Tag Archives: samba

“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!

A BRAZILIAN WATERCOLOR: NATE NAJAR TRIO

More than half a century ago, Bossa Nova and Brazilian pop music became part of our common musical language; I recall how delightfully we were surrounded by the sounds of Charlie Byrd, Stan Getz, Jobim and Gilberto.

NATE NAJAR TRIO

The music is still vividly alive, as demonstrated by guitarist Nate Najar’s new CD, AQUARELA DO BRASIL (Candid Records CCD79988), where he is joined by Tommy Cecil, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums (all except 5, 7) and vibes (5, 7); Harry Allen, tenor saxophone (3, 8); Duduka Da Fonseca, drums (5, 7).  The songs are Canto De Ossanha / Carinhoso / Ligia / Aquarela do Brasil (Brazil) / Amparo (Olha Maria) / Chovendo No Roseira (Double Rainbow) / Fotografia / Samba For Felix / Charlotte’s Fancy / Canto De Ossanha (in an extended version).

Nate, in the fashion of his mentor Charlie Byrd, makes beautiful pools of sound on his unamplified guitar — reminding us that this sometimes-abused instrument was meant for amorous serenades — but he never loses his uplifting pulse.  Indeed, many of the performances on this disc have rollicking vamps as their heartbeat, but they are never merely rhythmic exercises, for Nate, Tommy, Chuck, and Harry are too deeply committed to melody for that. And although the swinging evocations of dancing in Rio are irresistible, I was drawn to the more meditative moments on this disc: Nate’s ruminative playing on CHARLOTTE’S FANCY and CARINHOSO, and his opening statement on AMPARO. The music, although all “Brazilian,” comes from different composers and eras — four by Jobim, but also compositions by Barrosa, De Moraes, and two more recent originals by Byrd and Cecil — spanning a range of music from the late Thirties to the present. The result is evocation rather than a copy — this is not a “famous album reproduced fifty years later” but a soulful exploration of the many possibilities of the genre.

Here is more information about the disc (including Nate’s gently perceptive notes — minus the final two paragraphs) on the Candid Records site, and you can learn more about Nate here.  For an engaging sample of the music Nate’s trio creates live, here is a 2012 recording of SAMBA FOR FELIX (named for jazz enthusiast and disc jockey Felix Grant) recorded in 2012:

May your happiness increase! 

RON ODRICH QUINTET featuring DAN BLOCK and JAMES CHIRILLO (Feb. 7, 2012)

One way of identifying Ron Odrich is that he is a Park Avenue, New York City periodentist who happens to play clarinet.  But once you’ve heard him play, you’ll agree that this definition is, at best, upside-down.  Really, he is a fine jazz clarinetist who happens to have a day gig as well.  He gets around nimbly on his instrument, with a fine command of that treacherous horn in all its registers; he has a big sound, cool but never cold, and he turns corners like a great racing car driver.

He’s also got durability: his little band has been gigging for thirty years, a record hard to beat.  These days, on the first Tuesday of every month, they play an early gig (6 – 8:30 PM) at the amiable Italian restaurant SAN MARTIN (143 East 49th Street, New York City).

With Ron for this session, on February 7, were Cenz on drums, Gary Mazzaroppi on string bass, James Chirillo on guitar, and — as a guest star — Dan Block on tenor sax and clarinet.  This band stretched out on five tunes — one of them a ballad feature for Dan — and everyone in the place beamed.

They began with a sweetly twining version of that musical oxymoron, ALONE TOGETHER:

A lovely but moving impression of Tommy Dorsey’s theme, I’M GETTING SENTIMENTAL OVER YOU, followed:

Here’s a rattling good performance of the samba NO MORE BLUES:

Then Ron turned it over to Dan for a melancholy, intense feature on ALL TOO SOON (with James filling in 1940 Ellington band riffs behind him):

And a clarinet extravaganza on the theme of LIMEHOUSE BLUES:

You’ll notice in these videos how much straightforward exploring is going on — both in solos and in ensemble intertwining — not just theme / solo / theme; admire Ron’s nimbleness, Dan’s warmth; James’s witty cubist visions; Gary’s deep pulse; Cenz’s variety of sounds.

To learn more about Ron (he has some fine new compact discs — one of them a solo clarinet recital which I can recommend highly), visit him here.  Or catch him live at a gig — even better than watching videos on your computer!