Jazz and Bossa Radio

Jazz and Bossa Radio
Jazz and Bossa Radio

martes, 30 de marzo de 2010

CD Review: Brigitte Zarie - Make Room For Me

Featured Artist: Brigitte Zarie

CD Title: Make Room For Me

Year: 2010

Record Label: Brigitte Zarie

Style: Jazz Vocals

Musicians: Zack Danzinger (drums, tracks 1-4, 6-9, 11),Brian Floody (drums, tracks 5, 10), Peter Zak (piano), Tim Lefebvre (bass), Larry Saltzman (guitar tracks 1,11), Jeff Golub (guitar tracks 4,6), Bobby Sanabria (percussion), John Sneider (trumpet tracks 3,6,7,9), Al Chez (trumpet), Randy Brecker (trumpet track 1), Chris Byars (trumpet tracks 3,5 10), Lawrence Feldman (trumpet solo on track 2), Bruce Kapler, Frank Beisle (sax), Jeff Bush and Brian Bonvissuto(trombones), Tom Malone (all horns on tracks 8 and 11)

Review: Classy, cool, sensual, Toronto native Brigitte Zarie is all this and more, she is simply amazing. A true Jazz talent, Brigitte is not only a wonderful singer, she also wrote all the lyrics and co-wrote all the music with producer Neil Jason.

The music on this CD will take you back to the golden era of Jazz and Big Bands. All the songs on Make Room for me already sound like Jazz classics. If these songs were written back in the 30's and 40's we would be talking about them as part of the Great American Songbook. That is how good these songs are and how good Brigitte Zarie is as a composer. With songs of love and happiness, Make Room for me is an incredible collection of ballads and swinging tunes.

To say Brigitte's voice is beautiful would be an understatement. Paraphrasing a Fiona Apple song, Brigitte's voice is "sweet like honey and heavy with mood". Her feeling and phrasing is equally impressive on slow, romantic tracks like See you again, What's wrong with me, Take it Easy and in the more upbeat tracks, Make Room for me (with a French version), Happiest day of my life and Call on Love.

For music of this quality Brigitte have to surround herself with equally quality musicians, and she did just that. That's the fabulous Randy Brecker on the first track, See you Again. The other musicians are, Zack Danzinger (tracks 1-4, 6-9, 11) and Brian Floody on drums (tracks 5, 10), Peter Zak on piano, Tim Lefebvre on bass, Larry Saltzman (tracks 1,11) and Jeff Golub on guitar (tracks 4,6), Bobby Sanabria with a great work on percussion in the song Money, Money, Money and the latin flavored track Dance with you. In the horn section, John Sneider (tracks 3,6,7,9) and Al Chez on trumpet, Chris Byars (tracks 3,5 10), Lawrence Feldman (solo on track 2) Bruce Kapler and Frank Beisle on sax, Jeff Bush and Brian Bonvissuto on trombones and Tom Malone plays all horns on tracks 8 and 11.

I hope this extraordinary CD is only the first taste of more great things to come from this fantastic singer/composer.

Tracks: See You Again, What's Wrong With Me, Make Room For Me, Take it Easy, Happiest Day Of My Life, The Story Of Love, Call On Love, Money, Money, Money, Money, Make Room For Me (French Version), Dance With You, I Love Las Vegas

Record Label Website: http://www.brigittezarie.com

Artist's Website: http://www.brigittezarie.com

Listen or Buy:

Reviewed by: Wilbert Sostre

jueves, 25 de marzo de 2010

Why do I like Jazz?

Recently a friend ask me this question, “why do you like jazz so much?” A simple answer to that could be, “because there’s no better music than jazz”. But that would not be the right way to answer. I’m sure everyone think their favorite music is the best music. But when I say there’s no better music than jazz, the only ones with a good argument against it are those who listen to classical music. Besides jazz, classical and some folk music, there’s no other music that even comes close in quality.

Why do I include folk music? Because Classical composers originally were inspired by european folk music for their compositions. And the roots of jazz music are basically the folk music of the african-americans at the end of the 19th century. Folk music from Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America have a quality that can’t be found in most popular music today. That quality is “truthfulness”, folk music comes from years of tradition and represent the culture of each country.

Some examples of good folk music may be heard on cuban music (guaguanco, son mambo, etc. rhythms that later gave birth to salsa music), samba, bossa nova and other rhythms from Brasil, flamenco from Spain (heavily influenced by arabic music), and the Argentine’s tango, to name just a few. Even today jazz and classical composers get inspired by folk music from around the world and at the same time influence folk music.

Getting back to the original question, why do I like jazz? To answer this question we must talk about the elements of music. There are four major elements in music, melody, harmony, tone and rhythm.

Melody is basically a sequence of musical notes. We all learn some simple melodies when we were young like “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” or “Happy Birthday”. But as we get older, we evolve to more complex and interesting melodies, especially if you study music or learn how to play a musical instrument.

Since jazz music is mostly improvised, melody is one of the most interesting elements for a jazz musician and listener. In the 40's a jazz style called Bebop provided the blueprint to all the jazz styles that came after. Before Bebop, the improvisation in jazz was limited to just a few solos, similar to rock music today. With Bebop, improvisation became a essential part of jazz music.

In a typical jazz group the musicians first play the main melody or theme, then one or more musicians (piano, trumpet, sax, bass, etc.) take turns improvising variations based on the main melody. At the end the band returns to the original theme or melody. Classical music is similar, with the difference that both, main theme and variations on the theme are written and the musicians must play them as close as possible to the original intentions of the composer.

That’s why there’s no other musician with more knowledge and command of their instrument than a jazz musician. A jazz musician is creating art every time he or she plays. In jazz the same piece of music sound different even if is played by the same musicians. In popular music, like r&b, rap, hip hop, country, etc. , the same melody is repeated constantly with little or no variations.

There’s also the fact that most people can’t listen to music if there’s no lyrics to it. That’s why almost all famous artists in popular music are singers. In popular music the singer is the star, the one that sings the melody, and the other instruments are just a background. Music and arrangements are written in the simplest way possible, so there’s no need to be a virtuoso to play popular music.

The funny thing is that except for a few ones, popular music singers are not really that good. Technology is so amazing nowadays that almost everyone with a pretty face and a fair enough voice can make it as a singer in pop music.

There are singers also in jazz music, but unlike popular music, the voice in a jazz band is just another instrument. A jazz singer is expected to improvise, do variations on the melody and have the same command over their instrument as any other jazz musician. Rarely you’ll find in popular music (or in any other music for that matter) a singer of the quality of an Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan.

Harmony is created when two or more notes are played at the same time. This can be done by different instruments, like in a classical music orchestra or a jazz big band or by only one instrument, usually a piano or guitar (creating chords).

Harmony is just as important as melody to a jazz musician. Harmonies or chords in jazz are usually done by the pianist and the real good ones, like Thelonious Monk, improvise harmonies also, doing chords variations. Those variations allows the improviser to change and play with the melodies. Harmonies makes the music more fuller and richer and the more interesting the harmonies the more options the musicians have melodically.

The use of harmonies in pop music, if any, are usually simple. Hardly you’ll find 7th , 9th , 11th chords or chords inversions in pop music.

Tone is the sound quality of the different instruments used in music. Each musical instrument has a distinctive sound. With the advancements in technology in the last 30 years, you don’t even need to play an instrument to make music. More and more, the music you listen on the radio like rap, hip hop and reggaeton, is done with drum machines, computers, sampling or pre recorded instruments.
Rarely you’ll find this in jazz music.

Call me old fashioned but I prefer to listen to a an instrument played by real person than to listen to a computarized version of that instrument. In jazz music there are huge differences in texture or tone when the same instrument is played by different musicians. Compare the sound of Coleman Hawkins, to Lester Young, or Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Joshua Redman or David Sanchez. All sax players, all with a very distinctive sound.

And then there’s rhythm. Rhythm is the element that distinguish one music style from the other. Most music is written in 4/4, including jazz, but some like waltz are written in 3/4.

“When jazz was only ragtime, the basic rhythm was merely that of a march time, One-two-Three-four. This same rhythm was made much more interesting in jazz simply displacing the accents so that the basic rhythm became one-Two-three- Four” Aaron Copland, What to listen for in music.

These variations on beat accentuation is what makes diverse and interesting rhythms in music. If above that 4/4 rhythm you add other freer rhythms, that combination is called polyrhythms. Jazz like other music with african roots use polyrhythms (most latin music, cuban and brazilian music). Is that combination of rhythm (polyrhythms) that gives jazz it’s rhythmic vitality.

In contrast, pop music, especially in the last decades has a constant steady beat with little or none rhythmic variations.

So you may ask yourself, if jazz is so good, “why isn’t everybody listening to jazz music?”. The reason is simple, most people prefer entertainment over art.

A gossip magazine is entertainment, a good novel or poetry is art.
A soap opera is entertainment, a good theater play is art.
Wrestling is entertainment, a painting exhibition is art.
“The Fast and the Furious” is entertainment, “The Godfather” is art.
Lady Gaga is entertainment, Esperanza Spalding is art.

Art stimulate your mind and your senses, makes you think and increase your sensibility. Entertainment is just a distraction and usually has the opposite effect of art.

And once you learn how to appreciate art, you’ll find out you’re also being entertained.

“The hard fact is that in our time, not many people really know or care much about jazz or if a musician can really play. They don’t care because most of the nonclassical music they’ve heard is performed by amateurs or even complete non musicians, people who may possess personal charisma but can barely play. Real jazz musicians were already good enough at fourteen or fifteen to do what most top selling musical acts can do, and by saying that I’m not criticizing, I’m just describing.” Wynton Marsalis, Moving to Higher Ground

So there you have it, that’s why I like jazz.

Wilbert Sostre

sábado, 20 de marzo de 2010

Fernando Girão: Brazil - A Tribute

Featured Artist: Fernando Girão

CD Title: Brazil - A Tribute

Year: 2009

Record Label: Numerica

Style: Brazilian Jazz / Brazilian Pop Jazz

Musicians: Ernesto
Leite (piano), Ernie Melkhen (bass), Joao Cabelira (guitars), Zeze
N’Gambi (drums), Rubem Dantas (percussion), Magoo (tambourine and

Review: I
can’t explain why Fernando Girao is not a more recognizable figure in
the brazilian music scene. I, for instance, did not know about him
until recently. Anyway I think he deserves more recognition and
this double CD Tribute to the composers of Brasil may be the one to
place him among the great interpreters of brazilian music. Fernando has
a powerful, deep voice and great feeling for this kind of music.

The arrangements and
musicians are amazing too. Ernesto Leite on piano, Ernie Melkhen on
bass, Joao Cabelira on guitars, Zeze N’Gambi on drums Rubem Dantas on
percussion and Magoo on tambourine and congas.

With one CD for Bossa
Nova and the other for Sambas, for sure you’ll find some of your
favorites songs on this tribute. This double CD includes songs by great
Brazilian composers like Tom Jobim, Ivan Lins, Chico Buarque Noel Rosa,
Vinicius de Moraes Dori Caymmi, Ary Barroso, wonderful versions of such
classics as Fotografia, Ligia, Luiza, O Pato, Agua de Beber.

On the Bossa CD Fernando
shows he can sing with feeling. Just listen to the great
interpretations of Atras da Porta, Choro Bandido and the perfect
phrasing on Luiza. His delivery is more bluesy on Ligia and So me faz

On Rio de Maio, the
nostalgic tone on Fernando’s voice makes you feel nostalgia of Rio
(brazilians call it saudade) even if you’ve never been there. A perfect
homage to Tom Jobim and to Rio de Janeiro.

The definitive version
of Essa mulher and Retrato em Branco e Preto are the ones by the great
Elis Regina, but Fernando’s interpretation are some of the best I’ve
heard by a male vocalist.

As good as the Bossa CD
is, on the Samba CD Fernando really shows how talented he is. Fernando
is a master of scat and use it all trough this CD.Can’t help yourself
but smile listening to some of the scats Fernando improvise on songs
like Agua de Beber, Soberana Rosa, Samba da minha terra and Marinheiro

For those unfamiliar with the term, scat is a vocal improvisation used in
Jazz, first done by Louis Armstrong. Ella Fitzgerald was also a scat
virtuoso. One can tell Fernando is enjoying himself and having fun with
the melodies. And I’m sure you’re going to enjoy listening to
Fernando’s interpretations of these beautiful songs.

Tracks: Atras
da Porta, Choro Bandido, Rio de Maio, Retrato em Branco e Preto, Essa
Mulher, As Pastorinhas, Luiza, Ligia, Fotografia, Só me fez bem, Samba
da Minha Terra, O Ronco da Cuica, Só danço Samba, E com esse que eu
vou, Incompatibilidade de Genios, Aló Aló Marciano, O Pato, Na Baixa do
Sapateiro, Marinheiro Só, So tinha de ser com Vocé, Agua de Beber,
Soberana Rosa, Louvaçao aos Mestres

Record Label Website: http://www.numerica-multimedia.pt

Artist's Website: http://www.fernandogirao.net

Reviewed by:

Wilbert Sostre