Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Harvey Wainapel's fabulous "Amigos Brasileiros" project Comes to Seattle

Harvey Wainapel
CD Artwork by Menote Cordeiro

Harvey Weinapel - Composer, Reeds Player, Brazilan and American Jazz
Premiering live the pieces from his new CD " Amigos Brasileiros Vol 2".
In Seattle at the Royal Room, Tuesday Oct 7 8pm appearing with special guests the Jovinos Santos Neto Quarteto.
website http://www.harvjazz.com CDs can be purchased through the website

Harvey Wainapel is a highy accomplished reeds player and composer originally trained in American jazz and who has developed a lifelong passion for Brazilian music. He made the choice to seriously study music by enrolling, in the year 1971, in the Berklee College of music in Boston, which at that time was one of the first collegiate-level jazz schools. The early 70's were an exciting time for jazz, as it was bursting at the seams with all kinds of new explorations. He began playing with the top artists of the day, and he hasn't looked back. He refers to himself as a "late bloomer", but to be honest, he has had what anyone who keeps up with the music would regard a stellar career - at least by jazz standards these days. Although he's not (yet) a household name, he regularly travels the world not only performing with the greatest artists, but commanding such a level of respect that he can call the top artists to be contributors to his own project. This is exactly what his current music project is - called " Amigos Brasileiros". Now on vol 2, it's Harvey calling his many Brazilian musical friends to collaborate on nine gorgeous tunes, each one with a story of how the song came to be in the accompanying booklet.

The CD Amigos Brasileiros Vol 2 is a continuation of Harvey's exploration of the rhythms and musical traditions of Brazil. He has a vision to continue the work of this very organically-grown music project. The whole process is unusual for a CD. Rather than thinking "I want to make a CD, I'll compose some songs, call the guys to the studio and bang it out" - the usual process -  Amigos Brasileiros is actually a "by-product" in the sense that the recordings spring out of musical friendships and trips to Brazil to connect with his musical friends. This gives the CD, and indeed the shows themselves a rich feeling that the listener is participating in a kind of musical community, not just listening to the compositions. But don't worry, these strong compositions do indeed stand totally on their own. 

It's an ambitious project. The songs are recorded in 4 different studios in Brazil, and one in the USA. Each piece has a different lineup of musicians reflecting the diverse locations (although a few of the musicians do appear on more than one piece).  The musicians are all highly respected, and in some cases, famous beyond the universe of Brazilian jazz fans as well.  Which is to say, there's a consistent standard of top notch performances on  Amigos Brasileiros.

The artwork, by Brazilian artist Menote Cordeiro is also very engaging, and true to the spirit of Brazilian music, colorful and fun. Getting good, original artwork onto a CD in a way that makes you want to look at the artwork on its own, is an accomplishment in itself. The CD contains a no-less than 8-page booklet (printed both front and back for 16 total pages of content) and four full pages are devoted completely to original artwork, plus inset pieces on other pages.

Two full pages are devoted to 22 photos of all the participating musicians, from solo shots to duets, small ensembles and a small Brazilian orchestra. There are over forty musicians on this CD (a dozen from the Orquestra Retratos do Nordeste, of Recife, led by professor/composer/mandolinist Marco Cesar). Of course, I cannot possibly list them all here (and still keep your attention), which is a shame, because Harvey performs with some of Brazil's greatest known (and unknown) talent.

In Seattle at the Royal Room, Harvey will be playing with the fabulous group of Jovino Santos Neto, the world-famous pianist and educator at Cornish School of Music. Harvey has a 10-year long musical friendship with Jovino, and many Brazilian jazz fans in Seattle have had the pleasure of seeing Harvey perform on numerous occasions with Jovino in the past few years. All in all, it's shaping up to be a great re-union of the two maestros for the Seattle premiere of Harvey's new material.
Harvey Wainapel and Jovino Santos Neto

Anyway, let's hear from Harvey! He graciously took the time out of his crazy performance schedule to reply to a few questions.

This CD is a very ambitious project - it involves connecting, rehearsing  and recording with many different musicians in several different locations on two continents - how did you pull the project together - what obstacles did you face in creating this work?
--The process was very exciting, actually;  the fact that I had no deadline really helped! (Vol 2 took about 6 years to complete.) Each song that I recorded became a part of the bigger picture, that is, my desire to showcase a wide variety of rhythms and styles, so as the tracks started accumulating, at a certain point I knew, for example "no more choros on this album."

Although obviously grounded in American jazz and classical, you have devoted a large chunk of your life to the music and styles of Brazil. What brought that about - in other words, how is it that you came to love the music of Brazil so much? What experiences launched you down this path?
--This happened almost by chance, many years ago when I first moved to NYC (late 70's). I joined a 6-horn Brazilian group that played once a week, with some really fantastic players, such as trumpeter Claudio Roditi and drummer Duduka da Fonseca. Although I had already been exposed to the music of Airto & Flora from their stint in Chick Cora's group, actually playing the music every week really sealed the deal for me! And like most people, once you get bitten by that "mosquito," you don't recover (nor do you want to!). Many years later I was thrilled to tour internationally with Airto & Flora, as their "part time saxophonist!" Just played last week with Airto & "Eyedentity" at Yoshi's in Oakland CA.

What's the plan from here on out? Touring? More recording? What is your vision for where you'd like to take this music?
--Well, as you know, I'm on tour right now in your neighborhood, showcasing the new CD, with the help of my dear old friends the Jovino Santos Neto Quarteto  (I was a member of the Quinteto for more than a decade; I miss playing and hanging with these great players, we are going to have a LOT of fun!!) Shortly after I return to California, I'm heading back to Brazil for 6 weeks. I'll be playing a fair amount, but if I have time I might start to work on "Volume 3!" I already have some ideas....and I do hope to be able to present concerts in other parts of the USA, the CDs are really about spreading the word about some of the great talents living in Brazil who don't get the media attention they deserve...Besides all that, I hope to continue with my jazz work, I'll never abandon that -- I've got two lovers, man!

How can readers/ listeners find you and your music - what stores, where online, how to keep up with your performance schedule? What are the next concerts you'd like us to know about?
-- The best bet for all of that is www.harvjazz.com ...all my CDs are for sale there (via CD Baby, which by far gives artists the best treatment financially) and I will try to keep the gig listings up to date. There are also a lot of really fun sound & video clips there of stuff I've been lucky enough to do over the years...

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Abrace - "Embracing the World Through Music"

Abrace,  L to R: Derek Learned, Mikaela Romero, Angie Bolton, Samia Panni, Joyce Yarrow, Rebeqa Rivers
Abrace is an acapella-plus-percussion singing group which has made it their mission to find, harmonize and perform folk songs from around the world in a context of peace, love, acceptance, and celebration of all the world's peoples and cultures. Committed to performing the songs in their original languages, they currently sing in 20 different languages and dialects.

Abrace is comprised of five excellent women vocalists and a top percussionist from the Seattle area. They have performed in Seattle' St Mark's Cathedral, The San Juan De Fuca Arts Festival, the Bellevue Arts Fair, the Seattle Art Museum, The Northwest Folklife Festival, Seattle's Benaroya Hall, and many other venues.

Co-lead by Samia Panni and Joyce Yarrow, the group includes singers Rebeqa Rivers, Angie Bolton, and Mikaela Romero, and the percussion duties are anchored by Derek Learned.

The treatment of the songs is done with great precision and care, as five-part harmonies are carefully worked out and Samia and Derek work together to creat a unique percussion groove for each song. As mentioned, they also have to learn to enunciate each song properly in it's original language, and there is a history that goes with each song, so it means doing  research on the story/history of the song and the culture each song arises from.

I caught them at the Bellevue Arts Fair on July 26th. Samia and Joyce were gracious to grant me an interview, so I will let them speak about the band in their own words. For myself, I have seen them perform three times, and I am always impressed not only by the musicianship, but the spirit with which they recreate these songs.

So, without further adieu, the interview:

What is the inspiration for Abrace? How did you go about translating that inspiration into the actual group that I saw at the BAM Arts Fair?

Joyce:  We started out as a study group – 4 professional singers who wanted to expand their repertoires to include songs in many languages and challenge themselves to grow musically.

After 9/11, when the world tilted radically toward intolerance, we felt that a group performing world music could help build bridges to inter-cultural understanding. At that point we became more serious about performing in public, especially at inter-faith events. Since then, we have appeared at music festivals throughout the Northwest, as well as Benaroya Hall, and the Rainier Valley Cultural Center. One highpoint was sharing the stage with a Rabbi, Bishop and an Imam  who participated in an ‘Islamophobia’ conference at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle. It was so inspiring to see people of different faiths come together to erase misunderstandings and grow friendships.

Samia - Another highpoint I would like to add is our World Music & Dance of Peace concerts that we performed at three events, one being Arts Gumbo,at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center, in collaboration with members of MB Orchestra, George Sadak and Maurice Sadak Rouman, Brazilian dancer, Dora Oliveira,  and Middle Eastern dance ethnologist, Helene Ericksen.  I truly enjoyed rearranging a song in our repertoire in order of blend music of different cultures for these performances. For example: we took a Brazilian song, Zanzibar, in the baião rhythm and George suggested incorporating a Saudi Arabian rhythm, called khaleeji, which fit perfectly. Maurice played the introduction to Zanzibar on oud.  The blend was seamless.

What do you see Abrace's role being in the universe of world music i.e - what would Abrace's "mission statement" be like? How would you like the audience to be affected by your music? Is Abrace just about the music only, or is there a connection to, or a message about, the world we live in?

Joyce - Abráce means ‘embrace’ in Portuguese, and our motto is simple: ‘Embracing the World Through Music.”  Some of our songs convey a message – such as “Bring Peace Upon Us,” written and performed by a group of courageous Palestinian and Israeli musicians. We also sing in Ladino, a language mixing Hebrew and Spanish that was developed during La Convivencia – an era when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in relative peace. We look for positive, international connections wherever we can find them and often create medleys – for example, by combining the South African freedom song “Siph’ Amandla” with the American classic “The Storm is Passing Over,” written by the composer of We Shall Overcome.

Our production of World Music and Dance of Peace concert brought together musicians and dancers from many different backgrounds to create a border-bending mix of music and dance from Middle Eastern, Balkan, African and South American roots. This is the type of collaborative energy that we believe peace is built upon.

Abrace sings in 20 languages, many of them tribal or clan dialects. How do you find the songs? How do you go about translating the lyrics so you understand the meaning of each song? How do you make sure your pronunciation is accurate in so many different languages? Given that song lyrics often incorporate metaphors and idioms unique to the composer's culture, do you have to study a bit about each ethnic group to understand the cultural context and deeper meanings of a particular song's lyrics?

Samia -  When a new member has started with the group, we have asked them to bring in songs that they want to sing.  Therefore, a number of the songs in our repertoire have come from former and current members of the group.  Ben Black introduced us to our Japanese song, Kojo No Tsuki, Makala recently introduced us to a Polish song we recently added to our repertoire and Joyce brought our new Bengali song, Bhromor Koiyo Giya.  The Arab-Israeli peace song I found one day simply hunting on youtube, using keywords to find a song in Arabic that we could append to our Ladino song that Joyce received from a Jewish cantor.  As you see our songs have been added through various sources from all the members of the group, plus we have original compositions, such as "Saltando" that Joyce and I composed.

Regarding translations, we have been lucky to find translations online or the member who brings us the song manages to find translations.

In regards to the pronunciation, I have lived in so many countries and been exposed to so many languages when I was young thanks to being part of the diplomatic world and my anthropological studies that I am familiar with how things should be pronounced.  We also research proper pronunciation through various online and recorded resources.

I enjoy ethnomusicological research, so I will often seek out the origin, deeper meanings and cultural context of our songs, as have other members of the group.

Who is in the group? What do you see as each member's unique contribution to the group?

Joyce -Abráce includes vocalists Samia Panni, Joyce Yarrow, Makala Wengelewski-Romero, Rebeqa Rivers, and Angie Bolton – as well as percussionist Derek Learned. All of us contribute ideas and new material to the group and since we create our own song arrangements, we each bring unique ideas to the mix. Samia acts as is our ‘pronunciation police,” and her anthropological background often provides fascinating details about a song’s origins and meanings.

What's next for Abrace? What concerts do you have in the works? Are you working on a CD project? Where do we find your music?

We are currently developing a new thematic concept – freedom songs from around the world –  and expanding our repertoire in that direction. We have produced a Drop Card with 6  ‘downloadable’ songs that is for sale at our performances, but no CD as yet. Our music comes from everywhichwhere -  people send us suggestions, audience members make requests or an Abráce member decides to dig further into her (or his) background. Recently some Turkish friends came over to the studio and taught us a song sung during the demonstrations to save Gezi Park in Istanbul.

For more on Abrace:

Our FB page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Abr%C3%A1ce/117949546247
Reverbnation player with our music: http://www.reverbnation.com/abr%C3%A1ce
To request a download card of Abrace's music email Joyce at – jyarrow@seanet.com