Monday, May 4, 2020

R.I.P.: Mario Castro-Neves (1935-2020)

R.I.P.: Mario Castro-Neves -- a brilliant Brazilian pianist, arranger, composer and band-leader born in Rio de Janeiro on November 12, 1935 -- just passed away this afternoon, May 4, 2020 in his home in Plainsboro, New Jersey, USA. I had the honor to work with him in several occasions, having produced his last album, "On A Clear Bossa Day," recorded for my JSR label in 2004.

Mario dedicated to me a song titled "Someday," that he recorded with Ithamara Koorax on her "Love Dance" album for JSR/Milestone Records. That led to sold-out performances at both Mistura Fina and Partitura jazz clubs in Rio.

I have also produced (in 2001) the first official CD reissues in Brazil and abroad of his debut album as a leader, "Mario Castro-Neves & Samba S.A.", recorded for RCA in 1967. Besides other brilliant solo albums for Decca and CTL labels, Mario worked with Tito Madi, Wilson Simonal, Elza Soares, Tony Camillo, Angel Sessions, L.J. Reynolds, Carmen McRae and Pat Martino, had his songs recorded by Doris Monteiro and Rosa Maria, did albums with groups like Musicanossa and Turma da Pilantragem, formed his combo Jovem Brasa (an amazing fusion of bossa nova and the Brazilian rock style known as "jovem guarda"), and led his own orchestras in England and Canada (two countries on which he lived for many years before relocating to the USA), where he was a teacher at the Princeton University during the 80s. In that same decade, he led his jazz quintet Subtle Chemistry.

During the 90s he concentrated on his work as producer and keyboard programmer at TC Studios in Hillsboro, New Jersey, recording for the Volt label with soul music, funk and hip hop artists such as Angel Sessions, L.J. Reynolds, The Dramatics and rapper Kenne Davis.

Mario was the older brother of guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves, bassist Iko, drummer Leo, clarinetist Zeca (all deceased) and singer Pepê Castro-Neves.

I was introduced to Mario's unique style through radio DJ Simon Khoury who gave a lot of airplay to a track, "Helena And I", from his 1973 album "Brazilian Mood," produced by Franlyn Boyd for Decca Records. Three decades later, I was able not only to include that same recording of "Helena & I" on a compilation I produced for Verve ("A Trip To Brazil Vol.2: Bossa & Beyond") as well as to record a new version of that stunning song for "On A Clear Bossa Day." Another highlight of his final album was "Mamadeira Atonal," an iconic song written in 1955 with Ronaldo Boscoli.

Among the members of Mario's Samba S.A. bands were Novelli, Normando, Thais do Amaral, Biba, Manuel Gusmão, Cesar Machado, Ithamara Koorax and Ana Zinger. He also played with Paula Faour, Jorge Pescara, Enio Santos, Cesar Machado, Memo Acevedo, Ken Ramm and Gary Morgan.

As I wrote on the notes for the "On A Clear Bossa Day" CD: "His superb orchestrations on that masterpiece album Brazilian Mood would be enough to place Mario Castro-Neves among the best arrangers in the music history, alongside Sebesky, Ogerman, Mancini, Legrand, Schifrin, Mandel, Gil Evans, Deodato and Gaya."

He is survived by his wife Mara, one brother (Pepê), one sister (Maria Lina), two daughters (Lili and Andrea), and one son (Mario Castro-Neves Filho).
My condolences to all his family.
******
Gênio que antecipou e transcendeu a bossa-nova, Mario Castro-Neves – o brilhante pianista, arranjador, compositor e band-leader nascido no Rio de Janeiro em 12 de novembro de 1935 – faleceu nesta tarde, 4 de maio de 2020, em sua casa em Plainsboro, Nova Jersey (EUA), aos 84 anos. Tive a honra de trabalhar com ele em várias ocasiões, tendo produzido seu último álbum, “On A Clear Bossa Day”, registrado para minha gravadora JSR em 2004.

Mario me dedicou uma música intitulada “Someday”, que ele gravou em 2002 com Ithamara Koorax no álbum “Love Dance,” lançado pela Milestone Records. Por conta do sucesso da música, Mario realizou apresentações com lotação esgotada, ao lado da cantora, nas casas noturnas Mistura Fina e Partitura, no Rio.

Também produzi (em 2001, para a BMG) o primeiro relançamento oficial em CD, no Brasil e no exterior, de seu álbum de estréia como líder, “Mario Castro-Neves & Samba SA”, gravado para a RCA em 1967, com brilhantes recriações de músicas de Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Donato, Moacir Santos, Dorival Caymmi e Chico Buarque. Incluí algumas dessas faixas nas compilações “Focus On Bossa Nova” e “Focus On Brazilian Music Grooves”, lançadas na Europa e Japão. "Candomblé", de Danilo Caymmi & Edmundo Souto, tornou-se um grande sucesso nas pistas de dança na Europa.

Além de outros brilhantes álbuns para os selos Decca e Canadian Talent Library, Mario trabalhou com Tito Madi, Elza Soares, Wilson Simonal, Tony Camillo, Carmen McRae e Pat Martino, teve músicas gravadas por Doris Monteiro, Rosa Maria e Ithamara Koorax, lançou discos com grupos como Musicanossa e Turma da Pilantragem, criou a banda Jovem Brasa (dedicada à uma inusitada fusão entre Jovem Guarda e Bossa Nova), e ainda formou suas próprias orquestras na Inglaterra e no Canadá, dois países em que viveu antes de se mudar para os EUA em 1977, onde lecionou na Universidade de Princeton. Sua gravação de “Summersoft” (Stevie Wonder) ganhou o status de cult-hit na cena internacional do acid-jazz.

Tornei-me, aos 10 anos de idade, um grande fã do estilo único de Mario graças ao radialista Simon Khoury, que tocava bastante na JB-AM a faixa “Helena And I”, do álbum “Brazilian Mood” (1973). Três décadas depois, pude não apenas incluir a mesma fascinante gravação de “Helena And I” em uma compilação que produzi para Verve (“A Trip To Brazil Vol.2: Bossa & Beyond”), bem como gravar uma nova versão daquele tema sofisticadíssimo para o álbum “On A Clear Bossa Day”.
Outro destaque daquele que agora se tornou seu último CD foi “Mamadeira Atonal”, uma música icônica escrita em 1955 com Ronaldo Bôscoli e que absurdamente permaneceu inédita em disco até 2004.

Entre os membros de seu lendário grupo Samba S.A. estavam Novelli, Normando, Thais do Amaral, Biba (na primeira formação), Manuel Gusmão, Cesar Machado, Ithamara Koorax e Ana Zinger. Também tocou com Paula Faour, Jorge Pescara, Enio Santos, Memo Acevedo, Gary Morgan e Pat Martino. No final dos anos 90, enveredou pelo funk e hip-hop, gravando para o selo Volt com Angel Sessions, L.J. Reynolds, o grupo The Dramatics e o rapper Kenne Davis.

Como escrevi no encarte do CD “On A Clear Bossa Day”: “Seu excelente trabalho de orquestração no álbum Brazilian Mood seria suficientes para colocar Mario Castro-Neves entre os melhores arranjadores da história da música, ao lado de Sebesky, Ogerman, Mancini, Legrand, Schifrin, Mandel, Gil Evans, Deodato e Gaya.

Mario era o irmão mais velho do violonista Oscar Castro-Neves, do baixista Iko, do baterista Leo, do clarinetista Zeca (todos já falecidos) e do cantor Pepê Castro-Neves.
Ele deixa sua esposa Mara, seus irmãos Pepê e Maria Lina, suas filhas Lili e Andrea, e seu filho Mario Castro-Neves Filho.


Friday, March 27, 2020

Delza Agricola Bio - Curriculum

Delza Agricola - Curruculum Vitae
(compiled by Elge Agricola)

















Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Vocal CD of the Month - "Robin McKelle: Alterations"

Vocal CD of the Month
Robin McKelle: "Alterations" (Doxie/Membran)
Rating: ****

Featuring: Robin McKelle (vocals), Shedrick Mitchell (piano, Fender Rhodes, organ), Richie Goods (acoustic & electric bass), Cherles Haynes (drums & percussion), Nir Felder (guitar), Keith Loftis (tenor sax), Marquis Hill (trumpet)
Produced and arranged by Robin McKelle & Shedrick Mitchell
Engineered by David Stoller @ The Samurai Hotel (NYC, NY)
Cover Design: Kurt Ketchum

Vocalist Robin McKelle delves into the catalogue of some of the most celebrated women of song, interpreting these masterworks through the lens of the jazz idiom.  On Alterations, McKelle follows in a long tradition of female song interpreters, lending her sultry vocal stylings to classics by a diverse list of female innovators including Dolly Parton, Sade, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Janis Joplin, Carol King, Billie Holiday, Joni Mitchell, and Lana Del Ray.  McKelle is joined on this release by a group of consummate musicians including co-producer, pianist and arranger Shedrick Mitchell, acoustic and electric bassist Richie Goods, drummer Charles Haynes, guitarist Nir Felder.  In addition, esteemed saxophonist Keith Loftis is featured on McKelle’s sole original composition on this release, “Head High”; and renowned trumpeter Marquis Hill is featured on Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die”.  The first single from Alterations, McKelle’s rendition of Sade’s “No Ordinary Love”, will be released in late January. Alterations will be released on Doxie Records and distributed and marketed by the Orchard.

In the making of the album, most of McKelle’s vocal tracks used on this final recording were takes she sang live with the band.  On the recording process, McKelle notes “The energy and connection with the musicians was so powerful. They lifted me up and made it feel effortless. I’ve never felt so confident in the studio.”  The energy and connection of the album overall is palpable; stunning interplay is displayed throughout each track. Shedrick Mitchell was responsible for translating McKelle’s visions for each of these tracks into arrangements for this prodigious grouping of musicians to perform.  McKelle notes “Mitchell really understood my vision and did a fabulous job helping to make the arrangements come alive. We fused jazz, soul, r&b, blues and rock all while keeping a continuity in the music.”

The album begins with McKelle’s re-imagining of Winehouse’s “Back to Black”.  A gentle latin rhythm drives this track forward; Mckelle’s voice soars over Mitchell’s masterful accompaniment.  The album continues with McKelle’s soulful take on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, the band uses this song as a vehicle to explore the reflective lyrics with a wonderful, moody reharmonization.  Guitarist Nir Felder takes a stellar solo over these changes. The album proceeds with McKelle’s original composition “Head High”, the artist’s tribute to the female singers and writers who came before her. “It’s about the power that the female singer has. To move people with her lyric and song. To be fearless. To touch people’s emotions. To make change” notes McKelle.  Consummate saxophonist Keith Loftis is featured on this track.

McKelle’s delivers a spirited, bluesy rendition of Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene”, a celebration of the lyrics in a  decidedly different context than the original 1974 release by Parton which earned her a GRAMMY® for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.  “No Ordinary Love” is McKelle’s rendition of Sade’s classic R&B composition.  McKelle’s fiery latin-tinged arrangement of this song emphasizes the ensemble’s fantastic sense of dynamics and interplay.  McKelle’s voice ignites the track and is met with an impassioned solo from Felder. The album ends with a duo performance of Carole King’s classic “You’ve Got a Friend”.  McKelle and Mitchell converse over King’s lyrics, delivering the song’s tenderness with her signature warmth and strength.

The songs on Alterations are diverse in tone and mood. The desperation of Del Ray’s “Born to Die”; The exuberance of Parton’s “Jolene”.  McKelle transitions seamlessly between the emotions of every song. And makes each one her own.  To McKelle, alteration is all. As the artist notes “when you create change, you create space for something to shift in the world and in yourself.  As an artist. And as a human. And that is a change for the good.”

More About the Artist:

A savvy songwriter and a powerhouse vocalist, McKelle has long found a home where soul, jazz,pop, gospel, blues and the American Songbook cross paths. In her live performances, she exudes a bandleader’s moxie that recalls the Rat Pack era.  While comparisons to Ella Fitzgerald are common because of her warm alto voice, her early influences were mostly Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner and Janis Joplin.  McKelle’s voice mirrors the power of those three vocal titans while maintaining the refined nuances of Fitzgerald.  In her early days, McKelle shared the stage with such prestigious artists as Michael McDonald and Bobby McFerrin.

McKelle’s seminal album Introducing Robin McKelle featuring the vocalist performing a list of standards of the jazz repertoire afront a big band, was released in 2006.  This release was followed by 2008’s big band release Modern Antique.  2010’s Mess Around featured McKelle with a paired down ensemble and a repertoire running the gamut from jazz to soul to pop. 

Soul Flower, Merry Christmas Vol. 1 and Heart of Memphis featured McKelle’s hard-partying ensemble The Flytones Led by bassist and co-producer Derek Nievergelt.  On these releases, McKelle amps the grit to 11, displaying her versatility on a wide array of material.  2016’s The Looking Glass was McKelle’s first album of all original material.  McKelle’s Melodic Canvas saw a turning point for the vocalist.  “Tackling tough subject matter including politics, faith and more, McKelle’s Melodic Canvas offers listeners a timely social commentary with a rich, soulful sound. Blending elements of blues, jazz, gospel and soul, the album is an inspired work of pure, aural bliss” (Eponymous Review)

There’s an insightful storyteller’s voice that connects her songs, a narrative thread that feels smart and soulful. In her songwriting and in the arrangements/production of the album, she mixes her varied influences together with strength and grace.

Instrumental Jazz CD of the Month - "Ake Nordin: Soft Winds Trio"

Instrumental Jazz CD of the Month
Ake Nordin: "Soft Winds Trio" (AdOpen 19-001)
Rating: *****

Featuring: Ake Nordin (tenor sax), BG Sahlin (guitar), Ulf Radelius (bass)

Friday, February 21, 2020

R.I.P.: Lyle Mays


Vocal Jazz CD of the Month - "Sarah Thorpe: Deep Blue Love"

Vocal Jazz CD of the Month
Sarah Thorpe: "Deep Blue Love" (Dot Time Records DT 9087)
Rating: ****

Featuring: Sarah Thorpe (vocals), Olivier Hutman (piano), Darry Hall (bass), John Betsch (drums), T.K. Blue (flute, soprano sax, alto sax), Josiah Woodson (trumpet & flugelhorn), Ronald Baker (trumpet) and Ismael Nobour (drums on track 5)
Produced by Sarah Thorpe
Associate Producer: Jean Szlamowicz
Recorded at Studio du Petit Pont (Maurepas, France) in March & May 2019
Engineer: David Drussant
Artwork: Jaime Ford
Cover Photo: Philippe Levy-Stab

Vocalist Sarah Thorpe delivers an album of sultry original material and thoughtful renditions of jazz classics, pairing her distinctive voice and phrasing with rich arrangements, dynamic soloing and rhythmic gusto.  France-native Thorpe uses the ten pieces performed on this album as vehicles for her expression; A refreshing take on the role of the vocalist in a jazz context. Thorpe’s emotive vocal performance paired with rich harmonic and melodic invention sets her apart in today’s crowded musical landscape.  ‘Deep Blue Love’s intensity and deep musicality is in part thanks to the fantastic personnel at Thorpe’s side.  The album features Olivier Hutman on piano, Darryl Hall on bass, John Betsch on drums and special guests T.K Blue on alto sax, Josiah Woodson on trumpet, Ronald Baker on trumpet and Ismael Nobour on drums.

Sarah Thorpe’s vocal precision benefited from the stimulating coaching of Michele Hendricks (daughter of jazz luminary Jon Hendricks) and Sara Lazarus.  The vocalist is able to bring a clarity of tone and an aesthetic alertness to these time-tested compositions and original material that will be appealing to jazz aficionados and novices alike.  Thorpe blends straight-ahead jazz with modern sounds, eschewing the dreary world of over-played standards, exploring the world of composers such as Wayne Shorter, Carmen Lundy and contemporary players like Bobby Watson, Antonio Hart, Marcus Printup, and Dezron Douglas. 

Thorpe’s propensity for modern jazz compositions is evidenced by the pieces the vocalist chose to cover on this release, wonderful instrumental tunes by composers such as Pat Metheny, Horace Silver, Randy Weston and Wayne Shorter which Thorpe seamlessly incorporated into the vocal jazz idiom.  The artist’s wistful interpretation of Horace Silver’s “Lonely Woman”, and her rendition of Randy Weston’s “Pretty Strange” demonstrate Thorpe’s facility as a story-teller as well as a vocalist.  Listeners will enjoy Thorpe’s mesmerizingly pure tone in conjunction with consummate instrumentalist T.K Blue’s flute on Pat Metheny’s “Free”, a truly transfixing arrangement of Metheny’s composition. 

Thorpe’s original compositions demonstrate her deep knowledge of the jazz tradition and her deeply innate rhythmic sensibility.  Each track is groove-based and features strong melodies and opportunities for improvisation while still maintaining a deep sense of meaning being espoused from the vocalist’s every lyric.  The album’s title track starts the record off on a high, showcasing Thorpe’s impressive range. The diversity of groove and feel on this album is a treat in and of itself. As the album progresses, the audience is treated to a latin groove, a second-line feel, a waltz and swing grooves each played more genuinely and authentically than the last; on top of these grooves, Thorpe’s voice soars.

Ernie Andrews once sang ‘You Can Hide Inside the Music’. This Jimmy Heath piece tells of the comfort the listener feels through the music. Except that, for the singer, there’s nowhere to hide. The singer is in plain sight. The singer is supposed to be the one bringing the comfort and emotion and soulfulness that you need. Singers will carry the blues for you. They will deliver it to you, taking the plunge under the spotlight of exposure. A singer is a different animal. They can’t hide inside the music.

Sarah Thorpe has always taken such risks, daring to play in all contexts, from duet to sextet, gliding through tricky arrangements or leading the way with no safety net at all. She was born near Paris, of an English mother and French father, growing up in France and regularly visiting Yorkshire. Although she wasn’t steeped in a musical atmosphere, she always felt inclined to develop her artistic abilities. Singing was an early passion and so she sang while she studied philosophy.

She gigged around in Paris and London, studying with Daniela Barda, Sara Lazarus, Rachel Gould, Kevin Mahogany and, most importantly, the unique Michele Hendricks. She paid her dues in bars and restaurants, singing for private cocktails, but all the while she was focusing on her own music, composing and listening intently.

That’s how she managed quality encounters on the Paris scene, playing with Jason Marsalis, Kirk Lightsey, Hermon Mehari, Hugo Lippi, Talib Kibwe, Darryl Hall, Ronald Baker, and Sean Gourley. For several years, she has worked with Alain Jean-Marie, the extraordinary pianist from Guadeloupe, her ideal duet partner.  Her first album was with pianist and arranger Olivier Hutman, who played with a varied cast that includes Roy Hargrove, Clifford Jordan, Charles Aznavour, Clark Terry and Stéphane Grapelli.

Her influences include Carmen Lundy, Carmen McRae, Dianne Reeves, Aretha Franklin, Lizz Wright, Kevin Mahogany, Erykah Badu and the RH Factor.  This clearly sets her in a creative world apart from run-of-the-mill singers, intent as she is on bringing something new to the table.

Avoiding the theatrics of spectacular tricks, her singing is heartfelt, her voice clear and pure. Within the jazz world, she has built her own world, with melody and emotion at the front—and no, she is not hiding inside the music.

Instrumental Jazz CD of the Month - "Marc Copland: And I Love Her"


Instrumental Jazz CD of the Month
Marc Copland, Drew Gress & Joey Baron: "And I Love Her" (Illusions Mirage IM 4004)
Rating: *****

Featuring: Marc Copland (piano), Drew Gress (bass), Joey Baron (drums)
Produced by Robin Verheyen
Recorded by David Stoller at The Samurai Hotel (NYC, NY) in August 2017
Mixed and mastered by David Darlington at Bass Hit Studios (NYC, NY) in September 2018

Cover Photo: Ian Plant
Liner Photos: John Rogers
Graphics: Elmar Zillgen
Poem: Bill Zavastsky

A brilliant trio effort by Marc Copland, a prolific jazz pianist and composer who has played with John Abercrombie, Gary Peacock, Glen Moore, Eumir Deodato (when still using the name Marc Cohn) and many more. He has released almost 40 lead and solo albums since 1988, and has been a sideman on dozens more.