Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week - Eliane Elias
Pianist/singer/songwriter, Eliane Elias is known for her distinctive and immediately recognizable musical style which blends her Brazilian roots, her sensuous, alluring voice with her impressive instrumental jazz, classical and compositional skills. Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Eliane Elias’ musical talents began to show at an early age. She started studying piano at age seven and at age twelve was transcribing solos from the great jazz masters. By the time she was fifteen she was teaching piano and improvisation at one of Brazil’ s most prestigious schools of music. Her performing career began in Brazil at age seventeen, working with Brazilian singer/songwriter Toquinho and the great poet Vinicius de Moraes who was also Antonio Carlos Jobim’s co-writer/lyricist. In 1981 she headed for New York and in 1982 landed a spot in the acclaimed group Steps Ahead.
Her first album release was a collaboration with Randy Brecker entitled Amanda in 1984. Shortly thereafter her solo career began, spanning over twenty albums to date; seventeen on Blue Note Records and three on RCA Victor Group. In her work Elias has documented dozens of her own compositions, her outstanding piano playing and arranging, and beautiful vocal interpretations. All of her recordings have garnered a great deal of praise from the critics and all have topped the Billboard and Jazz Radio charts. In 1988 she was voted Best New Talent by the jazz critics poll ofJAZZIZ magazine.
Together with Herbie Hancock in their duet, she was nominated for a Grammy in the “Best Jazz Solo Performance” category for her 1995 release, Solos and Duets. This recording was hailed by Musician Magazine as “a landmark in piano duo history.” In the 1997 Downbeat Readers Poll, her recording The Three Americas was voted Best Jazz Album. Eliane Elias was named in five other categories: Beyond Musician, Best Composer, Jazz Pianist, Female Vocalist, and Musician of the Year. Considered one of the great interpreters of Jobim’s music, Ms.Elias’ has recorded two albums solely dedicated to the works of the composer, Plays Jobim and Sings Jobim. Her 1998 release Eliane Elias Sings Jobim won “Best Vocal Album” in Japan, it was the number one record in Japan’s charts for over three months and was awarded the Best Brazilian Album in Jazziz Critics Poll of 1999.
Moreover, as a testament to the quality of her writing, the renowned Danish Radio Big Band has performed and recorded Elias’ compositions arranged and conducted by the legendary Bob Brookmeyer. The CD recording of this project is called Impulsive and was released on Stunt Records. It received a Grammy nomination for “Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album” in 2001. In the same year, Calle 54, the highly acclaimed documentary film by Oscar winning Spanish director Fernando Trueba, featuring Ms. Elias’ performance of “Samba Triste ” also received a Grammy nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album.
“On the Classical Side” recorded in 1993, demonstrated Eliane’s classical skills with a program of Bach, Ravel, and Villa Lobos. In 2002 Ms. Elias recorded with opera sensation Denyce Graves. For this recording, The Lost Days, Eliane arranged two Brazilian classical pieces and wrote an original composition especially for Ms. Graves entitled “Haabia Tupi”.
In 2002 Ms. Elias signed to RCA Music Group/Bluebird label and released Kissed by Nature . Her second recording for the label, Dreamer, released in 2004 , is a fresh mix of tunes from the American Songbook, Brazilian Bossa Novas and two new originals, all sung in English and Portuguese, supported by a full orchestra. Dreamer received the “Gold Disc Award “and was voted Best Vocal Album in Japan in 2004. It reached #3 on the Pop Charts in France and #4 on the Billboard charts in the USA.
Ms. Elias’ cd Around The City released on RCA Victor in August 2006, merges bits of Bossa Nova, with shades of pop, jazz ,latin and rock and roll. Around The City features Ms. Elias’ vocals and songwriting in collaborations with producers Andres Levin and Lester Mendez as well as fresh takes on pop classics such as Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va” and Bob Marley’s “Jammin”.
Eliane returned to Blue Note/ EMI in 2007 with her release, Something For You, a tribute to the music of pianist/composer Bill Evans. While touching the essence of the late great Bill Evans, she also brings her own unique gifts to the surface, as a composer, interpreter, outstanding instrumentalist and beguiling vocalist as well. This release received “Best Vocal Album of the Year” and the “Gold Disc Award” in Japan . This is the 3rd consecutive recording that Eliane receives these awards and her 4th all together. “Something for You” reached #1 on the USA Jazz Radio charts, #8 on Billboard and #2 on the French Jazz Charts.
“I felt a strong connection to Bill’s music throughout every phase of this project,” Elias adds, “as did Marc. But it was especially strong when we were in the studio. When the red light goes on, there are only a few moments to compose yourself and try to enter into that concentrated place where all that remains is what we hear and play together. When I find that place where I can let go and allow the emotion to pass directly from me to what you can hear on this record, that’s making my tribute to Bill in the most sincere and beautiful way that I can.”
The year of 2008 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of the Bossa Nova. In celebration of this event, Eliane recorded a collection of classic bossa novas featuring some of the great landmark songs of Brazil with American classic and pop standards exquisitely performed as only Eliane can with lush romantic vocals and exciting playing accompanied by a stellar rhythm section and strings recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London.
Bossa Nova Stories achieved the following positions: Debuted at #1 on the French Charts (2008),#1 Vocal Album - Swing Journal, Japan (May-June 2008), #1 itunes Top Jazz Album (USA January 2009), #2 itunes Top Latin Album (USA January 2009), debuted at #2 on Billboard Magazine: both Overall and Jazz Charts (January 2009). Bossa Nova Stories was nominated by the Brazilian Grammys (20th Premio da Musica Brasileira, 2009 ) for Best Foreign Album and it was the 2009 Album of the Year on Geezer Music Club. Eliane was the #2 artist in cd sales in France on the Annual Jazz Charts 2008. ”Bossa Nova Stories” is a captivating recording destined to become a bossa nova classic.
With these two recent releases, “Something for You” and “Bossa Nova Stories”, Eliane Elias takes her place in the pantheon of music giants. Demonstrating her unique gifts as a pianist, singer, composer and arranger as well as melding her immense talents in jazz, pop, classical and Brasilian music, she is as Jazziz Magazine has called her, “A Citizen of the World” and “ An Artist Beyond Category”.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (april 18 - 23) - Jane Bunnett
Multiple Juno Award winner, Jane Bunnett has turned her bands into showcases for the finest talent from Canada, the U.S.and Cuba. She has been nominated for Grammy Awards, numerous Juno Awards, and most recently, was honoured with an appointment to the Order of Canada. An internationally acclaimed musician, Jane Bunnett is known for her creative integrity, improvisational daring and courageous artistry. Her exploration of Afro-Cuban melodies expresses the universality of music and her ability to embrace and showcase the rhythms and culture of Cuba has been groundbreaking. She has toured the world bringing her own special sound to numerous jazz festivals, displaying her versatility as a flutist, saxophone player and pianist. As an educator, spokesperson and social activist, she remains unafraid to explore uncharted territory in her quest for excellence!
With an honorary doctorate from Queen’s University, Jane Bunnett, the Toronto soprano saxophonist, flutist and bandleader, has built her career at the crossroads between Cuban music and jazz. Twice nominated for Grammy Awards, (Best Latin Jazz Recording 2002 for Alma de Santiago and 2003 for Cuban Odyssey), a fixture of nominations for Canada’s Juno Awards, winner at Canada’s Urban Music Awards for Best Global Recording in 2003 for Cuban Odyssey, and honoured with an appointment to the Order of Canada in 2004; Toronto’s own jazz virtuoso has turned her bands into showcases for the finest musical talent from Canada, the United States and Cuba. Upheld by the likes of Paquito D’Rivera, the great Cuban saxophonist, Jane Bunnett is truly one of Canada’s most valuable artistic resources.
Bunnett’s Cuban connection started in 1982 when a trip to the island with husband Larry Cramer turned her musical world upside down. Everywhere Bunnett and Cramer went they found drummers whose rhythmic complexity liberated the senses; horn players who deployed amazing dexterity in the service of heartstopping lyricism; and pianists who could make any decrepit old upright roar like doom or sing like a heart in love. No fools, they took their horns and played along. “Over the years I developed relationships with some of Cuba’s legendary musicians,” Bunnett recalls. “I’ve had a great opportunity to learn the music in the streets and in the homes of these celebrated talents… and that’s what has fueled my vision.”
Since then Bunnett has moved from strength to strength, touring internationally and recording a string of critically lauded albums. Her house in Toronto’s west end has become a home away from home for a growing number of extraordinary young Cuban musicians who’ve migrated to Canada, many of whom have played in her group, The Spirits of Havana.
Bunnett’s recordings Embracing Voices, Radio Guantanamo, Cuban Odyssey, Alma de Santiago, Ritmo + Soul, Chamalongo, Havana Flute Summit, Jane Bunnett and The Cuban Piano Masters and her acclaimed first recording in Cuba, Spirits of Havana, have explored and combined elements of Cuban roots music with traditional contemporary jazz. Her newest release, Embracing Voices is an exciting departure from Jane’s past efforts, as it is the very first time that the majority of the tracks include vocals and guest vocalists, something that until now, Jane had never done.
Today, Jane Bunnett is a very recognizable name in the World Music and Jazz scenes but she has yet to crossover to mainstream audience, that is, until now!
With Jane’s love of the human voice as an instrument and past collaborations with a variety of vocalists at special events such as the yearly ‘Global Divas’ event, Embracing Voices is her very first recording where all of the tracks include the vocal talents from some of the Jazz & World scene’s best and includes songs in English, Creole and Spanish!
From the jazz world, both established singer songstress Molly Johnson and up-coming jazz diva Kellylee Evans lend their unique vocal styling to the project. From the world scene, Cuban rap star artist Telmary and Grupo Vocal Desandann, an extraordinary Cuban vocal group of Haitian descent are included. This very unique and world renowned ensemble is composed mainly of second and third generation Haitians who were born and raised in Cuba, and bring their incredible history and lineage to this project with vocal performances that demand attention!
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (april 3 - 9) - Gretchen Parlato
Gretchen Parlato's 2009 sophomore breakthrough, In a Dream, signaled the arrival of an incredibly inventive modern jazz singer. Her follow-up, The Lost and Found, demonstrates that she has staying power. In a Dream garnered international acclaim with Billboard magazine hailing it as "the most alluring jazz vocal album of 2009"; it also made it onto the top year-end polls for Jazz Times, the Boston Globe, the Village Voice and NPR. The Lost and Found shows immediate weight and intensity, exposing a greater dynamic range. "I feel like I stepped out of my own way and allowed myself to be more revealing and vulnerable through the music," reflects Parlato.
Revealing a seamless, crystalline, and more importantly, personal voice, Parlato says that the overall theme of The Lost and Found is about accepting opposition and embracing the ebbs and flows of life. "One day we may think we've found all the answers, and then something suddenly happens that makes us feel completely lost as though nothing makes sense. This is life. Accepting that we are always in transition without attaching a judgment to the experience is freeing. We are always the lost and found."
An alumni of the Thelonious Monk Institute, Parlato has been turning heads ever since she won the 2004 Thelonious Monk Institute International Vocal Competition with which she displayed a musical individuality loaded with paradoxical powers. Her sultry, intriguing voice and unique, rhythmically agile phrasing came with inescapable centripetal force; the more intimate and understated she sang, the more she drew listeners in. Since then she has toured worldwide to sold out audiences with BBC Radio proclaiming, "Star over London...A star is born!" Her originality captivates musicians as well, prompting invitations to appear on over 50 recordings with the likes of Terence Blanchard, Kenny Barron, Terri Lynn Carrington and Esperanza Spalding. Her breathtaking performances have been captured on television in Europe and Japan and she has become a sought after clinician on vocal styling.
On her third disc, Parlato surrounds herself with a collective of kindred spirits whose tight knit sound has been cultivated through years of performing and recording together. She marshaled GRAMMY nominated pianist Taylor Eigsti, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Kendrick Scott as her main band mates with guest appearances from tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens and bassist, Alan Hampton, who makes a stellar turn featured as a singer and guitarist. Leaders in their own right, this band is among the most heralded of a young, new wave in jazz. "I adore these musicians, not only for what they do, but also for who they are," Parlato says. "We couldn't have had a more supportive, productive energy recording this album." That energy allowed her to reach subliminal musical heights; one that truly engages in delightful, often adventurous musical conversations that tickle the mind, warms the heart and moves the body. "They all contributed so much to the project, in the end it truly felt like a collaborative effort."
"Collaborative effort" is no overstatement. The Lost and Found sees Parlato emerging as a thoughtful composer and lyricist. In fact, she wrote lyrics to several compositions such as Eigsti's haunting "Without a Sound;" trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire's plaintive "Henya," and Stephens' suspenseful title track. In a duet on Hampton's "Still," Gretchen's gentle musing about compassion and forgiveness is made more poignant by his raw vocals. "Alan created such a meditative and deceptively simple groove I wanted to write lyrics that were like a mantra. Something that in its repetition becomes extremely powerful. What better theme than love?" She also composed the music and wrote the lyrics for the evocative bossa-nova tinged, "Winter Wind," the hopeful "How We Love," the sensual "Better Than" and the hypnotic "Circling" that contains verses that typify the entire disc's meditations on light and darkness. "'Circling' plays with the idea of cycles in our lives," explains Parlato. "The ones we have no control over like birth and death as opposed to the cycles we do control, behavior patterns that we get ourselves into." Pianist and GRAMMY nominated composer Robert Glasper came on board as
associate producer. "I love working with Robert, not only in composing, but in reharmonizing and arranging. There is such an immense love and respect between all of the musicians and Robert knows exactly what to do and say to keep everyone inspired."
On The Lost and Found, Parlato further develops her knack for reinventing intriguing R&B songs with her daring yet delectable makeover of "All That I Can Say," a Mary J. Blige tune, penned by Lauryn Hill, and Simply Red's "Holding Back the Years." The latter track, which serves as the album's opener, begins with Scott laying down an infectious R&B groove. Glasper can be heard in the background, vibing to the beat as the music quickly fades into the full ensemble (recorded by Parlato on her iPhone during a rehearsal).
With both tracks, Parlato and her band retain the soulful essence of the songs while steering far enough so that they don't delve into treacle mimicry. "Gretchen doesn't try to be anything she's not. Every remake is an honest one," Glasper says. "She's always herself." The disc also features the jaunty "Me and You," from singer/songwriter Josh Mease and a sterling Glasper/Parlato rearrangement of Bill Evans' "Blue in Green" with lyrics by Meredith D'Ambrosio.
Gretchen Parlato is on an exploration, which leads the conversation among the band and makes for unexpected treasures. Inspired by Wayne Shorter, one of her mentors, she wrote lyrics to his classic '60s jazz composition "Juju." The interaction between Gretchen and saxophonist Stephens showcases her ability to use her voice as an instrument-blending with the horn while adding counterpoints. On "Without A Sound," her haunting vocals seem to add another dimension to the remarkably textured harmony already created by Hodge layering 3 parts using only his electric bass. And on one of the disc's most revealing moments, the singer shows her love for Brazilian music on Paulinho da Viola's "Alo Alo." A solo rendition, Parlato layers all of the percussion
and sings all the vocals.
With The Lost and Found, Parlato has delivered a powerful testament to the beauty of space and simplicity. "I've become more interested in finding not only a higher, but a deeper level and connection in music. And this seems to be done by shedding everything, and getting right to the heart and core."