mother Nature greets us with a extended bout of winter cold.  Hopefully, today will be the start of some very decent weather days to come.

More good profiles to come during October, and there might be another Olympic update as well.  Hope to see you all then, please take care of yourselves.