Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ithamara Koorax: #3 Female Singer - 2009 DownBeat Readers Poll

(please click on the images to enlarge them)

"Bim Bom" - Rifftides review by Doug Ramsey

Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Ithamara Koorax & Juarez Moreira, Bim Bom: The Complete João Gilberto Songbook (Motéma)

Gilberto's influence on Brazilian and much of the other music of our time has been pervasive for half a century. Yet, his repertoire primarily consists of songs composed by others, most prominently Antonio Carlos Jobim. In the development of modern samba Jobim was to Gilberto as Dizzy Gillespie said Charlie Parker was to him in bebop, the other half of his heartbeat. Gilberto has written only 11 songs, most of them less familiar than "Bim Bom," each of them exquisite in its own way.

This gem of an album by the Brazilian singer Ithamara Koorax and guitarist Juarez Moreira gathers all of Gilberto's songs under one cover for the first time. Gilberto himself has never done that. The purity and tonal accuracy of Koorax's voice, the perfection of her phrasing and interpretation, beautifully serve the songs in ways that should delight the composer. Moreira accompanies her with subtlety and harmonic resourcefulness that suggest Gilberto's own guitar playing. He has two tracks to himself.

You may be familiar with "Bim Bom," "Hô-Bá-Lá-Lá" and "Minha Saudade," but unless you're a Gilberto completist, "Vôce Esteve Com Meu Bem?" "Bebel" and the others may be new to you. Koorax and Moreira are a fine way to meet them. Early in the collection, Koorax sings "Hô-Bá-Lá-Lá" in Portuguese and later, in a separate track, in flawlessly unaccented English. I'd be hard-pressed to say which is the more charming.

This blog is founded on Doug's conviction that musicians and listeners who embrace and understand jazz have interests that run deep, wide and beyond jazz. Music is its principal concern, but it reaches past...
...the fashions, trends and commercial facets of the jazz scene of the moment, month or year. It considers current artists, performances and recordings not because they are current, but because they have value. It examines the broad history and universal aspects of the jazz mother lode that enriches not only music but also culture and life in general for millions of people. This blog is dedicated to taking music seriously, but itself with only enough seriousness to maintain reasonable dignity.

...Doug Ramsey
Doug is a recipient of the lifetime achievement award of the Jazz Journalists Association. He lives in the Pacific Northwest, where he settled following a career in print and broadcast journalism in cities including New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, San Antonio, Cleveland and Washington, DC. His writing about jazz has paralleled his life in journalism.

He is the author of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond and Jazz Matters:Reflections on the Music and Some of its Makers. He is the winner of two ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards, one for Take Five, another for an essay about Bill Evans in The Secret Sessions. He has contributed to Jazz Times since 1975 and, before that, wrote regularly for Down Beat. He was a contributing editor of Texas Monthly for twenty-five years and wrote a jazz column for The Dallas Morning News. His novel Poodie James was published in the summer of 2007. His articles, reviews and op-ed pieces on music and on free press and First Amendment issues have appeared in The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Oregonian, and Congressional Quarterly, among other publications. Doug is the co-editor (With Dale Shaps) of Journalism Ethics: Why Change? Under the American Speakers program of the United States Information Agency (when there was a U.S.I.A.), he lectured in Germany and Eastern Europe on jazz and on the role of a free press in a democracy. As senior vice president of FACS (Foundation for American Communications), he educated hundreds of professional journalists about analytical coverage of issues. He describes himself as an avocational trumpeter who sometimes plays for money.

"Bim Bom" - Musica Brasiliensis

The complete João Gilberto songbook
Ithamara Koorax & Juarez Moreira salute the master in Bim Bom.
Daniella Thompson
31 December 2009
"Bim Bom" reviewed by Daniella Thompson

Who in this world owns the most complete collection of João Gilberto recordings? My money is on record producer Arnaldo DeSouteiro, who periodically displays in his blog rare items that most JG fans never knew existed.

On 9 November 2009, Arnaldo surprised his readers with the cover of the Japanese DVD João Gilberto Live in Tokyo. Now, every João head knows that the long-awaited DVD of the 2004 Tokyo concerts was never released, so this is a coveted bootleg edition. Only Arnaldo has ever shown it.

More astonishing still, on 15 October 2009, Arnaldo published an image of the cover of João Gilberto—Acesita 50 Anos, recorded live in concert in 1994, when the stainless-steel company (now known as ArcelorMittal Inox Brasil) celebrated its 50-year jubilee. Who knew?

À propos of that concert, Arnaldo also pointed me to the 11 Sept. 2008 issue of Gazeta Mercantil, in which Durval Guimarães relates that João Gilberto arrived three hours late to the 50th-anniversary concert. In order to pass the time until the tardy artist’s arrival, the firm’s president, Wilson Brumer, gave a lecture on metallurgy.

Oh yes. Arnaldo was co-producer with João of the CD reissue of João Gilberto Prado Pereira de Oliveira.

You get the idea.

So who better than Arnaldo to produce the definitive João Gilberto songbook? Definitive, because there have always been questions among the JG faithful about this or that song. “Mambinho,” to name one, has been attributed to João Gilberto and João Donato, but only Arnaldo was able to verify with the reclusive JG that he had no involvement in the composition of this song.

João Gilberto himself has never recorded his complete oeuvre, confining himself to those tunes he composed without a partner. Other artists have occasionally committed to disc one Gilberto tune or another.

First out the door was João’s earliest known published song (he was 22), the samba-canção “Você Esteve com Meu Bem?” (1953). The crooner was João’s girlfriend, Marisa Gata Mansa, making her recording debut on a 78-rpm disc, and the orchestral accompaniment was conducted by the legendary Lindolpho Gaya. Forty-seven years later, João himself attempted to sing it at Teatro de Santa Izabel in Recife but quickly gave up, presumably because he couldn’t remember the lyrics.

In 1955, Luiz Bonfá and his conjunto, featuring João Donato on accordion, were the first to record “Minha Saudade,” still a wordless Donato tune at the time. After JG added lyrics, Alaíde Costa sang the song in the LP Gosto de Você (1959).

Also in 1959, after João’s recording of “Hô-Bá-Lá-Lá” had hit the charts, Norma Benguell gave a breathless rendition of it in the LP Ooooooh! Norma, pianist Waldir Calmon recorded it for Copacabana, and bandleader Luiz Arruda Paes with his orchestra and chorus executed it in the LP Brasil em Tempo de Dança. Sylvia Telles—another former JG girlfriend—introduced an English version on Amor em Hi-Fi (1960). The song would subsequently be recorded by artists as diverse as Mel Tormé and Sivuca.

In 1962, Stan Getz and Gary McFarland recorded “Bim Bom” in Big Band Bossa Nova. Cannonball Adderly and Tamba Trio rendered jazz interpretations of “Minha Saudade” in the albums Cannonball’s Bossa Nova and Tamba Trio, respectively. Two years later, the star-struck Jorge Ben sang a bombastic and weepy “Hô-Bá-Lá-Lá” in his second album, Ben É Samba Bom (1964).

Wanda Sá, who enjoyed a North American vogue in the mid-1960s, included the English version of “Hô-Bá-Lá-Lá” in her album Softly (1965). Bud Shank, João Donato, and Rosinha de Valença recorded “Um Abraço no Bonfá” and “Minha Saudade” in their album Bud Shank & His Brazilian Friends (1965). Walter Wanderley followed suit in Batucada (1967).

Astrud Gilberto sang “Bim Bom” with big orchestral accompaniment in Look to the Rainbow (1965), and Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66 included a bouncy English version of it in Equinox (1967).
In 1974, having spent time under the tutelage of the Zen-baiano himself, the fusion-rock group Novos Baianos recorded “Isabel” [Bebel] on their eponymous LP.

Caetano Veloso included a medley of “Hô-Bá-Lá-Lá” and “Bim Bom” in Totalmente Demais (1986) and bravely tackled “Você Esteve com Meu Bem?” in Fina Estampa ao Vivo (1995).

In 1990, Baden Powell sang “Minha Saudade” in his reedy voice on TV Cultura, and Hendrik Meurkens played the same on the vibes in Sambahia.

Several additional recordings came in the ’90s, including three versions of “Minha Saudade”: Lisa Ono’s in her all-Donato album Minha Saudade (1995); Gilson Peranzzetta Trio in Alegria de Viver (1997); and Gilberto Gil in Lumiar’s Songbook João Donato (1999). Also in Songbook João Donato, Luiz Melodia contributed his interpretation of “Coisas Distantes.”
João Donato has, of course, recorded the songs he co-authored with João Gilberto repeatedly.

So here, at last, are the eleven songs that João Gilberto composed or co-authored, collected in one CD. The interpreters are Arnaldo DeSouteiro’s former wife, Ithamara Koorax (why give this gem to another singer?) and the mineiro ace guitarist Juarez Moreira.

Koorax has been singing “Hô-Bá-Lá-Lá” since her first concert in 1990. Moreira, in his turn, regards João Gilberto’s music as a challenge: “Although some of the songs may seem very simple, it’s a false impression,” he says. “Gilberto’s songs are very demanding in harmonic terms of guitar playing. They demand a lot of technique. That’s the main ingredient of Gilberto’s magic; to make very difficult and intricate things seem so easy and sound so natural.”

In this “live in the studio” album, the two produce a yin-yang effect. While Ithamara lends the songs a bright, bell-like clarity and at times a girlish reverie, Juarez provides a pure and contemplative link that harks directly back to the composer.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ithamara Koorax - Jornal ALEF

Pelo segundo ano consecutivo, Ithamara Koorax foi eleita a terceira melhor cantora de jazz do mundo, segundo a votação anual dos leitores das revistas “DownBeat”, “CD Journal” e “Jazz People”. Semana passada, a CUNY TV (canal a cabo 75 de Nova York) transmitiu um especial sobre a cantora, incluindo trechos do concerto realizado com a big band Amazon, do maestro Gaudencio Thiago de Mello, na Universidade de Nova York em dezembro do ano passado.
(Foto: Fernando Natalaci)

Ithamara Koorax - Sound Insights

(Photo: Cafi)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Ithamara Koorax Interviewed at JazzWax
Random musings from the broken mind and broken heart of Douglas Payne

The beautiful and brilliantly talented Brazilian chanteuse Ithamara Koorax discusses her tremendously enchanting new album, Bim Bom: The Complete João Gilberto Songbook with JazzWax’s always insightful Marc Myers. Ms. Koorax discusses Gilberto, his slim songbook, her accompanist on the album, guitarist Juarez Moeira, working with Brazilian legends Jobim, Bonfa, Donato and jazz legends John McLaughlin, Ron Carter and others. Ithamara’s glowing personality, which springs forth from her music, is ever present in this illuminating chat with JazzWax. Part 1 of the interview is here. Part 2 is here.
Posted by Douglas Payne at 9:57 PM

"Bim Bom" - JazzWax review

JazzWax -

Ithamara Koorax & Juarez Moreira:
"Bim Bom - The Complete Joao Gilberto Songbook"
Review by Marc Myers

Ithamara Koorax's Bim Bom: The Complete Joao Gilberto Songbook is a sensual bossa nova album and her finest CD to date. Ithamara's charm and optimism are irrepressible and a perfect fit for Gilberto's spare, smoldering melodies. What's more, Ithamara is joined here only by guitarist Juarez Moreira, who brings enormous technique and tenderness to the Gilberto canon. Together, they patiently tease out the beauty of Gilberto's simplicity in warm, shimmering lines.

(c) Marc Myers/ Reprinted with permission.

Ithamara Koorax - JazzWax interview, Part 1

JazzWax -
Marc Myers blogs daily on jazz legends and legendary jazz recordings
December 14, 2009
Interview: Ithamara Koorax (Part 1)

In 1958, the bossa nova began to expand beyond Brazil and attract international attention, particularly in the U.S. While jazz artists here began adapting the Brazilian folk beat in the 1950s and early 1960s, the bossa nova didn't become a bona fide sensation until the release of Getz/Gilberto in 1964. On that album, Stan Getz was joined by two bossa nova stars, pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim and guitarist Joao Gilberto. Today, of the pair, only Gilberto survives. So last year, when Brazilian singer Ithamara Koorax was contemplating her next CD, she decided to pay tribute to Gilberto, whose debut album was released in 1959.

Bim Bom: The Complete Joao Gilberto Songbook is Ithamara's 11th solo release and the result of her life-long affection for the composer's hushed melodies and beat. If you're unfamiliar with Ithamara, she is a throwback to the days of graceful and poised Brazilian singers, when conveying passion and vulnerability mattered most of all. Ithamara's voice has the girlish breathlessness of early bossa nova singers but also the brash confidence and stamina that today's modern vocal style demands.

In Part 1 of my two-part interview with Ithamara, 44, the Brazilian singer talks about Joao Gilberto's importance, why the guitarist did not record on her tribute album, why she chose to record with guitarist Juarez Moreira, and the process she uses to learn songs before singing them:

JazzWax: Why did you decide to record an album of Joao Gilberto’s compositions?
Ithamara Koorax: Guitarist Joao Gilberto [pictured] is the most important living legend on the Brazilian music scene. Along with pianist Joao Donato, he’s the last living genius of the bossa nova era. So, after recording with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfá, Dom Um Romao and Joao Donato, I felt it was only natural that I turn to Gilberto in terms of a tribute album. I grew up listening to Gilberto's recordings, including the album Canção do Amor Demais by singer Elizete Cardoso. The 1958 LP featured the single Chega de Saudade, now known as No More Blues. Gilberto played the new rhythmic beat behind her, and the single is considered the first pure bossa nova recording.

JW: Why is Gilberto called the “Bossa Nova Pope?"
IK: Because he was the one who invented the style. Of course there were others who inspired him, like Luiz Bonfa and Garoto, another great guitarist who is still little known outside Brazil. But Gilberto [pictured] was the one who developed the bossa nova beat on the guitar. My producer Arnaldo DeSouteiro played me a few Joao Donato recordings from the mid-50s on which you can hear a very similar beat played by the pianist on the accordion. Nevertheless, Gilberto was the one who mixed all the elements together—the rhythmic guitar beat, the soft singing style and the complex harmonies. It’s that mix that became known as the bossa nova.

JW: How does Gilberto differ from other great Brazilian composers?
IK: I don't feel I'm able to translate his whole creative concept into words. But it's something magical that transcends music. The way his harmonies move and the way he develops his harmonic changes—they remain unmatched.

JW: And yet you covered all of his compositions in your new CD.
IK: Yes, Gilberto wrote only 11 songs—at least the only compositions that he and other artists have recorded. I decided to put all of them together on one CD. Of course I know that Gilberto has created some other pieces, some pretty tunes that he calls “guitar miniatures.” But he says they are "unfinished business" and would never allow me or anyone else to record them. He is an obsessive perfectionist, and he considers such unrecorded songs as mere sketches, not finished songs.

JW: Why do you think Gilberto hasn’t recorded more of his own compositions?
IK: Gilberto is such a creative interpreter that he winds up becoming an unofficial "co-author" of any song he chooses to sing and record. He says that's the reason he never felt compelled to write hundreds of songs. He has always said he knows hundreds of great songs that already exist that he’s satisfied trying to improve or re-do in his own style. [Pictured: Gilberto with his then wife Astrud Gilberto]

JW: For example?
IK: Look what he did with Estate, an Italian pop song recorded by Bruno Martino in 1960. Before Gilberto's interpretation of the song on his album Amoroso in 1977, nobody knew the song in the U.S. The song wasn’t even popular in Italy, where it originated. Joao turned it into a universal jazz standard. Which is proof that he performs musical miracles [laughs].

JW: What’s the origin of Gilberto's song Bim Bom, the title track of your new album?
IK: The song was first recorded in 1958 as the B-side of a 78-rpm single that featured Antonio Carlos Jobim's Chega de Saudade (also now known as No More Blues) on the A-side. Chega de Saudade was a hit and remains beautiful. But Bim Bom was much more intriguing and modern, and ahead of its time. At the time, most people other than musicians didn’t pay much attention to it. They couldn't understand such a strange song. Another wonderful tune by Gilberto, Voce Esteve Com Meu Bem, was composed in 1953 and still sounds unbelievably modern.

JW: Did you use song sheets or other artists' recordings to learn the melodies for your new album?
IK: For half of the material I turned to Claus Ogerman's piano parts from a recording Joao Donato made with Claus in 1965 called The New Sound of Brazil. The songs, Forgotten Places and Glass Beads were co-written by Gilberto and Donato specifically for that album. So I made copies of the lead sheets and gave them to the great Brazilian guitarist Juarez Moreira, who adapted them for voice and guitar on Bim Bom.

JW: When did you and guitarist Moreira meet?
IK: We met a few years ago. In addition to being a fantastic musician, Juarez also is a huge fan of Gilberto. He told me he grew up listening to his father's Gilberto recordings. He learned most of them by ear when he was in his teens.

JW: You've sung a few of Gilberto’s songs before.
IK: Oh, yes, of course. I sang Ho-Ba-La-La on my debut gig as a professional singer in January 1990 at a place called Rio Jazz Club. Since then it has become part of my repertoire in performances. But I had never recorded it before. As for Minha Saudade, I’ve recorded it on two different albums that were popular in Japan and in Europe. One is Wave 2001, an acid-jazz session recorded in Tokyo in 1996, and the other is Bossa Nova Meets Drum 'n' Bass, an electronic project for the jazz dance-floor market recorded in New York in 1998. But both sound very different from my new acoustic reading.

JW: Your singing approach on Gilberto’s songs is mostly wordless. Is that because his songs don't have lyrics?
IK: Yes, exactly. But some of them, like Undiu appear as though they have lyrics because of the movement of the sounds. I repeat the same word Undiu throughout the track, and each time the word sounds different. Take a listen and I'm sure you'll hear what I mean. I felt in a kind of hypnotic trance while recording that tune. There's a very special and strong energy there, a very subtle Eastern influence.

JW: Was there ever a plan to invite Gilberto to record this tribute album with you?
IK: I can't deny that I dreamed of recording with him, although not specifically on this album. My producer Arnaldo DeSouteiro [pictured] has been friends with Gilberto for about 30 years. They have worked together on various projects. But I never wanted to take advantage of their professional relationship. Then when I met Juarez, I felt that diving into Gilbert’s songbook with a guitarist as sensitive as Juarez would be fun and challenging.

JW: Is Gilberto intimidating?
IK: He doesn't like to do collaborations. Most of his recent albums are solo projects. He currently performs only solo concerts. Even on his albums Amoroso [1977], Brazil [1980] and João [1991], which were orchestrated respectively by Claus Ogerman, Johnny Mandel and Clare Fischer, Gilberto recorded his guitar and vocal tracks alone. Then the tapes were sent to the arrangers who added the rhythm sections and later overdubbed the orchestral parts.

JW: Gilberto is quite a mysterious personality.
IK: I know some of the guys who recorded on all of these album projects, and they said it was bizarre and frustrating that they never had an opportunity to meet Gilberto in person, not even at the studio. That's how Gilberto likes to work, which is very different from the way I like to interact with the musicians on my recording dates.

JW: What did Gilberto say when you told him you were going to sing his songs on a tribute album?
IK: Oh, it's a secret [laughs].

JW: Come on!
IK: If you knew Gilberto, you would understand. He's highly eccentric and one of the most exotic, shy and low-profile musicians ever. He even refused to perform on his daughter Bebel’s albums.

JW: Really?
IK: Decades ago, when Bebel was a child, he sometimes invited her to perform with him during his concerts. But after she started a solo career, it never happened again, and he never recorded on any of her albums.

JW: So what was his reaction to your project?
IK: When Arnaldo told him that we were planning to record the album, Arnaldo said Gilberto smiled and said, "Nobody will be interested in releasing a Joao Gilberto songbook." Don't ask me why the great Gilberto thought that [laughs].

JW: What do you feel when you're singing one of Gilberto's songs?
IK: Here's my creative process for any song: I listen to the original recording until I absorb all the elements. Then I start singing the song alone, a cappella, in my home studio. I do this for hours and hours. Sometimes I practice a tune for months. When I feel I have forgotten all that I have learned, I know I'm ready to sing the song live or record it.

JW: Why?
IK: I have to ensure that I will not feel hesitation or fear, which will paralyze me. Nothing can compromise the free flow of passion and feelings when I sing.

Tomorrow Ithamara talks about singing with guitarist Juarez Moreira on her new album, working with bossa nova legends Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa on previous projects, the biggest hurdles she faced when singing Joao Gilberto's songs, and the U.S. charity to which all Bim Bom proceeds are being donated.

JazzWax tracks: Ithamara Koorax's Bim Bom: The Complete Joao Gilberto Songbook is a sensual bossa nova album and her finest CD to date. Ithamara's charm and optimism are irrepressible and a perfect fit for Gilberto's spare, smoldering melodies. What's more, Ithamara is joined here only by guitarist Juarez Moreira, who brings enormous technique and tenderness to the Gilberto canon. Together, they patiently tease out the beauty of Gilberto's simplicity in warm, shimmering lines. Bim Bom is available at iTunes and at Amazon here.

Another album by Ithamara with similar tenderness is Obrigado Dom Um Romao (2007). It's available at iTunes and Amazon here. By contrast, Brazilian Butterfly (2006) will give you a taste of Ithamara's stronger vocal style. It's available at iTunes.

JazzWax clip: Here's Joao Gilberto's original recording of Bim Bom in 1958...

(c) Marc Myers/ Reprinted with permission.

Ithamara Koorax - JazzWax interview, Part 2

JazzWax -
Marc Myers blogs daily on jazz legends and legendary jazz recordings
December 15, 2009
Interview: Ithamara Koorax (Part 2)

Pics by Fernando Natalici

(Ira Giltler & Ithamara Koorax)

I met Brazilian vocalist Ithamara Koorax for the first time a year ago in New York at an amazing holiday party on Sutton Place. Jazz writer Ira Gitler introduced us. Ithamara was in town briefly to sing and had postponed her flight by a day just to make the soiree, which was softly lit and jammed with jazz legends. Singers Helen Merrill and Annie Ross were there. So were Joe Wilder, Teddy Charles, George Wein and about 50 other jazz luminaries. Ithamara was as lovely and as outgoing as her voice is on recordings, and what you see on stage is what you get when you have an animated conversation with her. Ithamara's latest CD, Bim Bom: The Complete Joao Gilberto Songbook, typifies her grace. The CD is an exuberant tribute to the bossa nova and the beat's low-key, unassuming inventor.
(Ithamara Koorax, Helen Merrill & Gary Giddins)

(Joe Wilder & Ithamara Koorax)

In Part 2 of my interview with Ithamara, the singer talks about recording on Bim Bom with guitarist Juarez Moreira, what she discovered about Gilberto's melody lines, recording with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa, and why all of her proceeds from Bim Bom are being donated to the Dizzy Gillespie Fund:

JazzWax: You enjoy the sound of the acoustic guitar, don’t you?
Ithamara Koorax: I do. I should have learned to play it, but I only studied classical piano. I feel fortunate for having had the chance to play with so many great guitarists. After I played with Luiz Bonfa and Larry Coryell on Almost in Love in 1995, I invited Jay Berliner to record on my Serenade in Blue album. I grew up listening to his albums with Charles Mingus, Milt Jackson and George Benson. Then, John McLaughlin recorded with me as a guest artist on Love Dance. Now I'm working with Juarez Moreira.

JW: How did you and guitarist Moreira work together on your new album?
IK: We did the recordings in three days. Juarez lives in Belo Horizonte and I live about 270 miles away in Rio de Janeiro. So I sent him sheet music of the songs and a CD with a few tracks of Gilberto songs that weren’t familiar to him.

JW: Did you record together in the same studio?
IK: Yes, yes. When I booked the studio, Juarez came to Rio, and on the first day we rehearsed for six hours. Then we did two six-hour studio sessions for two consecutive days. All of the tracks were recorded face to face in the studio, and most of the songs were first takes.

JW: No overdubbing?
IK: I don't like to overdub vocals unless I'm doing electronic projects and working with programming and sequencers, which was not the case here, of course. So what I sang with Juarez is what you hear on the album. On a few tracks, Juarez felt he should add a second guitar for the solos, to not lose the groove of the rhythm guitar.

JW: What input did arranger and your long-time producer Arnaldo DeSouteiro have on the album?
IK: As usual, Arnaldo was essential. He suggested tempos, helped us find the best keys, prepared the basic arrangements and then asked Juarez and me for suggestions. He kept us focused on the spontaneity and asked us to not over-rehearse or lose the creative vibe. [Photo: Ithamara, Luiz Bonfa and Arnaldo DeSouteiro]

JW: How did Arnaldo work with Juarez?
IK: Arnaldo knows how to create and sustain a happy mood in the studio. At the same time Arnaldo also is a perfectionist, which is why he has worked with so many great artists, including Joao Gilberto [pictured]. In just a couple of hours, it seemed as though Juarez and I had been friends for decades. Arnaldo also interacted a lot with engineer Geraldo Brandao, who already knew how Arnaldo wanted my voice to sound. Everything clicked, and the bonding made the mix sessions easy and joyful.

JW: What did you discover about Gilberto's music that may come as a shock to some readers?
IK: What I discovered is that Gilberto’s music was much more difficult to sing than I imagined. As a singer you have to deal with so many things at the same time with Gilberto’s [pictured] songs. You need to be subtle, you need to sing softly, but you also need to deal with rhythm—all at once. And it all happens so quickly that you can't think about it. You only need to do it.

JW: You worked with Antonio Carlos Jobim. What was he like in the studio?
IK: Jobim was very important to my career because he gave me a great deal of support in my early years. For my first album, Ao Vivo (JVC) in 1993, I included four or five Jobim songs. After his sister Helena Jobim, a poet, gave him a copy of my CD, he called to congratulate me. He said, "Next time, please invite me." So in 1994 when I started working on my second CD, Red River (Paddle Wheel), I selected three Jobim songs and took him up on his kind offer.

JW: What did he say?
IK: His only request was, "Please book a studio with a good Steinway!" Actually, we did only one session together, in October 1994. Those were some of the most special six hours I have ever experienced in my life. He was very kind and was telling jokes the entire time. I felt he was trying to make me feel relaxed. Then, out of the blue, he suggested that we do a song titled All That's Left Is to Say Goodbye, which isn’t among his most famous songs. He said it was special to him, because he had recorded it with Astrud Gilberto on The Astrud Gilberto Album, her debut album in 1965. This was such a compliment. [Pictured: Ithamara and Antonio Carlos Jobim]

JW: Did you know the song?
IK: Yes, but I wasn't intimately familiar with Astrud's version at the time, even though I owned a copy of the album. I loved the version that Swedish singer Monica Zetterlund made of the song during her live recording with Bill Evans after their famous studio date in 1975. [The song is called Samba in discographies.]

JW: What happened next?
IK: We clicked. After we recorded All That's Left Is to Say Goodbye, we had lunch. Then we recorded two more songs. But Jobim wasn't totally satisfied with his performance. He said, "I need to go to New York next week, but we'll record again as soon as I come back to Rio". I was thrilled. One of the songs was titled Absolut Lee, and I started to study it. But he died in New York in a hospital after complications from surgery to remove a tumor. Nobody knew he had cancer, so Brazil was in a state of shock when he died.

JW: How did you feel?
IK: I felt devastated and decided to include only All That's Left Is to Say Goodbye on my album. The other songs I recorded with Jobim remain unreleased. I added other Jobim songs to the play list: Correnteza, a song Jobim co-wrote with Luiz Bonfa, who came in to play guitar on the track, and Zingaro, which I recorded with bassist Ron Carter [pictured].

JW: How did Luiz Bonfa differ from Jobim?
IK: Both had what I call "sophisticated souls." Both were gentlemen and geniuses. They worked together often in the 1950s and 1960s in Brazil, and both performed at the famous Bossa Nova at Carnegie Hall concert in 1962. Soon after both were signed to Verve by producer Creed Taylor.

JW: You recorded an entire album with Bonfa, yes?
IK: Yes. Almost In Love: Ithamara Koorax Sings the Luiz Bonfa Songbook (Paddle Wheel), which was a Top 15 album on the Japanese charts. The title track is a lush bossa nova that Bonfa wrote for Elvis Presley, who had a Billboard Top Pop chart hit with it. I was fortunate to record once again with Ron Carter as well as with Sadao Watanabe and Larry Coryell on that album.

JW: What was Bonfa like?
IK: Bonfa and I were neighbors for 10 years in Rio. We used to meet at least twice a week, sometimes just to chat. There were times when he would pick up his guitar as soon as I arrived at his home to show me new tunes he was working on. He wrote a couple of songs especially for me, which was a huge honor, especially because he was so reclusive, like Joao Gilberto.

JW: Did you perform in concert together?
IK: Bonfa loved to appear by surprise at my concerts, bringing his guitar and offering to sit in. The first time he did that, he entered the backstage, asking from the wings: "Don't you want to hire a guitarist for this band?" The musicians who played with me at the time recognized him instantly, of course, and were blown away. They felt so intimidated by his presence that they feared performing without a rehearsal. Bonfa was like a god to them. [Photo: Luiz Bonfa, Ithamara and John McLaughlin]

JW: What did you do?
IK: I started that concert by going off-stage and taking Bonfa on stage by the hand. As I led him out, I said to the audience, "We have a very special guest tonight, and he will start the show playing his song Manha de Carnaval from the movie Black Orpheus. When the audience realized Bonfa was there, they started to scream. He played superbly, of course, and we got a standing ovation on the first song! I'll never forget that night.

JW: You do quite a bit of touring.
IK: I'm just back from my third European tour this year. I performed at 47 concerts overseas in 2009, for a total of 82 concerts if you include my gigs in Brazil. My goal is to sing all over the world, I want to conquer new audiences all the time. That's why I do concerts for 1,500 people in Finland and 4,000 people in open-air jazz festivals in Korea. Last month I performed for the first time at jazz festivals in cities where I had never been before like Belgrade, Indija and Sofia, and people loved my music.

JW: I hear that the proceeds from Bim Bom are going to charity?
IK: Yes. I'm always involved in charities and benefit projects. I'm donating all of my revenue from Bim Bom's sales to the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund of the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, N.J. I sing to give love to the people and receive love back. God gave me a gift. I can't disappoint Him.

JazzWax tracks: Ithamara Koorax's Bim Bom: The Complete Joao Gilberto Songbook features 11 songs composed by the creator of the bossa nova beat. Gilberto wrote only 11 songs that he and others have recorded. Joining Ithamara is acoustic guitarist Juarez Moreira. The liner notes are by Ira Gitler. Bim Bom is available at iTunes and at Amazon here.

JazzWax clip: Here's Ithamara and Bernard Fines singing the theme from A Man and A Woman in 2007...

(c) Marc Myers/ Reprinted with permission.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Bim Bom" - Jornal do Brasil review

Jornal do Brasil, 11 de Dezembro de 2009
Coluna "Supersônicas" - Tárik de Souza

Caderno B, Página B6


Pela primeira vez a curta, mas expressiva, obra autoral completa do esquivo João Gilberto sai num disco. A audácia de The complete João Gilberto songbook (JazzTherapy) une a voz afiada da niteroiense Ithamara Koorax e o violão exato do mineiro Juarez Moreira. Preparem-se para agudas belezas como as parcerias dos Joões Gilberto e Donato, Minha saudade,Glass beads e Forgotten places (mais Lysias Ênio), os (re)fundadores baião (Bim bom) e bolero (Hô-ba-lá-lá), além da Valsa, escrita em homenagem à filha, hoje estrela, Bebel Gilberto. E também para surpresas como a inaugural Você esteve com meu bem?, gravada pela namorada de João na época, Marisa (depois Gata Mansa), em 1953. O parceiro Russo do Pandeiro, músico de Carmen Miranda, segundo o acurado texto do produtor Arnaldo DeSouteiro apenas trabalhou para que a música fosse gravada. Também foram escalados João Marcelo (para o filho de João com Astrud), o baião Undiu (com uma referência a Algodão, de Luiz Gonzaga e Zé Dantas) e a instrumental An embrace to Bonfá, que parafraseia O barbinha branca, pré-bossa de Luis Bonfá e Tom Jobim, de 1955. Deleite musical e história viva da MPB.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Bim Bom" - Sound Insights review

Random musings from the broken mind and broken heart of Douglas Payne
Monday, November 30, 2009

Ithamara Koorax & Juarez Moreira “Bim Bom”

The beautiful and most ethereal of all vocalists practicing their art today, Brazilian Ithamara Koorax (b. 1965), has achieved what ranks among her very greatest achievements with Bim Bom, a brilliantly conceived tribute to the Brazilian composer, guitarist and singer João Gilberto.

Here, the multi-lingual, multi-genre singer tackles a bracing set of lovely, lilting melodies written or co-written by fellow Brazilian legend João Gilberto, accompanied most perfectly only by the guitar of Juarez Moreira, who is acclaimed by no less an authority than Milton Nascimento as a "mix of every musical element from Brazil” who “interprets them in a majestic way."

João Gilberto, born João Gilberto Prado Pereira de Oliveira on June 10, 1931, in Juazeiro, Bahia, is a Grammy Award-winning Brazilian singer and guitarist. He is credited with having created what we now know as “bossa nova” and has rightly become known as the "Father of Bossa Nova." His seminal recordings, including many songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, established the new musical genre in the late 1950s, which gained huge significance throughout the world in the early 1960s.

After many American musicians (Herbie Mann, Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd) embraced his music, he lived in the United States during much of the sixties, eventually leaving to live in Mexico. He returned to Brazil in 1980 and currently resides in Rio de Janiero, where he lives out a somewhat reclusive lifestyle, though he tours occasionally.

Despite many deserving tributes to such bossa-nova forefathers as Antonio Carlos Jobim, this disc serves as a reminder of another of Brazil’s most prominent tunesmiths and musicians – thankfully while he is still alive to enjoy the significance of his influence and such a worthy celebration of his achievements.

Ithamara Koorax shows her remarkable range throughout, much more relaxed than usual, befitting the songs’ mostly easy-going nature. Surprisingly, her most outstanding performances occur when she’s not even singing the Portuguese or English lyrics the songs provide, as on the improvisations she provides for “Minha Saudade” or in the startlingly haunting way she hums out such instrumentals as “Valsa (Bebel),” “Glass Beads” (which was only recorded once by co-composer João Donato on his wondrous 1965 album The New Sound Of Brazil), “João Marcelo,” “Undiu” (where she does little more than repeat the title, but so hypnotically that it sounds like a full lyric).

Moreira’s beautiful accompaniment throughout is a joy to behold. As the only accompaniment heard here, he is outstandingly forward in his contribution, but never at a disservice to the melody or to his singing partner. When he solos on electric guitar, it is, fittingly, electrifying, as he does on “Voce Esteve Com Meu Bern,” “Valsa (Bebel)” and “Acapulco.” Koorax is out of “An Embrace To Bonfá,” a tribute to fellow guitarist Luiz Bonfá, which gives Moreira a chance to shine in this exceptionally lovely composition.

Those familiar with Gilberto’s work will miss some of the better-known numbers from the guitarist’s repertoire. But it’s difficult to argue with what is actually presented in this beautifully programmed 41-minute set.

Producer Arnaldo DeSouteiro provides a crisp, clear palette for the two artists to express themselves and, in his notes, a beautifully detailed summation of each song’s history and importance. While one could wish for more, it’s hard to best what is provided on the lovely Bim Bom, one of the most notable releases of 2009.

- Douglas Payne

"Bim Bom" among the Top 10 Best Jazz CDs of 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The Whole Music Experience Top Ten Lists of 2009

The bulk of recordings I received in late 2008 and 2009 were of classical and traditional (world) genres. Since I had a large pile of classical recordings, some of those recordings ended up on the Top Ten Healing Recordings.

I received only a small collection of jazz recordings and some of the recordings I received in 2009 were actually recorded in 2008. Since my biggest discovery of the year was Galician (Spain) music, I included two recordings on the list below, a 2008 jazz recording and a 2009 world music recording. I feel fortunate to have received high quality recordings by some of the best names in classical, jazz and world music. The lists are random, meaning there is no number one spot—all being equal.

Best Jazz Recordings (2009)

1. New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Book One, World Village
2. Mario Adnet & Philippe Baden Powell, Afro Samba Jazz, Adventure Music
3. Mathias Eick, The Door, ECM (2008 recording)
4. Vaamonde, Lamas & Romero, Vellas Artes, Falcatruada, (Galicia, 2008)
5. Ablaye Cissoko & Volker Goetze, Sira, ObliqSound, (2008 recording)
6. Benjamim Taubkin, Sèrgio Reze & Zeca Assumpcao, Trio +1, Adventure Music
7. Trio Ifriquiya, Petite Planète, World Village
8. Ithmara Koorax & Juarez Moreira, Bim Bom, Motema
9. Daniel Santiago, Metropole, Adventure Music
10. Tom Lellis and the Metropole Orchestra, Skylark, Adventure Music

"Brasil nas Alturas" - Jornal do Brasil

JORNAL DO BRASIL, Coluna Anna Ramalho
29 de Novembro de 2009, página A24


"Uma semana depois de incensada pelo New York Times, por causa de seu novo CD Bim Bom, Ithamara Koorax recebe novo afago da imprensa internacional: leitores da DownBeat - a bíblia do jazz - elegeram-na, pelo segundo ano consecutivo, a terceira melhor cantora de jazz do mundo.
A diva brasileira está atrás apenas de Diana Krall e Cassandra Wilson.
Entre os cantores, João Gilberto faturou a quinta colocação".