Friday, December 28, 2007

"Brazilian Butterfly" review - "Musica Black"

Ithamara Koorax's "Brazilian Butterfly" reviewed at Musica Black (Italy) by Fabio Viola

Although Rio de Janeiro-based vocalist Ithamara Koorax has long been acclaimed as a superb singer and a highly creative artist in her native Brazil as well as in Japan, it wasn't until the album "Serenade in Blue" (Milestone) that American and European listeners were introduced to her unique vocal stylings. That release helped her to be acclaimed in the USA as one as one of the world’s Top 4 jazz singers in the 2002 Down Beat Readers Poll --behind only Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, and Dianne Reeves, and ahead of Norah Jones and Jane Monheit.

Back in 2000, Ithamara had been voted for the first time as one of the world's ten best jazz singers by Down Beat, also appearing as # 3 Best Beyond Artist, behind only Sting and Carlos Santana, and ahead of such heavyweights as Tom Waits, Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell. "Serenade In Blue" (featuring Deodato, Jay Berliner, Azymuth, and Dom Um Romao) was voted # 7 Best Beyond Album in that same 2000 Down Beat Readers Poll.

Ithamara's follow-up CD, "Love Dance: The Ballad Album" (featuring John McLaughlin, Marcos Valle, and Mario Castro-Neves) established her artistry in the most convincing possible terms. It was voted # 5 Best Beyond Album in the 2003 DownBeat Readers Poll, behind only discs by Norah Jones, Steely Dan, Radiohead and The Roots. "Love Dance" was also acclaimed as one of the Top 10 Vocal Albums for 2003, by the critics of the prestigious The Independent Weekly (USA). "Autumn in New York", a sublime straight-ahead jazz project, in acoustic trio format, came out on EMI Asia in 2004, followed by the best-selling compilation "The Best of Ithamara Koorax" in 2005, which reached # 5 in the POP chart in Korea! Once again, Ithamara was voted among the best female singers in the DownBeat Readers Poll both in 2004 and 2005, ahead of Norah Jones and Nancy Wilson.

For this new extraordinary project "Brazilian Butterfly" --Ithamara's ninth album and her debut on the IRMA label-- Koorax and her producer/arranger Arnaldo DeSouteiro (founder of Jazz Station Records) assembled a phenomenal international cast as well as a challenging, inspiring repertoire.

Koorax has chosen infectious groovy tunes such as Milton Nascimento's "Escravos de Jo" (turned into a dancefloor classic by Dom Um Romão, who plays drums in this new astounding version), Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly" (backed by Gazzara, Ithamara invests her notes with that sweet sinuosity she weaves so well), Dorival Caymmi's "O Vento" (her distinctive tones waft through your soul and you are captivated), Geraldo Vandre's anthem "Fica Mal Com Deus" (recorded by Dom Um on his debut solo album, back in 1964!), the Afro-macumba chant "Lamento Negro" (introduced by Brazil's top folk singer, the late Stellinha Egg), and Dom Um's own "Amor Em Jacuma" (a stunning 10-minute jazz-samba jam including Ithamara's most impressive vocal improvisation ever, updating Flora Purim's and Urszula Dudziak's influences and bringing them to new millenium).

Among Ithamara's main collaborators on the oustanding "Brazilian Butterfly" are Brazil's top trombonist Raul de Souza (of "Sweet Lucy" fame), the celebrated fusion groups Azymuth and Gazzara, Cuban piano wiz Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and a "dream team" of Brazilian drummers/percussionists led by the legendary Dom Um Romão and including Eloir de Moraes, Thiago de Mello, Laudir de Oliveira, Marcelo Salazar, Sidinho Moreira, and Jadir de Castro. Read through the personnel listings for each tracks and you will find a who’s who of Brazilian giants.

"Brazilian Butterfly" is a very creative and intriguing record in which the musicians made deeply personal contributions to their friend and colleague Ithamara, who turned in some of her most thrilling performances to date. It's a warm and sunny album with an upbeat outlook. A stunning effort from a uniquely gifted artist!

Ithamara Koorax (pronounced ee-tah-MAH-rah KOH-rax) started her career in 1990. Koorax's reputation as a creative and expressive vocalist, gifted with a four-octave range, spread quickly and her voice became a very hot commodity in studios all over Rio. Ithamara soon began performing with the likes of Hermeto Pascoal, Edu Lobo, Azymuth, Marcos Valle, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and João Donato.

Then her fame spread halfway around the world. Her debut solo album, "Luiza" (Live in Rio), won the Brazilian version of the Grammy: the 1994 Sharp Award for Best New Artist. The CDs she eventually released in Japan, "Rio Vermelho" (1995, which included Antonio Carlos Jobim's last recorded performance), "Almost in Love/Ithamara Koorax Sings the Luiz Bonfá Songbook" (1996, featuring Bonfá, Ron Carter, Larry Coryell, Sadao Watanabe, and Eumir Deodato), and "Wave 2001" (1997) have all been acclaimed by Japan’s jazz bible, Swing Journal magazine, appearing on its best-selling charts. Then, in March 1998, in an able display of her versatility and pioneering, she recorded the first Brazilian album in the drum 'n' bass genre, "Bossa Nova Meets Drum 'n' Bass".

That same year, Ithamara began a fruitful collaboration with another Brazilian music luminary, Dom Um Romão (formerly with Sergio Mendes, Frank Sinatra, and Weather Report, among others), being prominently featured on Romão's much-acclaimed albums "Rhythm Traveller" (1998), "Lake of Perseverance" (2000) and "Nu Jazz Meets Brasil" (2002), as well as on the "Friends From Brazil 2001" project for IRMA. They've performed together in sold-out concerts in London's "Jazz Cafe", the acid-jazz mecca, as well as in Finland and all over Brazil. "Brazilian Butterfly" is the latest chapter in this highly successful partnership.

In testimony to Ithamara's talent, composer and guitar legend Luiz Bonfa remarked, "It's an honor and a privilege to work with such a great artist as Ithamara, one of the best singers in the world." Jobim himself referred to her as "simply one of the best singers on the scene."

"I quickly became a Koorax Konvert", says Ira Gitler, regarded as the most important jazz historian alive. "Koorax is her own woman. She is multi-faceted and multi-lingual, comfortable in all situations and expressive in a variety of languages. Her range and technique are remarkable but you don’t necessarily take time out to marvel at her technique until later on because you are too absorbed in her musical message. Her powerful singing speaks for itself with celestial eloquence."

On Dusty Groove:
Ithamara Koorax -- Brazilian Butterfly . . . CD . . . $12.99 (Item: 437649) Irma (Italy), 2006 Condition: New Copy View Cart
The nicest record we've ever heard from vocalist Ithamara Koorax -- The style is still mostly Brazilian jazz, as she's put forth on other records -- but there's a newly dynamic sort of quality, and one that drives the whole record with a tremendous sense of soul and joy, and the kind of fresh approach to classic modes that we'd normally expect from artists on the Far Out label! Most instrumentation here is small combo, and very jazzy -- usually keyboards mixing it up with a bit of bass and percussion, plus occasional horns -- and players on the album include Dom Um Romao, Raul De Souza, Azymuth, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Titles include "O Vento", "Amor Em Jacuma", "Lamento Negro", "Butterfly", "Fica Mal Com Deus", "A Lenda Do Abaete", "Coco Penerue", and "Carinhoso".

Nuovo album della cantante brasiliana Ithmara Koorax. Originaria di Rio de Janeiro, Ithmara Koorax inizia la sua carriera di cantante nel 1990. Dopo i primi riconoscimenti importanti a livello internazionale (un Grammy brasiliano, il Reader’s Pool della bibbia USA del Jazz: Down Beat), nel 1998 inizia la sua lunga collaborazione con il leggendario percussionista, purtroppo recentemente scomparso, Dom Um Romao.

Brazilian Butterfly, nono album pubblicato da Ithamara Koorax, è l’ultimo capitolo di questa fruttuosa partnership. Vi partecipano anche altri musicisti molto importanti quali il trombonista Raul de Souza, lo storico gruppo fusion Azymuth, l’organista Italiano Francesco Gazzara, il grande pianista cubano Gonzalo Rubalcaba e un "dream team" di batteristi/percussionisti, sapientemente guidati da Dom Um Romão, che include Eloir de Moraes, Thiago de Mello e Marcelo Salazar. I brani inclusi nell’album sono tutti standard brasiliani molto cari agli amanti di questo genere. Si va da "Escravos de Jo" di Milton Nascimento a "Butterfly" di Herbie Hancock, a "Fica Mal Com Deus", "Lamento Negro", "Amor Em Jacuma" e così via … Brazilian Butterfly è un disco creativo ed intrigante, in cui i musicisti coinvolti hanno dato il massimo per contribuire profondamente al successo della loro amica e collega Ithamara, che qui ci regala alcune delle performance più emozionanti della sua lunga carriera. Un album caldo e solare, con un approccio molto ritmico, quasi ‘dance’, assolutamente atipico per la sofisticata ‘Farfalla Brasiliana’.

THE REMIX EP (IRMA 135) available at

Track A1 is courtesy of Parov Stelar (aka Marcus Fuereder), producer and DJ based in Linz, Austria, owner of Etage Noir Recordings, surely one of the hottest names on the Future Jazz scene this year. The freedom of jazz combined with the groove of house and breakbeat describes his character. Parov's productions are aimed at club DJ's as well at listeners in their armchairs. This remix is another confirmation of his skills.

A2 was produced by Cargo, a team of four artists from Tokyo: Goku (rapper/producer) has worked with Yukihiro Fukutomi and Kabuki; Wise (producer) has been releasing several drum'n'bass singles as Pentagon; Amigo (rapper) has been working on Japanese quality hip-hop label Maryjoy; Saiko (singer) has been singing in many Japanese cross-over productions. They formed Cargo in 2004 and have released two albums, supported by DJ Mitsu The Beats, the Jazzy Sport crew, Hajime Yoshizawa, Yukihiro Fukutomi, Mark De Clive-Lowe, etc. Their track 'Seasons' was included in Irma's compilation 'Sister Bossa 6'.

The hot latin house remix on side B comes from Brisa (aka Tetsu Shibuya), one half of Tokyo based duo Agora Rhythm. They have had singles out on seminal NY label King Street, with Danny Krivit as executive producer, and received heavy support from Francois K among the others. Brisa was also featured in 'Sister Bossa 6' with his track 'Place Of The Sun'.

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