Luciana Souza, Brad Mehldau, JazzArtSigns
January 1, 1970A backlog of concert reviews means that the promised review of 13-year-old Grace Kelly's debut at Scullers this past Tuesday won't run until next week sometime. Also that the Globe declined my offer to review either Brad Mehldau on Thursday or the double bill of Joe Lovano and Luciana Souza tonight. But the JazzArtSigns review finally made it into print on Tuesday.
I did manage to write something about Souza and Mehldau, though. Souza got the column, and Mehldau was my lead pick for Calendar. I caught his revamped trio last night, too, and it's every bit as good as people are saying it is. No wonder it sold out Scullers all three nights.
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She breaks down musical boundaries
Luciana Souza sings with no fear, winning respect of her peers
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | March 17, 2006
Three of Luciana Souza's four most recent CDs have earned her Grammy nominations, including "Duos II," which this year was edged out for best jazz vocal album by Dianne Reeves and the "Good Night, and Good Luck" soundtrack. But Souza's not a big star yet by any means. What popularity she has remains largely confined to the jazz cognoscenti and her fellow musicians, the latter of whom seem uniformly to adore her.
High on the list of things they admire about Souza is her willingness to take risks. Consider the rapid-fire unison lines she sings with guitarist Romero Lubambo on "Duos II," the album they'll likely draw heavily from in their Bank of America Celebrity Series double bill with Joe Lovano tomorrow night at Sanders Theatre.
Souza, 39, and Lubambo have been playing together for a decade. But while they've built up a large repertoire of material over the years, they rarely have occasion to practice together beyond sound checks. It can sometimes come back to haunt them in concert, Souza admits.
"We have a way of doing them that hopefully comes out clean," Souza explains, laughing. "Some nights we get into trouble, but even that is exciting for the audience. You try your best, and sometimes it succeeds. Sometimes we fail miserably, and we go back and go, 'Here we go one more time,' and just try again in front of people. We always do it with great spirit."
Souza's musical fearlessness was instilled early in childhood when, growing up in Sao Paulo, she had the advantage of having Hermeto Pascoal as her godfather. "He would say to me, 'Don't fear it. It's only music,'" Souza recalls. "That's a phrase he said to me over and over and over again. He'd play a melody on the piano for me, and I'd sing back and say, 'Oops.' I'd make a mistake or something -- 'break my teeth,' like we say in Portuguese. And he'd say, 'No, no, no — don't worry. It's only music.' So I grew up with this spirit."
Souza's love of jazz stems from her father bringing home borrowed albums from a radio station record library he passed on his way to his job writing jingles. "He would bring home these records that were just amazing," says Souza. "I listened to Bill Holman and Stan Kenton on big band records — things that I would never go toward naturally growing up in Brazil. . . . A lot of Sinatra, a lot of Carmen McRae."
In 1985, Souza followed her guitarist brother Eduardo to Berklee College of Music. She spent most of the next dozen years in Boston, earning her master's at New England Conservatory and returning to Berklee to teach until joining the faculty at Manhattan School of Music in 1998. Her recorded work as a leader began around the same time, with five of her six CDs coming out on Sunnyside Records since 2000. Her Grammy nominees include Brazilian standards ("Brazilian Duos" and "Duos II") and North American and South American standards ("North and South").
Souza's side work also tends to push past boundaries. Lately it has included her wordless vocals with Maria Schneider's orchestra and classical work with Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov. Such boldness in her choice of projects earns Souza added respect from critics and musicians.
Esperanza Spalding, who'll play bass with Lovano's quartet tomorrow, says she is constantly wowed by Souza's work. "I'll hear an album — anything from Hermeto Pascoal to Danilo Perez," Spalding says, "and I'm like, 'Man, that singer's so killin'.' And it's always [Souza] — every time when I hear something crazy, and the voice blows my mind."
That Souza's music impresses Grammy nominators is great for her career. But she says it's important for other reasons.
"I don't record for a major label, I don't do straight-ahead jazz, and I'm not a famous artist," Souza explains. "So that says a lot. It gives a lot of hope, I think, to younger musicians coming up."
Luciana Souza performs with guitarist Romero Lubambo tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Sanders Theatre, as part of a Bank of America Celebrity Series concert double bill with the Joe Lovano Quartet. Tickets $31-$43. Call 617-482-6661 or visit www.celebrityseries.org.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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Calendar Jazz Picks
Brad Mehldau Trio
Brad Mehldau has been leading one of jazz's most exciting piano trios for years, the first 10 of them with Larry Grenadier on bass and Jorge Rossy on drums. Grenadier is still with him, but the drum chair now belongs to Jeff Ballard. The result, according to New York Times critic Ben Ratliff, is music that's "grown denser and more tumultuous." The retooled group made its CD debut late last year with "Day Is Done," which, like Mehldau trio records before it, takes contemporary pop standards as starting points for highly sophisticated improvisational interplay. The title cut comes from Nick Drake, and Mehldau's other new sources of jazz inspiration include two tunes by Lennon/ McCartney ("Martha My Dear" and "She's Leaving Home"), Radiohead's "Knives Out," and Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." Scullers, Doubletree Guest Suites Boston, 400 Soldiers Field Road, Boston. 617-562-4111. 8 & 10 p.m. $22, $62 with dinner. Repeats Fri & Sat (sets at 8 and 10:30 p.m., tickets both nights $24, $64 with dinner)
Thurs 3-16 Tribute to Dean Earl Berklee performs a star-studded tribute concert for longtime faculty member Earl, who died in 2002. Earl also led the house band at Boston's Hi-Hat Club in the 1950s, and tonight's concert - featuring Artie Shaw Big Band leader Dick Johnson and Berklee faculty Terri Lyne Carrington, Bill Pierce, and Walter Beasley - is billed as an attempt to re-create the music of that era. Proceeds will help fund a scholarship in Earl's name. Berklee Performance Center, 136 Mass. Ave., Boston. 617-747-2261. 8:15 p.m. $5, $2 seniors.
Sat 3-18 Joe Lovano and Luciana Souza The Bank of America Celebrity Series offers a double bill of saxophonist Lovano's quartet and vocalist Souza's "Brazilian Duos" with guitarist Romero Lubambo. Sanders Theatre, 45 Quincy St., Harvard Square, Cambridge. 617-496-2222. 8 p.m. $31-$43.
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Ensemble's jazz is easy to access
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | March 14, 2006
Some jazz performances are said to be more accessible than others. But at the Wheelock Family Theatre on Thursday the multimedia ensemble JazzArtSigns took the concept to a whole other level, making jazz literally accessible to everyone.
The show opened with audio describer Vince Lombardi offering a detailed verbal picture of the stage layout, which included everything from the placement of the grand piano and the 3-foot-high platforms from which American Sign Language interpreters Jody Steiner and Misha Derissaint and improvisational painter Nancy Ostrovsky would work to the location of the theater exits. It was information the sighted take for granted, and reminded the audience that this would be no ordinary jazz set.
Not that it lacked for excellent jazz. The music began with Lisa Thorson singing splendid versions of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Chovendo na Roseira" ("Double Rainbow") and Wayne Shorter's "Speak No Evil," Cercie Miller taking a fine tenor sax solo on the latter. Doug Johnson filled in capably for Thorson's usual pianist, Tim Ray, with regulars Dave Clark on bass and George Schuller on drums. But Ray was present in a sense as well, as the set's third tune was the antiwar contemplation he and Thorson wrote several years ago, "Wondering Why."
Through it all, Steiner and Derissaint took turns signing the words Thorson was singing, with captioner Don DePew typing those same words onto monitors on either side of the stage and Lombardi's voice coming in between tunes to sum up recent developments onstage. Those mostly centered on the progress of Ostrovsky's canvas, which as the 90-minute set went along evolved into a colorful, highly impressionistic rendering of all the performers save Clark.
Ostrovsky worked in paint-splattered black pants and top, slapping and smearing bright swaths of acrylic in time to the music. She used her bare hands and assorted tools to paint, and her karate-like dance kicks and expressive face accented the fun she and her cohorts were having.
The music stopped briefly so that Derissaint could perform a wordless sign-language poem by Ella Mae Lentz, backed only by Schuller's drumming. Then Thorson, Steiner, Miller, and Ostrovsky gathered near Ostrovsky's canvas for a brisk run-through of the bebop classic "Anthropology."
The set closed with "My Favorite Things," with Thorson supplying examples of her own including New Mexico sunsets, Texas swing, and "listening to Bird till I think I'll go crazy." Then the performers gathered around Thorson's motorized wheelchair and took a well-deserved bow.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company