Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bosss Nova Benefit at Amity Hall on January 28th, 2014

Bossa Nova Benefit

Click here for tickets!!!

Brasil em Mente promotes Bossa Nova night in NYC
Brasil em Mente, in partnership with the Big Band Brooklyn Jazz Rebellion, Monika Oliveira, Richard Miller, and Eric B. Davis, will host a Bossa Nova Show in benefit of cultural and educational programs. The purposes of the show are to promote a total Brazilian experience that includes authentically Brazilian music, food, drinks and atmosphere. In addition, the organization plans to raise $20,000 to maintain its projects at its new headquarters

The Brooklyn Jazz Rebellion is a big band based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and comprised of professional players from around the NYC area. Members of the band have toured around the world, and performed at venues such as 55 Bar, the Jazz Standard, the Glastonbury Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival. The band has headlined at Brooklyn’s East River Music Festival, Harlem’s Shrine and has been a featured act at a number of New York charity events. The band performs the full range of big band composers and styles and is dedicated to preserving the medium of the big band and presenting many varieties of this style to the public. The Brooklyn Jazz Rebellion is conducted by Casey Howard and is managed by its president Hope Bagley e Dieter Winterle.

The Brazilian singer Monika Oliveira will make a special appearance at the event singing with the Big Band. Monika Oliveira is a fresh and exciting vocal presence on the New York - Brazilian music scene today. This singer/songwriter was born in Belém/Pará and raised in Rio de Janeiro. She has been living and performing around New York City for over ten years. She combines her love of Brazil’s musical heritage and her love of Jazz into a sultry variation on both – Brazilian Jazz that is at once moving and rhythmic, pure and passionate. 

Monika will be accompanied by the guitar players Richard Miller,  who holds a PhD in Music Theory and teaches at Columbia University, and Eric Davis, graduate of Julliard and Broadway performer, currently at Matilda.
Eric B Davis                                                                                          Richard Miller
Brasil em Mente is a cultural organization and the only Brazilian preschool in America who’s mission is to embrace and value the Portuguese language. The organization has the institutional support of the General Consulate of Brazil in New York and has developed various cultural initiatives. In addition to their child education programs in which children are immersed in the language and culture of Brazil, Brasil em Mente (BEM) maintains the only International Brazilian Children’s Library. With a collection of more than 1,000 volumes, the library is open to the local community and sends books through the mail to all states in the US. The organization maintains an educational blog that discusses bilingualism and Portuguese as a heritage language, a multidisciplinary study group, and a publisher. Brasil em Mente also produces cultural events that celebrate typical festivities and bring what is best in terms of Brazilian culture.

Event: Bossa Nova Night in NYC
January 28
th, 2014.
Shows at 7 and 9:30 pm.
At Amity Hall (80 W 3
rd St, New York, NY) More information:
Dieter Winterle, Executive Director
Tel.: (917) 434-2361


Monday, July 22, 2013

Brasil Summerfest 2013!

Brazilian music lovers in New York City wait all year for the weeklong series of shows known as Brasil Summerfest. Now in its third year, the festival features both established names and artists relatively unknown in New York, with a goal of exposing Americans to a variety of styles not always associated with Brazilian music.  The 2013 series launched on Saturday, with a free concert at Central Park Summerstage featuring three bands:  Emicida, Gaby Amarantos, and Planet Hemp.

Emicida is a rapper from Sao Paolo, whose initial attempts at self-distribution and promotion were a smashing success, and who has since become one of the best-known voices in Brazilian hip-hop.  Brazilian rap contests, where rappers create impromptu verses in competition, are part of the hip-hop scene in Brazil.  Emicida has won many of these.  Although this was not his first performance in the United States -- he appeared at the 2011 Coachella Music Festival in Southern California -- this was our first exposure to him for many of us New Yorkers.  His energy and his delivery suggest a smart, passionate, and talented artist with origins in a poor family, who cares deeply about his country.

Gaby Amarantos is a pioneer in a style she calls "tecnobrega". Brega (usually translated as "cheesy" or "corny") has been long known in Brazil for its romanticism and sentimentality. Although it has followers all over Brazil, it hasn't engaged a large following outside Brazil. Gaby Amanrantos takes things to a whole other level with her addition of electronica sounds and reggaeton rhythms. Her over-the-top singing, her sequined outfit, and a tiara spelling out her name in shiny silver letters immediately invites comparisons to Liberace. I am not sure what Clara Nunes and Antonio Carlos Jobim, if they were alive today, would have thought of her renditions of "Canto das Tres Raças" and "Waters of March".  The rest of her set was equal parts soulful passion, expansive joy, and histrionics. Here's a video of her performing on TV Pará.  Loved or hated, Gaby Amarantos certainly cannot be ignored.

Planet Hemp was formed by Brazilian rapper Marcelo D2 and Skunk, and is a raucous mixture of psychedelic rock and hardcore.  If Dream Syndicate, the Misfits, and Green Day were to collaborate, the result might sound something like this.  The singing is in Portuguese, and so I missed a lot of the meaning, but was mostly about "maconha" (marijuana) as far as I could tell. Their show was accompanied by videos of people smoking pot in various ways.  Near the front, a mosh pit formed where a bunch of guys were slam-dancing -- which struck me as curious, given the calming effects of the drug the band was promoting.  

In the end, as much as I wanted to hate Planet Hemp, I just couldn't.  They are sincere people and good musicians.  The riffing between slow, almost atmospheric psychedelia and the jarring double-time of hardcore was like a shot of adrenaline, and the slam dancing brought back fond memories for me of punk shows in the East Village in the 1980s, where guys with spiked wristbands aggressively thrashed their arms around during edgy and energetic shows.  The video below captures something of the energy of this performance.  My cell phone camera compressed the sound as best as it could -- it was very loud up close. 

It was a great start to Summerfest.  I am going to try to write about other shows as they come up, though they're scheduled in rapid succession.  Next up will be Casuarina, who took the nightclub S.O.B.'s by storm that same evening, and who played in other venues the rest of the weekend. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Tale of Two Nations

New York's love affair with northeastern Brazilian rhythms is breaking new ground this month, with an appearance at Lincoln Center Out of Doors by Nation Beat and Maracatu Estrelha Brilhante.  Estrelha Brilhante is one of the oldest and largest representatives of the maracatu percussion style -- the infectious, syncopated rhythm from the northeastern state of Pernambuco.  Nation Beat is the performance group within the American percussion school Maracatu New York.  It's headed by Scott Kettner, who has imported these patterns and brought them to American audiences for the past ten years.  The two bands are scheduled to go on the road in the U.S., touring Los Angeles, Miami, Albuquerque, and other locations in a show billed as A Tale of Two Nations, with a full complement of 13 traditional drummers and dancers from Recife (Pernambuco's capitol).  This will be, by all accounts, the first time a maracatu band has toured the United States.  The show, however, is facing some challenges, and will need immediate public support in order to succeed.

It's been a busy year for Scott and his group.  They're releasing a CD in a couple of weeks, titled "Baque do Brooklyn".  An instructional book, co-authored with his wife Michelle Nascimento-Kettner and Aaron Shafer-Haiss, which is the first book in English about maracatu, has also just come out.  This past Sunday, Maracatu New York opened their studios to the public, offering a free lesson and a slideshow to discuss the project.  Everyone was very excited about the prospect of maracatu music being in the American spotlight for the first time.  However, in spite of grants from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation and American Airlines, other important grant money failed to materialize, and Maracatu New York is appealing to the public through a Kickstarter campaign to make up the shortfall.  (Click here to watch the Kickstarter video.)

Please support this groundbreaking musical endeavor.  As of this writing, A Tale of Two Nations is funded at 60% but only has about another 60 hours left.  As with all Kickstarter fundraisers, if funding doesn't reach 100%, there is no funding from Kickstarter at all.  Estrelha Brilhante will still come to the U.S., but without the full complement of dancers and drummers.  Funds are needed to cover the cost of domestic airline flights, artist fees, hotels, meals, visas, and other incidentals.  There are few things New Yorkers haven't seen before.  A full maracatu band from Northeastern Brazil will undoubtedly be one of them.

Click here to become a supporter.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Unity with the people of Brazil

Rise like lions after slumber
in unvanquishable number.
Shake your chains to earth like dew,
which in sleep hath fallen on you.
Ye are many, they are few...

Let a vast assembly be,
and with great solemnity
declare with measured words that ye
are as God hath made thee -- free.
                                 -- Shelley

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Eliane Elias: "I Thought About You: A Tribute to Chet Baker"

Eliane Elias has been known until recently as a Brazilian singer who has done a few marvelous interpretations of American standards, such as "Baubles, Bangles, and Beads", and "Take Five".  But I suspect that's about to change.  Her new album, I Thought About You:  A Tribute to Chet Baker, was released today, on the first of a five-night run at Birdland Jazz Club in New York City.  It's dedicated wholly to American music, specifically to the music of the late icon of the Cool Jazz movement.

Eliane has long been considered one of the most versatile and expressive jazz vocalists on the scene right now.  Born in São Paolo, she's equally at home with samba and swing, with ballads and bossa nova, and with so many of the other Brazilian grooves, such as baião and afoxé, that are gradually becoming part of the repertoire of the music of the world.  Eliane is also an accomplished classical and jazz pianist with a distinctive style of jazz improvisation:  her piano riffs are immediately recognizable as hers and hers alone.  She came onto the scene at age 17, performing onstage with Brazilian heavy-hitters Vinicius de Moraes and Toquinho.  Since  then, her career has been on a quiet, upward trajectory that has gained her fans on every continent.  I came to her music late, in 2008, after hearing her second appearance on Marian McPartland's public radio show Piano Jazz, and  immediately fell in love with the way her vocal lines, like those of the truly great bossa singers, drift in and out of the beat, swaying with the rhythm but not rigidly tied to it.  Her 2011 album "Light My Fire" was a masterpiece.  She switches effortlessly between English and Portuguese on a couple of tracks.  Her piano playing is flawless, and her singing has a way of giving a listener the impression of singing for you, and for you alone.  She also has some of the best musicians working today on that album, such as Oscar Castro-Neves,  Romero Lumbambo, and Marivaldo Santos, to name but a few.

Eliane Elias' love of Chet Baker and his music is understandable:  both artists share a certain romantic and lyrical sensibility.  But she manages to bring a fresh voice to many of these standards, preserving their romanticism without lapsing into sentimentality.  She does this, as this review in says, by singing the music "straight and uncomplicated".  Add the genius of her piano, her distinctively, outrageously sexy Brazilian accent, the easy transition between samba and swing -- in one case, on the same track -- and you've got music that will drive a listener slowly, delightfully crazy.

Eliane is assisted this time by Steve Cardenas (electric guitar), husband Marc Johnson (bass), Randy Brecker (trumpet), Oscar Castro-Neves (acoustic guitar), Victor Lewis and Rafael Barata (drums), and Marivaldo dos Santos (percussion).  It is a wonderful interpretation of this portion of the American songbook.

Eliane Elias will be at Birdland Jazz Club nightly through June 1, playing sets at 8:30 and 11:00  

And here she is discussing the new album:  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Batala NYC at the 2013 New York City Dance Parade

The 7th annual New York City Dance Parade was a great success this year.  Brazilian music and dance groups were beautifully represented, with performances by Capoeira BrasilSamba New YorkInner Spirit Dance Company, and my favorite, Batala New York.

Here is a short video of Batala moving down East 8th Street, towards the end of the parade route:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bossabrasil Festival 2013 with Dori Caymmi and Joyce

I've made the annual pilgrimage to Birdland for the Bossabrasil Festival for five out of the eight years it's been running.  Every Spring, producers Pat Philips and Ettore Stratta bring bossa nova musicians from Brazil to play at this legendary New York City jazz club that is not strongly associated with Brazilian music.  The event has produced some memorable shows with artists such as Emilio Santiago, Marcos Valle, Paula Morelenbaum, and Wanda Sá.  This year's event took place last week, and saw the return of Dori Caymmi to the stage, along with singer and composer Joyce Moreno (formerly known to the world simply as "Joyce") as special guest.

Dori Caymmi is the son of the late Dorival Caymmi, who would have turned 99 years old this year, and whose composition "O que é o que a bahiana tem?" helped launch the career of luminary Carmen Miranda. Dori, who also played the festival in 2009, has produced eighteen albums, and has worked with many other artists, including Quincy Jones, Sarah Vaughn, and Tom Jobim, the man who co-created bossa nova with Joao Gilberto.  Joyce is a Brazilian MPB singer-songwriter, composer, and arranger who got her start in the late 1960s, but whose career really took off in 1980 with the release of her album "Feminina".  Two of the tracks from that album were highly successful commercial hits, and put her on the map internationally.

Caymmi and Joyce were accompanied by Rodolfo Stroeter on bass, Dario Eskenazi on piano, and Joyce's husband and collaborator Tutty Moreno on drums.  It was a delightful mix of original music and beloved standards by Jobim, the elder Caymmi, Noel Rosa, and others.  Caymmi started off the evening with two of his father's compositions, "Voçê já foi a Bahia?" and "Lá vem a bahiana".  Joyce then took the stage to do "O que é o que a bahiana tem?", and from there they moved into a series of duets and solos.  There were a few surprises, such as an unannounced appearance by jazz harmonica player Hendrik Meurkens, who sat in on several numbers, and a medley that combined "Desafinado" with the famous Ary Barroso tune "Aquarela do Brasil".  Joyce also sang "Puro Ouro" an original tune that pays homage to the younger generation of samba musicians.  Other highlights included Caymmi's performance, in English, of "O Cantador", known in English as "Like A Lover", and a cover of Baden Powell's "Berimbau".

It was a great show that brought us all closer to the work of these two very talented bossa artists, and left us all looking forward to what lies in store next year.