Greetings from Paris. Tired of waiting for the euro to cooperate, my wife, daughter and I packed our bags and flew off to Paris. We used frequent flier miles to cover the airfare and agreed in advance to eat like mice. After repeated delays at Newark Liberty airport (high winds), our flight left at 12:30 am. Packed into the coach, we encountered the usual cast of characters: screaming kids whose parents did little to discourage their behavior and the guy in front of me who insisted on backing his seat all the way into my lap. [Pictured: The view from our hotel room window]
Paris is gorgeous. It's freezer cold (in the high 20s during the day and the teens or at night), but who cares—it's Paris! And everything is on sale. Each January, Paris stores slash prices by up to 50%. But we don't need anything except for long walks, art and good food.
Ithamara Koorax. During the recent holiday-party season I had the good fortune to be introduced to Ithamara Koorax, a Brazilian singer with an amazing range and enormous vocal power. A week after the party, Ithamara's CD, Love Dance: The Ballad Album, arrived in the mail.
The 2003 release is delicate and sensitive, as any superb Brazilian album should be. There's something about Brazilian ballad interpretations that is at once reflective and exuberant. I suppose that my fondness for the genre can partly be explained by my complete ignorance of the Portuguese language. Which means I have no idea of the story being conveyed through the lyrics. And I don't want to know. The humid, sultry sound is so passionate and intoxicating that I'm afraid the meaning of the words would water down my emotional reaction. Without translation, Brazilian ballads sound as though they're being sung to you by a lover at a train station begging you not to go. [Pictured: Ithamara with Antonio Carlos Jobim; photo by Livio Campos]
What's exciting about Love Dance is how Ithamara lassoes each song, swinging them up higher and higher as she draws out every drop of sorrow and resignation. In addition, Ithamara bends notes effortlessly, and not just a whole step. She somehow manages to bend notes an entire octave, adding power along the way. It's quite fascinating to hear. She sings many of the CD's songs in English, so those who don't share my passion for words you can't understand will be pleased. [Pictured with Luiz Bonfa; photo by Livio Campos]
The album's selections range from an intriguing Mark Murphy-inspired Love Dance to Mario Castro-Neves' mid-tempo and breezy Someday, in which Ithamara summons up the girl-woman sound of 1960s Brazilian vocalist Sylvia Telles. On Flame (O Amor E Chama), Ithamara's vocal skills defy gravity. And if you love April in Paris, you'll find a version sung in English that's unlike any other. This one sounds truly pained and nostalgic for the City of Lights in the spring.
Ithamara takes plenty of risks. You can almost hear her thinking about which way to go at different points on songs, and her spur-of-the-moment decision is never made with hesitation or safety in mind. When given a choice, Ithamara always takes the challenging way out. Results can range from an impossibly high note or an unusual choice in the lower register.
As for Ithamara's musical reputation, the list of esteemed side musicians on the session is testament to her skills. Joining her on tracks were Luiz Bonfa, Gonzalo Rubalcaba [pictured], John McLaughlin, Mario Castro-Neves and other well-known musicians.
I see that Amazon here is offering about 12 copies from independent sellers for around $1.99 each. Grab Love Dance fast—before that tag turns into $49.99.
Roy Haynes. WKCR radio will celebrate the career of Roy Haynes with a special festival celebrating the career of the legendary drummer starting today, Sunday January 11 at 8 am, airing continuously until Friday January 23 at 9 pm. The show will cover Roy's entire recorded discography, plus interviews and other special features. You can access the show anywhere in the world on your computer here. For my interview series with Roy, go here.
Marooned bassoons. Last week, following my post on bassoonist Daniel Smith, I received several emails from readers taking me to task for leaving several jazz bassoonists off my list:
From jazz writer and saxophonist Bill Kirchner:
"You left out one of the foremost exponents of jazz bassoon today, Michael Rabinowitz [pictured], who has been active since the 1980s. (He played in my Nonet for several years.) Here's his site."
From reader Red Colm O'Sullivan in Ireland (reader John Herr also mentioned the same recordings):
"Don't forget the great recordings made by Illinois Jacquet [pictured] on bassoon: Bassoon Blues from The Message (1963), Caravan from The King (1968) and 'Round Midnight from The Blues, That's Me! (1969)."
Reader Michael Palmer in Australia and host of a Johnny Hodges tribute site went back in time even further:
Richard Sudhalter. A concert in memory of Richard M. Sudhalter, the late jazz musician, historian, biographer, and critic, will be held in New York on Monday, January 12, at St. Peter's Lutheran Church, 619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street, from 7 to 10 pm.
Top of the pops. Last week, after my post on British female pop singers, I received a lovely email of thanks from '60s British pop sensation Helen Shapiro: