Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Record Review: “From Brazil to New Orleans” by Charlie Dennard

Forró, Funk, Jazz, Latin, Record Reviews, Samba, World Music No Comments »


“The music, history, food and culture of Brazil and New Orleans have so much in common that it just seems logical to put them together,” writes keyboardist Charlie Dennard on the liner notes for the independently released “From Brazil to New Orleans.” The same has been said by various Crescent City musicians I have interviewed over the years, because the liveliness and musicality of cities like Rio de Janeiro and Salvador makes them feel right at home. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Jobim Tribute” by Les Sabler

Bossa Nova, Jazz, Latin, Record Reviews, Samba, World Music No Comments »


Among Brazilian composers recognized internationally, you could certainly say that Antônio Carlos Jobim compares to none other so far—he is one of the few whose body of work is just as respected as that of Gershwin or Harold Arlen. However, few contemporary fans know his work beyond “The Girl From Ipanema,” “Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars),” “Desafinado” or maybe “Waters of March” simply because his other songs have been absent from jazz songbooks of late. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Amor Planeta” by Pacifika

Alt-Rock, Bossa Nova, Dance Pop, Indie Pop, Latin, Pop, Psychedelic, Record Reviews, Reggae, Rock, World Music No Comments »


On their third release, the Vancouver-based trio formed by vocalist Silvana Kane, guitarist/producer Adam Popowitz and bassist Toby Peter seem to be taking the music into a deeper, more psychedelic direction without completely losing touch with their Latin, Middle Eastern and electronic roots. The songs are still framed by near-whispered vocals and nylon-guitar-framed textures alongside multi-tracked instruments and vocals sung mostly in Spanish, but the trio seems to have found a more organic approach to their sound. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Amanda Martinez/Old Town School of Folk Music

Flamenco, Indie Pop, Latin, Pop, World Music No Comments »


What happens when you get an MBA in international business with the objective of working for a major financial corporation? Do you leave it all behind to pursue the uncertainty of a musical career instead? This is precisely what happened to Canadian singer Amanda Martinez; she was bitten by the music bug after passing an audition in a small jazz club in her native country–and she has not looked back since.

Since then, she has recorded three albums and was a featured performer during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa–where her mother was born. Martinez’s music is very Latin-influenced, as heard on “Mañana,” her third album, and the first to be released in the United States. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Bailar En La Cueva” by Jorge Drexler

Afro-Cuban, Alt-Rock, Bossa Nova, Cumbia, Forró, Hip-Hop, Latin, Merengue, Pop, Record Reviews, Rock, Samba, Tropicalismo/Tropicália, World Music No Comments »


On his most diverse release to date, Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler—best known Stateside for being the sole composer to date to win an Oscar for a non-English song—goes into various musical styles to convey his message. The title song mixes electronic and folk elements with a syncopated beat and a catchy chorus, while “Bolivia” blends forró and cumbia. A berimbau (a Brazilian instrument commonly used in capoeira meets) leads the beat.

Legendary Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso makes a cameo appearance toward two verses in Spanish with a melody that goes against the song’s entire form. “La Luna de Rasquí” is an upbeat tune with Afro-Caribbean elements that is sure to get you moving. “Universos Paralelos” is arguably the most inventive track–it begins with an easygoing samba-like feel and the vocals of Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux (who seems to be all over Latin pop lately) comes almost out of nowhere to give her bit on the topic of star-crossed lovers. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Carlos Núñez/Old Town School of Folk Music

Celtic, Jazz, Latin, World Music No Comments »


When you think about Celtic music, you probably think of someone from the Scottish Highlands, Ireland or maybe France, but you will definitely change your mind when you hear the sounds of this talented musician from Galicia, Spain who has collaborated with the likes of The Chieftains (he was considered their “seventh member” when he worked with them), Sinéad O’Connor, Mexican-American band Los Lobos and Ry Cooder, to name a few.

Carlos Núñez is a virtuoso of the gaita, which is the Galician version of the bagpipes (another take on the instrument is also widely used by folk musicians in Italy). His style could be described as a blend of flamenco, Spanish folk, jazz and Celtic music with a contemporary, almost pop-like feel. His band’s arrangements are highly percussive and include instruments not commonly associated with Celtic music, such as Spanish guitars, electric bass, horns and Latin drums.

In a live format Núñez has fantastic energy and creativity with his improvised licks. He plays his gaita with the demeanor of a rock guitarist–which is probably why some of his fans have nicknamed him “the Hendrix of the bagpipes.” His band, which is rounded out by Stephanie Cadman (fiddle, step-dancing, vocals), Pancho Alvarez (medieval guitar) and Xurxo Nuñez (percussion), has great chemistry together. This is definitely something to discover if you haven’t yet done so. (Ernest Barteldes)

February 12 at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 North Lincoln, (773)728-6000. 8pm, $10 suggested donation.

Preview: Maria Rita/City Winery

Bossa Nova, Jazz, Pop, Samba, Vocal Music, World Music No Comments »


Brazilian singer Maria Rita built her career doing her best to be outside the shadow of her late mother Elis Regina, a legendary performer in her own right whose career was cut short by a cocaine overdose. It was not an easy task, since Rita’s voice is incredibly similar to her mother’s. Over the years, she stayed away from Regina’s material while making inventive, jazz-inspired albums accompanied by a simple trio of piano, acoustic bass and drums (the exception was 2007’s “Samba Meu,” which was recorded with various percussive instruments added to the band.)

It was not until 2012 that she finally agreed to work on a project with Regina’s music in commemoration of the thirty year anniversary of her passing. “Viva Elis” was originally planned to be a limited five-performance engagement, but due to public demand it later evolved into a national tour and a CD and DVD entitled “Redescobrir.” The album covers her mother’s greatest hits played in arrangements close to the original recordings (the audience is heard cheering at the opening chords of tunes like “Como Nossos Pais” and “Águas de Março”) while some of the lesser-known songs were given a completely different treatment under the musical direction of her brother, arranger and producer João Marcelo Bôscoli. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Roberto Fonseca/Symphony Center

Afro-Cuban, Jazz, Latin No Comments »


Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca is one of those talents you cannot put in a specific corner. Sure, his groove has a lot of his Latin roots (especially in the percussive manner in which he plays the keyboards), but he surprises you at every turn, as heard on his 2013 album “Yo” (Concord), where he showcases influences from American jazz and Afro-Cuban polyrhythms, to African music and samba.

For instance, the gentle ballad “Así Es La Vida” is reminiscent of the work of Herbie Hancock, but “Rachel” has elements of electronic music taken up a notch. “Quien Soy Yo” blends a lot of sounds, and even features a cavaquinho (a Brazilian instrument that could be considered a cousin of the ukulele), while elements of African music (with the participation of singer Fatoumata Diawara, Baba Sissoko on n’goni and Sekou Kouyate on kora) are peppered throughout. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “AfroHORN Rare Metal” by Francisco Mora Catlett

Afro-Cuban, Jazz, Latin, Record Reviews No Comments »


Sun Ra Orchestra alum Francisco Mora Catlett is a highly talented drummer and composer, and his AfroHorn project is where he explores his creativity, painting a musical canvas that turns listeners into thinkers. Every track brings a surprise, and even after repeated listens sounds still pop up at you unexpectedly. The tunes on “Rare Metal” are permeated with Yoruba chants which not only frame the music but seem to be a source of inspiration for each composition. This should not be considered a simple contemporary jazz disc, as the music is too adventurous to be cleanly labeled. Read the rest of this entry »

The Quest for Brown-Eyed Soul: Bringing San Antonio’s Westside Sound to the Midwest

Regional Mexican, Soul No Comments »

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf Indiana Jones were a vinyl junkie he’d carry a portable turntable instead of a whip and stop at nothing in his quest for that single-most-desired glossy black platter with its circling grooves. Imagine him, if you will, standing between a wilting ceiling and a floor littered with records, dark and stinking with the decay of years sitting abandoned in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. Or at the back of an unmarked bodega in a New York borough, having nobly solved the mystery to its secret whereabouts. Truth is, these adventures do belong to someone, only he goes by the name Rambo.

Thirty-two-year-old Minneapolis-based DJ Rambo Salinas has been building his record collection for the last third of his life. While other vinyl enthusiasts base their compendium on quantity, bragging rights or market value, Rambo is in pursuit of a greater mission. His quest began with the decision to focus on collecting Chicano Soul and Sweet Soul Lowrider rolas—genres from San Antonio and Los Angeles, unknown to most, aside from the generation of Mexican-American baby boomers. His own South Texas-Chicano background is just half the motivation. The other is simply to share the music and provide the rest of us with a sense of the time, place and culture from which Brown-Eyed Soul was conceived by way of his guerrilla compilation titled “Lone Star Soul Vol. 1.” Read the rest of this entry »