Tag Archives: Brazilian music

“IT’S ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT THE MELODY”: MARGARET HERLEHY, “CAFÉ 1930”

In his cryptic but meaningful way, when asked a question about style, Jo Jones said something like, “You get tired of wearing the same shirt all the time.”  I feel that statement’s truth.  Although there is a deep variety in the musics I cherish, I get excited when offered the chance to hear something beautiful, deep, and not the usual.  A perfect — and perfectly gratifying example of this is Margaret Herlehy’s CD, CAFÉ 1930.

Margaret Herlehy in flight

Margaret Herlehy in flight

Before you read a word more, I ask respectfully that you clear your mind of preconceptions, held ideas, historico-critical frozen dinners, imposed categorizations, and simply listen to some music that might be new to you.  And delightful:

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I find the music that oboist Margaret Herlehy has created on this CD delicately yet powerfully intoxicating.  A friend suggested I listen to the disc, and I looked up from my daily diet of SWINGIN’ AT THE DAISY CHAIN and WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNG, MAGGIE, and ON A COCONUT ISLAND with mild skepticism.  “Wait.  Oboe?  Choro?”

Interruption: Choro is very much like Brazilian ragtime, and it swings irresistibly.  Ask Ehud Asherie.  Ask Howard Alden.

But I trust the friend’s musical judgment and began to listen — and I admire this music greatly.  Some of the tracks swing in a graceful sashaying way; others are sweet pensive interludes.  At times, the music comforts; at times, it exalts.  And although some may have deep-rooted prejudices against the oboe (“It’s so nasal.”) it becomes a wooing instrument in Margaret’s hands.

I asked her to tell me (and by extension, you) about the inspiration for this CD:

I began playing in experimental improvisational ensembles while studying at Sarah Lawrence College in the 1980’s.  It was during this period that I first realized that the oboe could have a voice beyond classical repertoire and began to dabble in other genres.  It’s always been about the melody for me, finding different ways to bring out characters and colors in music.  As a classical orchestral player, I have had the opportunity to play incredible music; but I found myself longing for music that allowed time to develop ideas and creative freedom with phrasing.

I started performing the music by the Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla about 8 years ago.  His Tangos are traditionally played with Flute or Violin as the lead voice but it turns out his bandeleon player was also an oboist.  On a few very old recordings of Piazzolla’s band, you can hear an oboe playing some of the melodies. This is what inspired me to start exploring his Tangos and to discover Café 1930, ( the title track of the CD ) a haunting and beautiful piece that I have wanted to record for many years.  Samba, Choro and Maxixe followed.  I am forever grateful to my guitarist David Newsam for turning me on to this evocative, lyrical music and players who would help me to embrace and incorporate the style.

CAFE 1930 screen shot

After hearing CAFÉ 1930 at least a half-dozen times, I am both gleeful and inspired.  I thank Margaret for having the courage to make lyrical music in a time and place where beauty sometimes has a hard time amidst mechanized clamor.

To learn more about Margaret in her many lyrical and exploratory selves, you might visit her YouTube channel, or her blog — as well as purchasing or downloading this delicious CD for yourself.  Lyrical beauty like this deserves and needs our embracing support.

CAFE 1930 c0ver

May your happiness increase!

HOWARD ALDEN’S WORLD TOUR (and A MYSTERY GUEST) from JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA 2011

Guitarist Howard Alden could double as a travel agent — taking us all on a musical tour.  In his recital at Jazz at Chautauqua (Sept. 16, 2011), we found ourselves in Brazil, the mountains, Japan, Kansas City — with a surprise visit from an immediately recognizable Italian virtuoso pianist.  In this first segment, Howard plays a medley of lilting Brazilian jazz tunes.  My Portuguese is very poor, so I haven’t transcribed the titles, but the music is lovely no matter what it’s called:

Then, Howard’s tribute to the Master, George Van Eps — a medley of LAP PIANO and MOUNTAIN GREENERY:

From Howard’s latest CD (on Arbors), here’s Joe Pass’ FOR DJANGO and a rocking NAGASAKI:

And, since everyone needs an Italian guide to understand Southwest swing, here’s BASIC RHYTHM with comradely assistance from Rossano Sportiello:

All of this without a heavy suitcase or standing on line at the airport.  Thanks, Howard (and Rossano)!

BRAZILIAN BREEZES IN NEW YORK CITY (Sept. 25, 2011)

Last Sunday, the Beloved and I had a lovely experience while having brunch at the Antique Garage Restaurant, 41 Mercer Street, New York City.  Good food and pleasant service in a comfortable environment would have been enough — but add to it the lilting improvisations of the Banda de Antique Garage, and the afternoon was a memorable one.

The Banda de Antique Garage plays lovely Brazilian music — its secret is that no member of this casually accomplished trio is from South America, but you’d never notice.  From the left, you’ll see Debbie Kennedy on bass, Davy Mooney on guitar, and Laura Dreyer on alto saxophone and flute.

The three members lead the active lives of free-lance New York City jazz musicians: I hadn’t known Laura’s work before, but her musical associations are wide-ranging (visit http://www.lauradreyer.com).  Debbie first impressed me sometime in 2005 when she was a charter member of Eddy Davis’s Wednesday night band (eventually called WILD REEDS AND WICKED RHYTHMS) at the Cajun in New York City.  Davy Mooney knocked me out when I heard him performing with Gordon Au’s Grand Street Stompers.

Brazilian music is entrancing and hypnotic, but it’s also difficult to float through in the same way one of these musicians could comfortably deal with I GOT RHYTHM changes . . . so the music stands in the videos testify to this band’s desire to expand their already large repertoire.  Each member of the trio brings new songs and new arrangements to every gig, with very pleasing results.

Here are four videos from last Sunday afternoon by a compact little group that makes the warm breezes of Brazil come to New York City.  Although they call themselves the Banda de Antique Garage (not the same thing as a garage band) I am sure that they are available for gigs elsewhere . . .

Here’s the rhapsodic, rocking MENINA FLOR:

Jobim’s INUTIL PAISGEM (“Useless Landscape,” the song of a broken-hearted lover who says the landscape means nothing without the departed one):

QUEM TE VEM, QUEM TE VAO, sinuously winding:

And the ruminative FROM THE LONELY AFTERNOONS (by Milton Nasciamento):

No afternoon would be lonely spent listening to this band: catch them in person when you can!