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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

2,000 ways to wear a T-shirt: Carnaverão 2011

Who would wear this to a concert?
Turns out, EVERYONE.
I've never celebrated Carnaval in Brazil, so when my friend, Sam, forwarded me an announcement from the Brazilian Consulate about Carnaverão, "the biggest Carnaval event in America," I immediately bought a ticket. I had a hunch the summertime Carnaval celebration might resemble Brazilian Day in all its drunken glory, and I wanted to see the headliner, Brazilian pop star Claudia Leite. In the confirmation email, I read something about a T-shirt arriving in a package with my ticket, but didn't think much of it. Who needs another T-shirt, right? So when the package arrived, I carefully stored the $90 ticket in my wallet and stuffed the T-shirt in my dresser drawer.

On Saturday morning, Sam texted me to ask if I was going to wear my T-shirt. "Hell, no," I responded. I wanted to blend with the crowd, not stand out as the overeager gringa, Brazilian-wannabe. Plus, if Carnaverão were going to be anything like Brazilian Day, a T-shirt would be far to conservative. Instead I squeezed into an appropriately scandalous, yet generic, ensemble: white cut-off shorts and a low-cut tank top. I even thought about wearing heels, but opted for the more comfortable and machine washable, flip-flops. 

But as Sam and I descended the paved ramp to the crumbling parking lot behind Rio Rodizio in Newark, New Jersey, I realized I had been completely mistaken. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was wearing his/her Carnaverão T-shirt; or, more accurately, wearing pieces of it. Despite all my effort to look effortlessly Brazilian, I stood out as the girl who didn't get the memo. Sam was wearing her T-shirt, but as it had arrived in the mail: unadulterated and in one piece.

I could have never imagined the T-shirt I had disregarded as a lame party favor and an excuse to over charge, could be reconfigured into over 2,000 styles, draped over shoulders, breasts, and bellies in ways. It was apparent that these women (and men) had put serious thought and time in creating the most unique and attention-getting iteration of the drab T I would have only worn to the gym. I'm talking serious tailor work. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the women had had their shirts professionally altered, or at least enlisted the help of mom (or maid). 

Although I was asked at least twice about my lack of Carnaverão spirit, in retrospect, I'm glad I didn't know to chop my shirt into little bits and sew/glue/string them back together. If I had, I would not have known what make. After spending an entire evening studying all the Carnaverão styles, I now feel ready to bring out the beads, the BeDazzler, the scissors, and the sewing machine. When I finish my sexy sewing project, I'll post a picture of the finished product. In the mean time, feast your eyes on these ladies (and gents) and their Carnaverão creations.
Don't let the zipper fool you. She sewed it in. 
I love the beadwork on the right!
The bodice look
One of my favorites on the left
The men were no exception 
Another variation on the bodice.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the winner, but the title of the best Cut T-shirt goes to... the pregnant young women who'd reconfigured her T-shirt into a bikini top. No point in covering her tummy and obstructing her baby's view of its first pop concert, right? Such a considerate mommy-to-be. 

And about the concert... It was good, too. Definitely worth the $90.