Music Review: Fabiana Pessoni/Inner Bossa

Cover art for “Inner Bossa”

By Ernest Barteldes

On a recent post I mentioned that many independent West Coast musicians have often reached out to me for reviews on Music Whatever. I am not sure why this is happening, but I am not one to complain, since this gives me a new path of discovery that takes me out of my New York-centric environment.

On her third EP release, Los Angeles-based Mineira singer-songwriter Fabiana Pessoni comes up with a five-track  album that includes original songs mostly songs in English. All have a bossa nova feel without trying to be pretentious.  Unlike most discs of the genre, the guitar is not at the forefront of the instruments – instead, the bass and percussion stand out, framing each tune to the singer’s voice.

The first that stood out for me was the Portuguese-language “Pele Ao Abraçar,” an up-tempo tune that features some great saxophone accents and solos. “Mouvance” is a more traditional bossa with a Jobim-influenced piano base (the intro is reminiscing of “Tinha Que Ser Com Voce,” recorded by Elis Regina and Jobim on the legendary Elis & Tom).  Pessoni sings in English and Portuguese, giving more intensity to the vocals on the former and giving more of a bossa feel to the latter.

There is also a cover of Spandau Ballet’s 1983 hit “True,” a tune that has become bit of a staple in Brazilian oldies stations. Pessoni’s delivery does not have any of the drama from the original recording, instead giving it a more subtle direction.

It is odd that this is the first time I hear her music, considering how attuned I have always been to the work of expat Brazilian musicians (and also those in Brazil). After listening to Inner Bossa, I am sure to keep my eyes and ears opened to her work – and now I am becoming more and more convinced to personally check out the music scene in the other side of the coast.

Check her out at http://fabianapassoni.com

Concert Review: “Gracias A La Vida” tribute to Violeta Parra featuring Ana Tijoux, Colombina Parra and Illapu

Il

Gracias a La Vida: The Rebel Spirit of Violeta Parra

Pace University

April 17, 2015

New York, NY

By Ernest Barteldes

In an evening of dedicated to trailblazing singer-songwriter Violeta Parra named after what is arguably her most celebrated songs, rapper Ana Tijoux opened the proceeding accompanied by an acoustic guitarist, opening with a stripped-down version of “Sacar La Voz,” a tune originally recorded as a duet with Jorge Drexler, following that with “Mi Verdad,” a poignant tune on the class differences in her native land – a growing problem all over Latin America.

She closed her short set with “Antipatriarca,” a feminist  statement against machismo around the world whole lyrics say  “you will not humiliate me/you will not shut me up/you will not oppress me” during the chorus.

parratribute3

Tijoux adapts well to a more intimate setting – she presented a similar set during the acoustic showcase at the 2014 Latin Alternative Music Conference acoustic showcase, singing with a more melodic feel, taking advantage of the empty spaces to give a fuller vocal delivery.

parratribute2

Backed by a three-piece group (guitars, percussion), Colombina Parra took to the stage with no introduction, playing a set of psychedelic-inspired original songs with no apparent reference to her aunt.  Her music was quite aggressive and electric. She didn’t seem too eager to connect with the audience, and the only time she did have any interaction was when she interrupted one of the tunes to briefly introduce the band.

Her music seems to come from various influences – one song had a Bob Dylan-esque quality, and another ended with a cacophony of sounds that reminded me of the Beatles’ “A Day in The Life.” Her stage persona was, however, a bit off-putting.

After a short intermission the six-piece Illapu (pronounced ih-lah-PUH) began with an uptempo Andean number. The sextet often switched instruments, often playing with different pan flutes, charangas and regular guitars in addition to percussion and bass guitar.  Their set included songs by Parra and also by Victor Jara, the composer and singer tortured and murdered by the Pinochet regime in 1973.

The group, however, does not dwell in sadness but celebrates the music of the harsh times that eventually led to the entire band being exiled from their home country.  In fact, one of the most celebrated songs of the set was “Vuelo Para Vivir,” a song that talks about their return to Chile with footage of the group being received in Santiago airport to hugs and tears from fans and family members.

Colombina Parra was invited back to the stage to sing lead on “Gracias a La Vida” with Illapu.  She read the lyrics as she sang (to the surprise of many in the audience – the song is very well known throughout Latin America.  They closed with “Arriba Quemando Al Sol” with Parra on lead vocals and very tight four-part harmony vocals from the group.

Chicago and West Coast Beat: Gracias a La Vida, A Tribute to Violeta Parra

By Ernest Barteldes

Violeta Parra was one of the greatest singers and songwriters to emerge during the
“Nueva Cancion” (“new song”) movement in South America, and was incredibly influential not only for her contemporaries but also to many fans and musicians who came after she took her own life in 1967.

Parra is arguably best recognized for “Gracias a La Vida,” a song that celebrates the gifts of life – the tune was recorded by luminaries like Mercedes Sosa, Brazil’s Elis Regina and countless others.  The lyrics speak of gratefulness and the happiness of being in love, but some interpret the words as a suicide note.

The tribute will feature Ilaipu, an Andean group formed in 1971 that had first-hand experience of the excesses of the Pinochet regime:  after wrapping up a tour in 1981, they found themselves barred from their own country due to the political content of their lyrics. They lived in exile for almost the remainder of the decade, when the dictator finally stepped down in 1988 following a successful opposition campaign to strip him from the presidency.

Also on the bill is Colombina Parra (a niece of Violeta’s), who started her career as a punk/grunge singer-songwriter in the 1990s.  Her style did evolve, and now she incorporates various acoustic and regional elements into her music – an example of that is “Volvamos a Encontrarnos,” a sensual tune in which she almost whispers the vocals with the backing of percussion and acoustic guitar.

The Chicago concert is part of a four-day event entitled “ Gracias a la Vida: The Rebel Spirit of Chile’s Legendary Voice, which celebrates Parra’s legacy with field trips, film screenings and lectures.

Saturday, April 18, Old Town School of Folk, 4544 N Lincoln Ave · Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall; 773.728.6000; 7:00; $30

Album Review: Craig Greenberg’s “Grand Loss & Legacy”

By Ernest Barteldes

I first met Craig Greenberg about three years ago at a rehearsal studio in Brooklyn.  We were both part of the backing band for Roger Greenawalt’s “Beatles Live on Ukulele” at The Brooklyn Bowl – an event I participated in for three years. At the time, I was pretty oblivious of the New York independent music scene since I’d spent most of my time covering jazz and world acts (to a degree that is still true – even today, more West Coast musicians reach out to me for coverage than folks closer to my own ZIP code – but I digress) and had a vague idea of who was taking part of it. As far as I could tell, these were some musically gifted Beatles enthusiasts who were willing to be part of a charitable event.

It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I realized that Greenberg was actually an accomplished singer-songwriter with great piano and guitar chops (I’ve seen posts about his ukulele, but I haven’t heard him playing that one yet). In fact, one of my proudest moments from the three Beatles events I participated in is a version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in which I contributed bass and supporting vocals with Greenberg on lead vocals, Jeremiah Birnbaum on co-lead guitar and Greenawalt on uke – a the song came out great in spite of the fact that we only rehearsed it a couple of times.

In 2014 I heard Greenberg do his own music for the first time at his debut appearance at Joe’s Pub, which I reviewed for All About Jazz a few months ago – so it was natural that I wanted to listen to The Grand Loss and Legacy as soon as it came out – and let me tell you that his new tunes confirmed my initial good impression of his work as a songwriter.

I read reviews from other writers, and many make obvious comparisons between him and Billy Joel, which I completely disagree with. It’s too easy to pigeonhole a piano-playing rocker from New York to Joel, and I feel that even though Greenberg might have been influenced by him, he goes way farther than that.  What I like about him is his sense of humor towards the music and his jazz-like approach to his main instrument.

One of the highlight from the disc is “That Girl Is Wrong For You,” fast-tempo tune in which the narrator urges a friend to see that he is in a doomed relationship.  The friend spells it right out without any metaphors, making it clear that the woman will destroy his friend’s spirit and advising him to end it “before it’s too late.”  He makes a political statement on “Death on The Liberty Line” that makes a reference to the provisions of the Patriot Act (without mentioning it directly), warning of the dangers of giving up certain freedoms for the sake of fear. I enjoyed how guitarist Patrick Brennan contributed a Brian May-inspired guitar line that accompanies the vocal line and also the ominous-sounding solo towards the end of the track.

Another great moment comes with the uptempo “Weekend Holiday,” a story about a girl who dreams of stardom and once she makes to the top, she seems not to have achieved all of her dreams even though she has everyone at her feet – a cautionary tale about wanting a material life but lacking spiritual achievement.

Greenberg did a great job with this collection – the arrangements were carefully done (although I would have liked the guitars to stand out a little more) and the songs seem carefully crafted.  This is a guy ripe for discovery by a bigger audience – so catch him before he’s playing venues you can’t afford.

Listen to “That Girl Is Wrong For You” 

Visit his website http://craiggreenbergmusic.com/grandloss/