Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

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 »

Record Review: “New Samba Jazz Directions” by Duduka Da Fonseca Trio

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

Duduka, New Samba Jazz DirectionsRECOMMENDED

Drummer extraordinaire Duduka Da Fonseca’s new release, “New Samba Jazz Directions” (Zoho), recorded in Rio de Janeiro with a trio of young Brazilian musicians rounded out by David Feldman (piano, previously with Scott Feiner’s Pandeiro Jazz) and Guto Wirtti (bass), contains mostly original songs penned by Da Fonseca and the group plus two covers: “Sonho de Maria” (Marcos Valle/Paulo Sergio Valle) and :Zelão: (Sergio Ricardo). With these musicians, the bandleader brings further a refreshed sound that takes him in a new direction as a drummer and a songwriter. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “I Thought About You: Tribute to Chet Baker” by Eliane Elias

Bossa Nova, Jazz, Latin, Record Reviews, World Music No Comments »
Photo: Bob Wolfenson

Photo: Bob Wolfenson


Late trumpeter Chet Baker may have lived a troubled life all the way to his tragic death in 1988, but he left a legacy of great recordings that influenced countless musicians and fans throughout the years—his approach to singing and playing clearly informed the Bossa Nova movement in Brazil, and many standards today are immediately identified with him.

In recognition to Baker’s talent, Brazilian-born pianist Eliane Elias looks back at his storied career by giving a fresh interpretation to many tunes identified with him, mixing “cool” West Coast jazz grooves, with Brazilian-flavored tunes and some straight-ahead jazz. The album opens with the title track played in a bare-bones arrangement featuring Elias on piano and vocals, bassist (and husband) Marc Johnson and guitarist Steve Cardenas. She is joined by legendary bossa-era guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves on “There Will Never Be Another You,” which appears here as an acoustic samba.  Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Putumayo Presents: Women of Brazil”

Alt-Rock, Bossa Nova, Jazz, Latin, Pop, Record Reviews, Rock, Samba, Singer-Songwriter, World Music No Comments »


Those who expected this compilation to feature the likes of Marisa Monte, Gal Costa or even newer names like Bebel Gilberto or Cibelle will be disappointed at first—this release contains none of their songs. Instead, we are presented with few names ever heard Stateside save for Luisa Maita or Mart’nalia, who have regularly toured in the US. The disc opens with Italy-based Nossa Alma Canta’s “Bossanova,” a tune that remembers the Brazilian movement that swept the world with the help of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd.  The tune name recalls many familiar hits like “Wave,” “Desafinado” while playing snippets of familiar tunes via instrumental interludes. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Marcos Valle,” “Garra,” “Vento Sul” and “Previsao do Tempo” by Marcos Valle (re-release)

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


Marcos Valle is probably best known Stateside as the writer of “Summer Samba” via its various recordings by the likes of Astrud Gilberto, Connie Francis and the Walter Wanderley Trio back in the sixties, but the fact is that he has had a very prolific (if rather erratic) career in which he has experimented with various musical genres, especially in his most creative phase in the early seventies, which has recently been rediscovered via new recordings by younger Brazilian artists like Curumin and Bebel Gilberto.

This renewed interest in Valle’s seventies output has prompted a rerelease of four of his albums, all originally released between 1970 and 1974 before he relocated to the U.S., where he lived and worked until the early eighties. These discs show his evolution both as a songwriter and a performer. Back then he took many musical risks, experimenting with sounds that were unheard of in Brazil.

The first of these is the self-titled “Marcos Valle” (1970), which was made after he returned from a brief stay in the United States. Here he still seems tied to the sounds of bossa nova-era Brazil (after all, he scored his first, and still best-known, hit in the genre), but willing to look beyond that by employing electric instruments. On “Garra” (1971), on the other hand, he seems willing to break free from the older wave with hippie anthems like “Mais de 30,” where he sings that you can’t trust “anyone over 30” while sending a heartfelt bossa-like message to his mentor  Antonio Carlos Jobim with “Ao Amigo Tom.” Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Live at the Blue Note Tokyo” by Oscar Castro-Neves

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


Along with Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Sergio Mendes, guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves was one of the co-founders of the bossa nova movement that took the US by storm after the release of “Getz/Gilberto” in 1965. Though Castro-Neves was much younger than the genre’s creators, he was able to hold his own during its heyday through his great talent and was able to make a name for himself both as a bandleader, sideman (with Mendes’ band) and a songwriter. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Mosquitos/Martys

Bossa Nova, IDM, Indie Pop, Pop No Comments »


The bizarre and luminous brand of psychedelic indie pop that Mosquitos so wondrously plays comes to total fruition on “III,” the band’s new record, its finest, gentlest and most powerful to date, all fifteen songs of wave-like drift, the calming comfort that swallows your body before you fall asleep. There are still bossa nova and Brazilian overtones and undertones, and like previous record “Sunshine Barato,” the band flawlessly blends the genres and song-structure grooves, often paired with electronic elements and heavy-handed, yet pretty, background vocals. The songs are more clean-cut, tightly packed together. The band doesn’t slip up because there’s barely room for error, and the near-perfect album that results is lovable and special and full of reward. Live, the band plans on an elaborate stage show with background dancers and intricate choreography, so be prepared to be entertained to the highest degree. Irishmen IDM-popsters Oppenheimer open. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Nouvelle Vague/Metro

Bossa Nova, Rock No Comments »

It’s hard to imagine getting bored with beautiful French girls singing, but apparently it’s possible. After one record of Brazilian-inflected covers of classic eighties new wave songs like “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Nouvelle Vague, a project by Frenchman Marc Collin and Oliver Libaux that uses female French singers unfamiliar with the songs they are covering, gives us their second effort, “Bande A Part.” This time they sexify some more well-known songs like Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and U2′s “Pride (In The Name of Love).” The Echo and the Bunnymen and Billy Idol covers are highlights, but the pointlessness of this album makes it hard to listen to as anything but background music. Its frivolousness becomes most evident in a cover of Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” that sounds like a mildly less harsh version of the original. It’s an album that’s painfully cool and self-consciously novel, to the degree that it doesn’t get to any interesting conclusions about the eighties music it covers or do anything but borrow from the Brazilian and Caribbean styles it takes as its musical basis. Read the rest of this entry »

Sound Check: Nouvelle Vague Found in Translation

Bossa Nova, New Music No Comments »

Originally released in Europe in 2004, Nouvelle Vague’s self-titled debut hit U.S. shores last year much to the delight of both swinging loungesters and black-clad new wavers. Taking old school synth-laden favorites of his youth from the likes of Joy Division, XTC, Depeche Mode and The Cure and recording them bossa-nova style with young female vocalists, veteran French musician Marc Collin created a worldwide sensation out of something originally intended as a novel one-time project. “I wanted to prove that post-punk bands, even if they only knew two chords, have written beautiful and classic songs which can be arranged in different directions,” says Collin in talking about why he created Nouvelle Vague, a moniker that brilliantly translates as both “New Wave” in French and “Bossa Nova” in Portuguese. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Music Without Borders: Amadou & Mariam, Seu Jorge

Bossa Nova, Singer-Songwriter, World Music No Comments »


This free Millennium Park concert inaugurates a new Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs’ “Music Without Borders” World Music series with a bang by offering encore performances by the two most popular artists of last year’s World Music Festival: Amadou & Mariam and Seu Jorge. Although Mali natives Amandou & Mariam have been performing a unique blend of traditional West African music, Afropop, Middle Eastern music and Delta blues since 198—when they married and formed a music duo after meeting at a school for the blind—it has only been since last year’s American release, “Dimanche à Bamako” (Nonesuch) became a phenomenon and the most popular and celebrated African album since Youssou N’Dour’s “Seven Seconds,” that the “blind couple from Mali” has found a firm footing in the States. The two vocally complement the music they are performing perfectly and the Syrian, French and African musicians in their band bring a wide aural palette to their proceedings. Brazilian singer and actor Seu Jorge is probably best known for his bossa nova covers of David Bowie songs and his role as Knockout Ned in the film “City of God,” but his solo album “Sru” (Wrasse Records) is revealing an artist who is finding his own voice as a singer-songwriter combining South American and North American influences. Read the rest of this entry »