Monday, February 1, 2010

Vocal CD of the Month - "Havana Carbo: Phantoms of Love"

Vocal CD of the Month
Havana Carbo: "Phantoms of Love" (MODL Music) 2010

Rating: ***** (5 stars)
Featuring: Dario Eskenazi, Oriente Lopez, Vince Cherico, Oscar Feldman, Sean Smith, Leo Traversa, Pablo Aslan, John Pezanelli, Helio Alves, Nilson Matta, Lino Fernandez, Gabriel Machado.
Highlights: "Tarde Triste," "Poinciana," "Canto Triste," "Tres Palabras," "Retrato em Branco e Preto," "Que Reste-t-il de nos Amours," "La Valse des Lilas," "Maybe September," "The Shining Sea."
Available from

Actually, the whole album is a highlight. Our latin-tinged Helen Merrill, Gladys "Havana" Carbo delivers another love letter in form of a CD. Her warm and seductive voice, gifted with exceptional phrasing and impeccable enunciation, fits perfectly with the sumptuous repertoire.
The unexpected opener, Maysa's "Tarde Triste," would be enough to make it one of the top CDs of the year. But the emotions don't stop there. Havana's renditions of Percy Faith's "Maybe September" (the best one since Tony Bennett's take on his masterpiece album from 1965, "The Movie Song Album"), Michel Legrand's "La Valse des Lilas" (aka "Once Upon A Summertime", Legrand's first song, dating 1954), Johnny Mandel/Peggy Lee's "The Shining Sea," Nat Simon/Buddy Bernier's "Poinciana" made a hit by Ahmad Jamal, and Osvaldo Farrés' bolero anthem "Tres Palabras" are beyond words.
Besides "Tarde Triste," her affinity for Brazilian music is showcased through magnificent interpretations of Edu Lobo/Vinicius de Moraes' "Canto Triste" (a song included in the first album I ever produced, the debut LP of Yana Purim for RCA in 1980) and Antonio Carlos Jobim/Chico Buarque's "Retrato Em Branco e Preto," all sung in Portuguese. Not to mention Havana's French adventure on Charles Trenet's standard "Que Reste-t-il de Nos Amours," one of João Gilberto's personal favorite songs, having been recorded by the Bossa Nova Pope on his "João" album orchestrated by Clare Fischer in 1991. Essential.
(Havana Carbo during the recording sessions for "Phantoms of Love")
The artist talks about her creative process and the making of this new CD:

‘Phantoms of Love’ …from dream to reality.
In an earlier poem I wrote about “ a land where love and beauty reign.” Beauty…that rare pearl of incalculable value, cherished all the more as values change! Instinct draws me to well-crafted, beautiful music and compelling stories. Rummaging through scores, recordings, films, and remembered conversations, childhood songs, saved photographs, I search for treasure.

That’s my process for selecting songs, and was my process in creating ‘Phantoms of Love.’ I picked these tunes from among hundreds. Forever intrigued by the obscure gem and bypassing the usual menu, beauty trumps all. Financial gain is never a motivating factor, and as an independent artist/producer I’m free to let artistic integrity guide me. I’m answerable only to my conscience and my heart. Not an easy or practical choice but one I can live with.

I suppose I should explain how my mind worked for this album. I don't do ‘up-tunes’ any more…for the sake of doing up-tunes to balance the album. ‘Happy’ music for no particular reason doesn't appeal to me...unless the song meets my criteria which includes beauty, construction and content. This particular collection is more than a bunch of pretty songs... they tell a story, are woven from a fine, sometimes fragile thread and speak of vulnerability, loss, haunting memories of love, and all are personal intimate moments. They are part of a complex process which starts with my interminable and ever growing list of songs I absolutely love. After
months of editing out titles I found myself with a group of songs united by some common thread, often not immediately apparent. I followed my gut however, and began to recognize which ones worked and why. As I narrowed them down to the final dozen or so, I then began searching for a hidden reason or message that linked them all together, often concurrent with, and influenced by the state of my heart and my mind at the moment, or by the pain or joy of my soul. I let the music speak to me. Sounds nutty? Perhaps, but to me it's the only thing that makes sense. Commercial success is never a priority though the economic aspect surfaces like Hamlet's ghost as I confront the reality of my life, yet it never alters my vision or my artistic integrity. If anything it reinforces what I believe to be right.

In this collection, Poinciana and Que Reste-t-il de Nos Amours can be considered my concession to an uptune, but that's not why they were selected. It just worked out that way.
As for Epilogue, that's something I wrote in the 80's for piano to act as underscoring for ‘Llanto de Luna.’
You'll notice that in no way is it meant to assuage or musically smooth out the tragic lyric or to make it easy for the singer - quite the opposite, it's meant to be in conflict and highlight the sadness and despair in the lyric. Comfortable harmonies are for resolutions and happy endings. I included it as my epilogue as well, both a farewell and a recapping of all the stories that came before. A theatrical conceit.

I’m fortunate and thrilled to work with such remarkable multi-talented musicians in an ambience of fun and friendship. I have the deepest appreciation for Dario Eskenazi’s legendary artistry, sensibility and highly developed sense of beauty, his myriad arrangements and the production of many songs (see credits) selfless dedication and an uncanny ability to make me laugh; for Oriente Lopez’s musicality, originality, versatility and music-direction of his arrangements; Vince Cherico’s rare sensibility, dependability, wisdom and long, helpful conversations, Leo’s sensual heartbeat bass, Sean’s solid dependable round tone, and the entire ‘Band of Angels’ for their brilliance, high level of professionalism and flexibility. I’m indebted to my sons Michael
and Robert for long hours, patience and exceptional photography/ artwork; I am blown away by the generosity of spirit and kind words of extraordinary composer Gabriel Yared (Possesso).
I cherish the love and support of my other children Aline and Ethan, my brother Nick, and loyal friends.

Serendipity played a role when funds from a soon to become ex-employer appeared - the genie came out to make this project possible. (2nd CD on my label MODL, 5th CD to date).
Having recently survived cancer, I live fearlessly and thankfully in every minute, every song and every act of kindness.
We are born, we die and everything in-between is a gift. Nourished then by music, laughter, love and beauty
I’m living that rare and beautiful gift.
- Havana Carbo, NY
Press Release:

US raised, Cuban-American singer/composer HAVANA CARBO, nee Gladys Lourdes Margarita Carbo Ramiro Garcia y de la Torre, received her MFA in Music Theatre composition from TSOA/M/T at NYU ('93) and is a Yip Harburg Fellow. Formerly recorded on Soul Note, later CAP. Carbo now records on MODLmusic, her own label since 1985.

At 3 she took to the piano and at 8 began formal lessons in Havana, where she was raised in an environment that celebrated music but viewed "nightclub" performing as inappropriate for a young lady. Jazz established residence in her soul during her NY high school years, but parental scrutiny prevailed, and a brief marriage to a Cuban Economics major she met while at Villanova University in pre-Castro Havana dealt the final blow to her musical pursuits.

Twenty odd years, a revolution, three marriages, several moves and four fabulous children later, with life's experiences as bonus, she created "Havana Midnight", a successful latin/jazz group in the Berkshires devoted to her arrangements of Latin American classics from her past. A self-produced EP (Another Summer) led to a Soul Note contract, "Street Cries" (1991) with Gene Bertoncini, Michael Moore, Marvin Stamm and John Sauer. Acceptance at NYU's prestigious Music Theatre Masters program allowed her two wonderful creative years followed by an unsolicited divorce that coincided with her Masters degree. The divorce turned out to be an invaluable gift and the defining moment that prompted her permanent move to New York City to pursue her passion.

Her introduction to American popular song and jazz came via Chet Baker, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Hartman, Frank Sinatra, June Christy, Mel Torme, and later Shirley Horn, Maysa, Elis Regina, Joao Gilberto, Edu Lobo, Ivan Lins and Antonio Carlos "Tom" Jobim. Fascinated by the directness of Brazilian lyrics, incomparable melodies and harmonies, Carbo taught herself Portuguese to better understand the culture, and to do justice to the song. Over a decade ago, as luck would have it, while searching for lyrics to a song she heard sung by Gilberto called, "Retrato em Branco e Preto," she was put in contact with its composer, the legendary Jobim, who gave generously of his time on the telephone by clarifying, translating, and answering her questions.

Carbo believes that greatness inspires acts of great generosity, most recently displayed by the Oscar winning composer Gabriel Yared, when, as his huge fan she sent him a simple note thanking him for his extraordinary music. That act eventually led to Yared granting her artistic freedom to record her interpretation of his aria Possesso from his score for the film "Possession". Her core "Band of Angels" consists of Dario Eskenazi, Vince Cherico. Oriente Lopez, Sean Smith and Leo Traversa. Carbo has also performed /recorded with Cliff Korman, Cafe, Helio Alves, Edsel Gomez, Aaron Goldberg, John Di Martino, Nilson Matta, El Negro Hernandez, Arturo O'Farrill and the Chico O'Farrill Band, John Benitez, Diego Urcola, Mark Walker, Alain Mallet, Oscar Feldman, Oscar Stagnaro, and the late greats Jimmy Giuffre, Edson Machado and Mercedes Rossy.

You can order a "Havana Carbo", an exotic rum based drink created in her honor, at the Redbones Blues Cafe, an upscale Supper Club, in Kingston Jamaica. Previous recordings, have garnered glowing reviews from as far as Braga, Portugal to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Arnaldo Desouteiro wrote (on the Rio daily Tribuna da Imprensa) that Carbo possesses a "...singularly warm timbre...extraordinary phrasing and stirring expressiveness... and "is destined to develop a cult-following" calling Luna de Varadero "SUBLIME...a perfect CD". As a result DeSouteiro selected Carbo Best Female Jazz Vocalist of the Year for 2004 and 2007 on his annual Jazz Station Poll.

In addition to composing discrete songs other compositions include a one-act Music Theatre piece, another in progress, and other compositions include "Arco Iris" a chamber piece in 5 colors for guitar, soprano saxophone and piano premiered at Simon's Rock, and the Stockbridge Requiem, a latin/jazz/classical setting of the liturgy for the Requiem Mass for organ, full chorus and jazz quintet. Carbo has performed in venues here and abroad, from Birdland to Jazz Festivals in the Caribbean, small Paris boites, concert halls such as Aaron Davis Hall, Gillespie Auditorium, the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art, Berkshire Museum and SOKA University California.

Her ever evolving and often entertaining adventures coupled with a typically Cuban ability to find humor in tragedy has given her a deeper insight and greater determination, most recently as a cancer survivor. Every moment informs her music, including her diverse work experiences and the irony and contradictions of her various roles in the worlds she inhabits. Carbo turns lemons into 'mojitos' and deals as it comes, allowing life to enrich her understanding of other cultures, languages, stories and songs.

Havana continues to write poetry, music, and working on "LIVING BY EAR", a One-Woman Show based on her adventurous life. She found her home in a community of extraordinary musicians with whom she is proud to work. Nourished by love of music, family and friends she lives in constant awe of the gift that is music and the responsibilitythat comes with the gift, striving to keep her dream alive and uncompromised.
Best Female Jazz Vocalist of 2007 "Through A window...Like a Dream," Best Female Jazz Singer and Top Vocal CD of 2007 - Arnaldo DeSouteiro, Tribuna da Imprensa and Jazz Station Poll, Dec.2007

" Carbo is among the world's great singers...master storyteller... impeccable phrasing, a voice to remember." Sun-Sentinel

"...Carbo infuses traditional Latin ballads with new musical meanings..." DownBeat

"Elegant, unhurried, utterly classy...very rich and rewarding album." - New World Music

" notch, pure music...unaffected by fashion or fad. A winner.

"...rare vocalist... with a rare degree of taste...thoroughly delightful CD" Ken Dryden, All Music Guide

"...achingly beautiful." Nate Guidry, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"..." Carbo can evoke the atmosphere of a smoky back alley bar as easily as that of a sophisticated club on the Lido. A master of musical understatement and subtlety, she becomes one with the impeccable musicianship of the ensemble of prominent musicians with whom she performs." Richard Peaslee, 2007

" Like Dietrich, Carbo's endowed with a remarkable ability to simultaneously sound dreamily passionate and drowning in ennui." Jazz Times

"Sublime singer... #1 Female Jazz Vocalist of 2004 " A. DeSouteiro, Tribuna da Imprensa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


"Carbo's voice has a rich timbre combined with a directness and a remarkable feeling of intimacy and restrained passion". Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

Terrific, an effortless sounding voice...warm as heated cognac, magic...
"Bronwyn Mills, The Valley Advocate, Mass.

"Havana stepped up to the microphone and the magic began... Sunday Observer, Jamaica W.I.

"...her velvet voice parades throughout your body...her music subtly reminds her listener that she has lived in every lyric and every note... writes bone shattering poetry." Joanna Rudnick, the Artful Mind

" A deep, powerful the Gilberto tradition she creates a kind of a hush around her lyrics..."
Michael Ullman, High fidelity Magazine
1985 Another Summer EP- (MODL)
1991 Street Cries (Soul Note)
1997 So I'll Dream You Again (CAP)
2004 Luna de Varadero (CAP)
2007 Through a Window...Like a Dream (MODLmusic)
2010 Phantoms of Love (MODLmusic)

Photos by Michael Lavin Flower


Alethea said...

Hello Mr. De Souteiro,
Gladys Havana Carbo Flower passed away yesterday at 6:35pm in the Berkshires. 10.25.15

Arnaldo DeSouteiro said...

Dear Alethea, Thx for your note. I've sent you an inbox message to your Facebook profile; it's on the "Others" section of your message box, since we were not connected on Facebook before. Best Regards.