Friday, December 30, 2011

Bebel Gilberto Headlines First Show of SummerStage 2012 Season

Bebel gilberto_direção para TV de Daniel Pereira_4062
Photo by: Nilton Silva
New York’s Summer Stage is kicking off its 2012 season with an evening of performances by Nu-bossa bombshell, Bebel Gilberto, Grammy-nominated jazz singer Gregory Porter and other acclaimed artists at Highline Ballroom in New York City on January 5th.
Daughter of Brazilian bossa nova icon, João Gilberto, and singer, Miúcha, Bebel Gilberto gracefully ushers the music of her parent’s generation into the 21st century. Her blend of traditional sounds from Bahia with contemporary pop and electronic beats has become a staple at clubs and lounges around the world, and her love-centric lyrics have won the hearts and minds of international audiences.
A performer since age nine, Bebel is at home on the stage. Her sweet and energetic style is delightful to experience, and even more fun, is watching this star perform with others. During her summer residency at City Winery, Bebel performed each of her shows with a different special guest, including Brazilian rapper, Marcelo D2. This past October at the famed Rock in Rio music festival, Bebel shared the stage (and a kiss) with singer/composer Sandra de Sá.
If a duet with Gregory porter is in store, I’m excited to see it!
Bebel Gilberto, Gregory Porter and More @ Highline Ballroom
Thursday 5th January
Doors: 6pm, Show: 7pm
Tickets: $20
This post was written for Sounds and Colours. See the original text here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ring in the New Year Rio Style at S.O.B's

Flights to Rio are mostly sold out this season, but don't worry. You can experience the best of Réveillon right here in New York City. Take it from someone who counts herself among the 2 million revelers who crowded onto Copacabana Beach last December 31st. 

At S.O.B.'s this New Year's Eve, ring in the New Year Rio style. And there won't be any sand in your caipirinhas!

Pick from three packages that include varying levels of dinner, drinks and dancing. Live performances by Brasil Live and La Excelencia will keep you on your feet all night long. Then again, you might have to take a break to study the steps of the professional samba dancers with whom you share the dance floor. They'll be more than happy to show you how to shake it. (Many of them are professional samba instructors, too).

This will be a festa to remember, depending, of course, on how much champagne you toast at midnight. 

Tickets available for purchase online.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Criolo Was Here

Criolo performing at Nublu, December 7, 2011
Within hours of stepping off an international flight last week, Brazilian rapper/singer, Criolo, dropped a new music video whose name was trending on Twitter in Brazil in no time. As I write this, he is performing in front of a packed house at one of São Paulo's most acclaimed venues. The show sold out in 30 minutes. And he's booked for three more shows before the year's end. Such is the day-to-day of Brazil's 2011 New Artist of the Year... except when he's performing in New York

I found out about Criolo's New York debut five days before the show in a cryptic tweet by the artist. After some searching, I uncovered more details. On the Nublu Jazz Festival flyer, in tiny lettering, was "Criolo," crowded on a page with the names and showtimes of some 100 other artists. I felt like I had just unearthed a treasure. 

At Nublu's unassuming club on Avenue C, Criolo serenaded and agitated a mostly Brazilian crowd already familiar with his music and excited to see a national star perform in such an intimate setting. 

Criolo's music is similar to that of other acclaimed Brazilian rappers in that it mixes many styles of music: axê, reggae, funk, samba, hip hop and more. What sets Criolo apart from contemporaries, like Emicida and Marcelo D2, is his singing voice. Where other rappers need to collaborate with trained singers, Criolo has it covered. He is free to experiment with his own voice instead of depending on the repertoire of another vocal artist. 

Criolo brings an intensity to performing I've never seen before. On stage, he seems to channel all the sadness and suffering many of his lyrics describe. During "Não Existe Amor em SP" (There is no love in São Paulo), he stood still, his head cocked to one side, his eyes focused in the distance. I wanted to know what he was seeing. Criolo was standing on the stage before me, but his spirit was elsewhere, only loosely attached to the man with the microphone. 
Não Existe Amor em SP by criolo_oficial

Other times, Criolo's movements were agitated, his face contorting with thoughts of the often unpleasant reality of life in São Paulo, the muscles in his neck bulging as he belted out the notes. Criolo is a vessel for stories of neglect and injustice he knows intimately from a career as a counselor to kids living in the street. 

Still, he maintains a positive outlook. After the show, I had the chance to chat briefly with him about his New York debut. We had to move away from the stage, so I could better hear his quiet speaking voice. 

He told me that at age 35, this was his first trip outside Brazil, his first invitation to perform in the United States, and that it was all very exciting for him. He'd never foreseen this happening in this life time. It had been a far off dream, if that. He's celebrated so many milestones in the last year- winning three titles at the Video Music Brasil awards, performing in cities across Brazil, and traveling abraod. None of it had sunk in yet.

I almost asked if he needed me to pinch him to convince him it was all really happening. But it is. I overheard talk of invitations to play in London and performances at the Olympics (2012 or 2016, I'm not sure).

I asked Criolo about his album, Nó na Orelha, which he is distributing freely. "So many people helped me to get to this point for free. I couldn't have done it without them. I wanted to give back and share result with as many people as possible," he explained.

Fame can get to one's head, but as long as Criolo continues to make life's harsh realities and his personal hope for a better future the focus of his music, I'm confident he'll remain the grateful, down-to-earth guy I once had the pleasure of meeting. 

In a cover story of the Brazilian magazine, Trip, Criolo is quoted as saying “Legal esse momento que estou vivendo. Mas legal mesmo seria não precisar cantar o que canto. Sentir essa dor no peito." Translation: This moment I'm living is great, but just as great would be to not have to sing what I sing. Feeling this pain in my heart. I think that says it all. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Brazil's Criolo at Nublu JazzFest, December 7

Leave it to the humble, music visionaries at Nublu to bring together a Brazilian rapper, international DJs, ethnic folk bands, new age rockers and representatives of countless other music genres for a week-long celebration of sound. 

The name Nublu Jazzfest is deceivingly homogeneous. A more accurate name might be Crazy-Awesome-Like-You've-Never-Imagined-Up-Close-Music-Week.

The third annual Nublu Jazzfest begins December 7th and is hosting shows at three locations in the East Village through December 18th. There is something for everyone in this mind-blowing line-up, so don't miss out. 

I am personally pumped to see Criolo, the soul spitting, jungle-beat mixing, sensual, Brazilian singer/rapper kick off the festival this Wednesday at 9pm at Nublu, 62 Avenue C.

Criolo was nominated in five categories of this year's MTV Video Music Brasil awards. He won in three of those categories: Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and New Artist of the Year. 

If you aren't convinced, you should go see Criolo's live at Nublu, download his award-winning album, Nó na Orelha, and give a listen. It's FREE!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Berimbau: The best açaí I've never had

Hash de Bacalhau (front), caipirinha, feijão and arroz (middle), omelet (top).
I'm pretty sure I've found the best açaí in New York City. I'm only pretty sure, because I haven't tried it.

A Berimbau
 Joel "Pica Pau" Zimmer
Raízes do Brasil 
This past Saturday, my roommate and I enjoyed a boozey Brazilian brunch at Berimbau in the West Village. Named after a stringed percussion instrument you've probably seen and heard in capoeira circles, Berimbau, is a wonderful place to begin, or end, your weekend. I imagine it's a great dinner spot as well.

Berimbau menu has a mix of traditional Brazilian dishes as well as Brazilian inspired American dishes. I have a personal rule of sticking with traditional plates, like feijoada, a stew of black beens and mystery meats which has risen from its peasant origins to become the national dish or moqueca, a seafood stew made with palm oil and coconut milk. On this morning, however, I was craving breakfast, so I selected a scramble of eggs and bacalhau, salted cod fish that is a popular Portuguese import to Brazil. And to drink, a caipirinha, of course! I can never go to a Brazilian joint and not order cachaça, even if it's only a few minutes past noon. My lingering headache from the previous evening's activities quickly subsided after a few sips. Berimbau's caipirinhas are strong and not overly sweet, just the way I like them. 

Note that I haven't yet mentioned açaí, the Amazonian wonder-fruit. Although açaí was the first thing I ordered, well, second after the caipirinha, I was politely denied it. That's right. Our friendly waitress, Marietta, patiently explained that there was no acaí that Saturday. The batch that had been delivered was not fit to be served. Upon hearing this, I was at first disappointed, but after a moment of reflection, I realized this was a good sign. 

You see, there is so much horrible açaí in this country, polluting the supermarket shelves and juice bars menus nation wide. And the worst part is, American consumers don't even know it. They've never tasted the real thing, unadulterated by other fruit flavors and the preservatives often required for this "miracle fruit" to survive its long trip from the Amazon rainforest. Despite not knowing what they are paying for, women's-magazine-reading, weigh-wathcing, Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Oz fans are willing to cough up cash for all sorts of food products and supplements claiming açai as an ingredient. Even when the açai "flavor" comes through, these consumers can't judge it as good or bad. It's just new or different to them, and companies take advantage of their ignorance.

For these reasons, I was highly impressed by Berimbau's honesty and commitment to quality. Bermibau isn't trying to fool anyone or take advantage of the US "miracle fruit" marketing schemes. I will surely return to Berimbau for açaí na tigela com granola, and am confident it will be the most authentic, delicious açaí I will have tasted outside of Brazil. 

In case you find yourself craving açaí before you can get to Berimbau, I leave you with a few tips on finding good acaí in New York City and outside of Brazil.
  • NO JUICE. I have never come across acaí juice in Brazil. In Belém, the capitol of Pará state and one of the largest exporter's of açaí, the amazonian berries are mashed, and the liquid pulp is served a bowl. Paranaenses will add manioc flour or toasted tapioca for crunch. When I lived in Belém, I ate açaí líquido every Sunday with my lunch of fried fish. In southern Brazil, acaí pulp is blended with ice and guaraná syrup to make thick smoothies or served in a bowl and topped with granola, bananas and strawberries for a healthy, post-gym power snack. 
  • NO POWDER. Before you order that smoothie from your local juice bar, ask about the acaí. If the answer is powder, just say no! Do you drink powdered milk? Yeah, I didn't think so. (Please ignore the fact that powered milk is widely consumed in Brazil). I also steer clear of flavored syrups as well. If the answer is frozen concentrate, however, you may proceed. It's the closest thing you'll get to the real deal.
  • EVEN IF IT'S TASTEY, IT MIGHT NOT TASTE LIKE AÇAI. I bet this cereal is actually quite good, but there's no way in green hell that it tastes like açaí. This product would never sell in Brazil, and the flavor combination would be considered quite strange. Though they can be bought in grocery stores everywhere, apples grow only in the southern most part of Brazil. In northern Brazil, a bowl of açaí a day keeps the doctor away. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Brazil is calling you. Will you answer?

Embratur, Brazil's national tourism board, is running an aggressive marketing campaign in New York City just as a less than flattering cinematic portrayal of Rio de Janeiro is hitting theaters. 

The government-sponsored campaign made its debut on New York City subways cars back in April, but I first noticed it at the starting line of the New York City Marathon on November 6th. Flying high above the Verazzano Bridge was a plane with a yellow banner trailing behind it that read in green lettering: Brazil is calling you. Run in Rio in 2012. "Yes, that's my next marathon," I thought to myself even before the gun had gone off. "Maybe I'll be living in Brazil by then."

And over the next few days, I noticed more propaganda around Manhattan with the same message. My friend sent me this picture of one of Embratur's advertisements on the Upper West Side, and I saw another ad from the same campaign in SoHo. 

The Friday after I ran the marathon was the New York premiere of the Brazilian film, "Elite Squad: The Enemy Within," the sequel to a 2007 film bearing the same name. Both films portray Rio de Janeiro's special forces military police unit, BOPE, that runs anti-narcotic SWAT operations in the city's favelas, which have increasingly fallen under the rule of rival drug-trafficking gangs. While the first movie focuses on the day to day operations of BOPE and the stress it induces in the personal lives of its troops, the second film takes a step back and maps Rio's endemic violence to its corrupt municipal and State agencies and legislative bodies.

I saw the first "Elite Squad" in a theater in Brazil, holding one hand over my mouth and the other over my heart for the duration of the film. It was just that hard to watch. Still, I was anticipating the sequel's New York premiere, especially because the movie's director, José Padilha, would be hosting a question and answer session afterwards. 

"Elite Squad: The Enemy Within" is brilliant. By time the lights came up, I was filled with a potent mix of emotions that included disbelief, indignation, betrayal, and hopelessness. I had read articles from major Rio papers reporting on the actual violence and corruption which inspired much of the movie, but watching these events on the big screen contextualized them and made them real for me. I found myself questioning my dream of moving to Brazil. And from their questions, it seemed that other members of the audience were struggling with similar thoughts and emotions. 

From left to right: José Padilha, random adoring fan,
and yours truly, photo-bomber extraordinaire
Padilha stepped up to the front of the theater and fielded questions about the making of the film, its reception in Brazil, and his crew's working relationship, or lack there of, with the city of Rio and the ruling drug gangs. Padilha described a shoot for the first film during which he was summoned by the head trafficker of the favela only to be given tips on how to make a fighting scene more true to life. That story got a laugh, albeit a nervous one, from the audience.

One fellow's question to Padilha was particularly memorable. A young man introduced himself as Rio native, a Carioca, and proceeded to ask if Padilha had contemplated the impact his films would have on tourism. This man was obviously concerned about Rio's image abroad. 

I couldn't believe my ears. Did this man really think that Padilha should not have brought into plain public view the endemic corruption of Rio politics and the active efforts by those involved to exinguish the few working to govern honestly and ethically just to ensure a few hundred more tourists visit Rio each year? The gall. 

While the movie might dissuade a minority of prospective visitors, I seriously doubt it has had or will have a noticeable impact on Rio's tourism revenues. People would be foolish to change their World Cup and Olympic Games travel plans because of this film. 

I will admit, though, that spending two weeks enjoying beaches, visiting museums, and tasting local cuisine is much different than taking up residence in the same place and defaulting to local authorities to ensure the smooth and safe day to day operations of your city. Still, my own second thoughts about making that transition stem less from fear for my personal safety and more from a personal protest against injustice and corrupt government. 

Embratur's Brazil and Padilha's Brazil stand in stark opposition to one another. I fully understand neither portrayal is comprehensive, nor are they mutually exclusive, but the contrast leaves me with a funny feeling. 

Brazil is calling. It's been calling me for a number of years now. And at the moment, I'm not sure to what extent I want to answer. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

42 Kilometers: Brazil and the NYC Marathon

This past Sunday, November 6th, I ran the New York City Marathon. During my training, I learned that each runner has his or her own way of staying motivated and powering through to the finish line. Some people need to listen to a custom playlist on their iPod, others need to know they have friends and family looking out for them at every mile. 

I don't use headphones when I run, nor did I map out where everyone I know was stationed along the course. As usual, what kept me going was Brazil. My first experience in Brazil in 2007 was a major motivation for my running the marathon. But seeing and hearing signs of Brazil on race day made the 26.2 miles (or 42 kilometers) fast and fun.

I came up behind these runners along the course. Using my Portuguese, I complimented their shirts and wished them good luck as I passed them and pulled ahead. 

I was able to get the above shots on the move, but as I descended from the Queensboro bridge, I ran into wall of screaming green and yellow. The only time I stopped during my 4 hour run was to take a picture of this enthusiastic spectator who was part of that crowd. Her spirit kept me going for the remaining 12 miles. 

Even when I didn't see signs of Brazil, I could hear them. During the last leg of the race in Central Park, I heard someone shout "Brazil!" Regrettably, I wasn't wearing any yellow, green or blue, so there must have been a prideful Brazilian on my heels who provoked the salute. Either way, I couldn't help but throw my fist in the air and smile even bigger than I already was. The onlooker might as well have shouted my name. Becca, Brazil, I respond to both. 

My handful of Brazilian experiences spread out over New York's five boroughs are by no means an accurate representation of the extent of Brazil's presence in Sunday's race. @ElizondoGabriel, commented on Twitter: "My flight from NY to Sao Paulo today was more than half full of people coming home after running the NYC Marathon over the weekend." He told me even more runners from another New York flight that landed in São Paulo at the same time joined him and his fellow passengers in line at immigration. How could he tell? All were proudly sporting their medals. I forgot to ask if their limps or stiff walks were another give away. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

And the winner is...

Bethania Tavares, winner of Miss Brazil USA Connecticut 2011
Lais Silva, Runner Up
Adna Raimundo, Third Place

Judges also awarded the titles of Miss Simpatia (Miss Congeniality) and Miss Fotogênica (Miss Photogenic) to Karen Olivera and Karina Lima.

Congratulations to Silvani D'Agostino of Rio 100 on organizing a tremendously successful event.

And congratulations to all the beautiful contestants. I hope your teachers were understanding on Monday morning. I bet it's not often they get a hand written note that says "My daughter was unable to complete her assignment, because she was up all night, fighting 'til the end, in a battle of Brazilian bombshells. Thank you for understanding." 

Best of luck to Bethania, Lais, Adna, Karen and Karina who are moving onto the national Miss USA Brazil competition that will take place on Saturday, November 12 at 9:00pm at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark New Jersey. Call 973.937.2419 for tickets. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Miss Brazil USA Connecticut

Just as with country music, romance novels, and celebrity gossip, I'm not a fan of beauty pageants, unless they are in Portuguese.

With the exception of Miss America when I was in grade school, I had never in my life paid attention to beauty contests. But when I learned Miss Universe 2011 would be hosted in São Paulo, Brazil, I marked my calendar and told my roommate she'd have to DVR The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. 

Despite its physical location, however, Miss Universe 2011 was not was Brazilian enough for my taste. As much as I like Andy Cohen and respect Natalie Morales' Brazilian ancestry, I hoped the hosts would bring more of Brazil to the stage. I also conveniently forgot that Miss Universe contestants come from all over the world, and only three this year were from Portuguese speaking countries. 

Really, I was never interested in Miss Universe. What I wanted was a Brazilians-only beauty contest. And where was I going to find that? Stamford, Connecticut it turns out.

Miss Brazil USA Connecticut is a qualifying beauty pageant for Miss Brazil USA, the United States' beauty competition for Brazilian-American women. 

I have to admit that I seriously considered entering the contest, when I saw a tweet by its organizer, Rio 100 Events. Despite not coming from a Brazilian bloodline, I thought my Portuguese fluency and paixão pro Brasil could carry me at least a little ways and that I could make up for the rest in spray tans and acrylic nails. But before I could schedule my salon appointments, my dreams of entering my first beauty pageant were shattered. I don't quality for Miss Brazil Connecticut, because my permanent address is in New York. Que pena. Still, I was determined to go to the pageant, even if not as Miss Gringa East Village.

Dressed not in a bikini and heels, I will be reporting tweeting live from the Miss Brazil USA Connecticut competition at the Stamford Marriot this Sunday, October 23. I may be seated in the audience, but you can bet I'll be judging the girls just as critically as the appointed officials.

And as far as meeting my expectations of Brazilian-ness? Silvani and Frank D'Agostino, owners of Rio 100 Events, have assured me that the competition will be conducted in both Portuguese and English and that all the contestants have Brazilian or Brazilian-American backgrounds. The universe may not be as Brazilian as I'd like, but I'm lucky to live in a part of it that is. 

A preview of the Miss Brazil USA Connecticut contestants will be held this Friday, October 21 at 84 Park in Stamford, CT. You can purchase tickets for Sunday's contest online or by calling 

Silvinho - 203.667.1527
Everaldo - 203.449.6033
Via Brazil - 914.939.1234
RogerVibe - 914.424.6717
Kunjan - 203.613.9966
Alex Carmargo - 203.312.6287
Erv Master - 908.313.0669
Silvani D'Agostino - 203.964.7798

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Daniela Mercury in NYC

Revellón 2011 on Copacabana Beach
The last time I went to see Brazilian music sensation Daniela Mercury, I couldn't get within 100 yards of the stage let alone hear a single one of her samba-axé-reggae-pop hybrid hits. The crowd was far too unruly. Revelers were focused only on meeting their own needs of waving down the nearest caipirinha or skewered shrimp vendor and guarding their rented beach chairs and coveted squares of sand. Such is New Year's Eve on Copacabana Beach, I suppose.

As much as I enjoyed Revellón 2011, I was disappointed I didn't get to experience Ms. Mercury's live performance. Lucky for me, Daniela Mercury is in New York City. That's right, folks. The same woman who headlined at one of the world's largest New Year's celebrations is kicking off her North American tour Friday, October 7 by taking the stage a the Best Buy Theater in Times Square. 

Daniela Mercury courtesy of BlaBlaBla NYC
Daniela Mercury is known in Brazil as the Queen of Axé, which means a supernatural force in the context of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé, but is also used to described a subset of Afro-Brazilian music that originated in the Mercury's home state of Bahia. The artist's influence reaches beyond her native Bahia, however, and even beyond Brazil. Mercury is one of the country's most well known female music artists, having sold 12 million albums world-wide and placed 14 of her songs in the number one spot on Brazilian charts and 24 in the top ten. 

Mercury's October 7 performance also marks the US release of her most recent album, Canibália (2009). And I just might have to buy a copy, since in North America, it's being packaged with a DVD of her December 31 Copacabana performance. Looks like I'll get a chance to see it after all.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Roberto Carlos in the Holy Land

Guilherme Samora for Revista Quem
Singer Roberto Carlos, known in his native Brazil as the King, or O Rei in Portuguese, is taking a tour of the Holy Land in the days leading up to his live performance in Jerusalem on Wednesday, September 7th. Since his arrival in Israel on August 31st, His Majesty has visited a number of sites holy to both Jewish and Christian traditions and has met with Israeli leaders.  

Of particular note was Carlos's trip to the Western Wall, a remnant of the wall that surrounded the Second Jewish Temple built around 19BCE. In keeping with Jewish tradition (and law), the King used a kippah to cover his head when he stood before the Wall and prayed. On his way out, Carlos exchanged hugs and well wishes with the man in charge of all Western Wall affairs, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz.

Cláudia Shembri for TV Globo
At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where according to Christian tradition, Jesus was crucified and buried, Roberto Carlos was presented with a Cross of Jerusalem bthe Archbishop Fouad Twal.

Guilherme Samora for Revista Quem
During a meeting with Israeli President and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Shimon Peres, the King showcased his Hebrew language skills saying: "Shalom aleinu veal kol haolam." Peace to us and to all the world. 

Roberto Carlos will serenade his audience with is usual messages of love this Wednesday, September 7th at the Sultan's Pool. 5,000 people are expected to fill this ancient aqueduct turned music venue, including 3,000 Brazilians who are flying in just for the show. In addition to broadcasting the performance live this Wednesday, the Brazilian television network, Globo, will air a TV speacial about the Carlos's trip to the Holy Land on Saturday, and a DVD of his show will be sold in 115 countries. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Proof is in the Portuguese: My guest post on Viagens, Cultura e Conhecimento

Up to now, all my writing on this blog has been in English, but I assure you, I read, speak, and write Portuguese as well. A few months ago, my good (Brazilian) friend, Juliana Miranda, asked me to write  a guest post (in Portuguese) for her blog about cross cultural experiences and learning, Viagens, Cultura e Conhecimento. I was honored Juliana asked me to contribute the first guest post for the blog she maintains as part of her job at Superádio Piratininga in São Paulo, but I wasn't surprised. When Juliana and I were both living in New Jersey, we spent most of our time together exchanging stories from our time abroad, contemplating the differences and similarities between our native cultures, and sharing our awe of the impact our respective experiences had had on us. 
I can't thank Juliana enough for giving me the opportunity to share my story with her readers, and for publishing my first piece of writing in Brazil! Please check out my post and read Juliana's other insightful entries:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Brazilian Jazz Vocalist Patty Ascher Tours the U.S.

Acclaimed Brazilian jazz vocalist, Patty Ascher, is back in the Big Apple after recording her brand new album, Bossa, Jazz 'n' Samba (2011). Originally from São Paulo, Patty grew up in a musical family listening to Brazilian greats, like Leny Andrade and Gal Costa, and American Jazz divas, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dinah Washington. Still, only in college did Patty begin to dream of a singing career and pursued musical and literature studies simultaneously. After earning a Masters degree in Literature, Patty met Roberto Menescal, one of the founding fathers of bossa nova, who invited with her to record her first CD, Bacharach Bossa Club (2007).

In the years that followed, Patty was invited to perform shows in New York City and tour with jazz composer and pianist Michel Legrand in Brazil, among other honors. Tonight, she kicks off her U.S. tour in Miami, with shows booked in Washington DC and Boston, as well as in New York.  Ascher's New York show will take place on Monday, August 22 at Blue Note, the premier jazz club in the West Village. Her set list will likely draw heavily from her new album sprinkled with interpretations of her musical influencers, but here is a preview of her soothing vocals covering Dusty Springfield's "The Look of Love."

103 Patty Ascher The Look Of Love (Theme From Casino Royale) by sumeile

Tickets for Patty Ascher's New York show on August 22 are available through Blue Note's website.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bebel Gilberto at City Winery

Photo credit: Henrique Gendre for Bebel Gilberto All in One promo

I generally don’t mind going to Brazilian shows, bars, and festivals by myself, because I’ll inevitably meet interesting people once I’m there. But Bebel Gilberto’s show at City Winery on August 3rd made me reconsider just how awesome it is to do what I love unaccompanied. Bebel Gilberto, daughter of Bossa Nova legend João Gilberto and singer Miúcha, is best known for her love-centric lyrics put to a mix of Brazilian bossa nova and electronic music. I’m usually not one for love songs, in English at least, but Bebel’s voice and lyrics cast a spell on me, turning me, in that moment, from a fiercely independent, 24-year-old, swinging single, to a mushy mess longing for love.

“Life could be so nice if one day I find someone to samba through life with me,” is the chorus of “So Nice” on Bebel’s third album, Tanto Tempo. There are innumerable songs that talk about the universal longing to find a life partner, but I especially appreciate all the implications of Bebel’s samba metaphor: dancing samba at a party or Carnaval, living samba, with an everlastingly upbeat and optimist outlook, and doing samba- if they do the horizontal tango in Argentina, Brazilians must do the horizontal samba, right?
So Nice (Summer Samba) by Bebel Gilberto

Introducing “Sem Contenção” (without restraint), Bebel instructed the audience, like an expert lecturer on love. “This is a song about love in your heart. Never think about love in your head. Always in your heart!” The fast guitar strumming, repetating lyrics, and almost panting nature of this track is just like the voice inside your head, catching you the minute you start to hold back your emotions and telling you instead to let go of your insecurities and doubts and enjoy this moment of romance.
Sem Contenção by Bebel Gilberto

But beyond being a poet and singer, Bebel is a fabulous performer, the physical manifestation of a free spirit. At City Winery, she was delightfully uncensored in her speech and movements on stage. During a silly moment, she joked about wanting champagne despite the large selection of wine. “I'm waiting for my champagne. Today is a bubble day... a Bebel day!" Her true display of uninhibitedness came when she admitted to lying down on stage at least one during every show. At City Winery, she sang from the supine position twice! Even though I couldn’t see Bebel when she got horizontal, I could still hear her seductive voice and appreciated her ease in front of the crowd, even to the point where she treated the stage as if it were her private bedroom.

Bebel will perform a total of five shows this month at City Winery, each with a special guest. On August 3rd, none other than Brazilian rapper and hip hop artist Marcelo D2 joined Bebel on the small stage. The duo performed the two songs which I had seen them sing together a week before at Summer Stage, Mercelo's "Minha Missão" and Bebel's "Close Your Eyes." I especially love the catchiness of "Close Your Eyes," and it's also a rare treat to hear Marcelo sing in English. At City Winery, the pair performed for the first time ever Chica Chica Boom Chic, a Carmen Miranda cover from Bebel's most recent album, All in One, adapted for the part of Marcelo. Neither artist held back during this conga inspired tune.  Bebel kicking her legs in the air while using Marcelo for support and eventually pulled him down onto the floor with her for a sing and a snuggle. 
"Close Your Eyes" - Bebel Gilberto & Marcelo D2

This Wednesday, August 17th, Bebel will be performing with Zé Luis Olivera, acclaimed Brazilian composer and producer. Zé worked with Bebel as her musical director during the launch of her Grammy nominated album, Tanto Tempo and recently arranged and produced a song with her for the animated film, Rio. Tickets for all of Bebel's City Winery performances, on August 17th, 24th, 27th, and 31st, are available through the City Winery website.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Loop B at Brasil Summerfest

Photo: Loop B for Facebook
Remember when you were a kid, and you'd take all the pots and pans out of the kitchen cupboards and play on your improvised drum set until your parents yelled at you to stop that ruckus? I haven't thought about those times in a while, but a show I went to recently made me think of them again. Loop B is a one-man electronic, junk band, and I'm convinced his parents never yelled at him to stop that ruckus.

In New York for the next three months from São Paulo, Brazil, Loop B performed at Drom in the East Village during Brasil Summerfest. When I arrived at Drom for the show, it wasn't clear to me whether the stage had been set up for the performance or was being used as a dumping grounds. There was a fancy laptop and a keyboard in a corner, but discarded auto and refrigerator parts, an old television set, and a other species of junk metal were front and center. I was excited to see what would become of this unusual set up.

Loop kicked off the show with a click of his laptop to begin the flow of alternative, electronic tunes. During the hour that followed, Loop was constantly moving back and forth between his laptop and his set, enhancing his original tracks with live percussion. I witnessed the most unconventional and creative uses of everyday objects that I've ever seen in a performance setting. Loop rolled a marble in a bowl, dumped the marble out, put the bowl on his head, and began hitting it with drum sticks. He rubbed together computer keyboards, dragged a working power drill across metal, played with a squeaking hand puppet, crushed empty, plastic water bottles, and pulled a toy sword in and out of its sheath. The experience was like watching a mad scientist in his lab performing radical experiments with sound.
Loop's performance challenged my conception of music entirely. I don't usually think about the sounds everyday or discarded objects are capable of producing when hit, shaken, or rubbed together. When I was forced to listen to them, I was hit with an acute sense of having ignored my urban, industrial surroundings for a life time. I think of Loop's music as the soundtrack of a city: in this most recent show, New York City from the perspective of a Paulistano. In fact, Loop acquired all of his large pieces, like the gasoline tank and refrigerator parts, here in New York. In São Paulo, he regularly frequents junk yards for scrap metal and other treasures. But, as you can imagine, Loop was able to bring only small objects, like the toy sword, with him on the plane.

I can't say that I found all of Loop's sounds to be pleasant. I was more than once reminded of nails on a chalkboard. But even thought I might not choose to play Loop B's albums at my cocktail party, I would absolutely recommend his live show to all of my guests.

Loop B started his music career in the 1980s as a member of two experimental bands. He went solo in 1991 as Loop B, the name he uses today. In addition to composing for his own albums and shows, Loop loves to compose for dance shows and regularly creates experimental soundtracks for dance companies in São Paulo.

Loop B is in New York City through the end of October, when he leaves to perform shows in Belgium. Until then, he is working from New York on a soundtrack for a dance company with which he's worked closely in the past. He is also playing a show Cafe Orwell in Brooklyn on August 26th.