Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Badi Assad/Old Town School of Folk Music

Bossa Nova, Latin, Live Reviews, Samba, World Music No Comments »



I’m pretty sure I’ve got Brazilian singer-songwriter Badi Assad down cold. I’m guessing that, as the younger sister of two brothers—Sérgio and Odair, both gifted guitarists—who perform together as Duo Assad, she grew up in their shadow, and knew the only way she’d get out of it was to be bigger, better, bolder. So when Badi takes the stage with her guitar, you don’t just get some supremely supple strumming; you get ravishing singing and jaw-dropping vocal percussion, too. She’d probably have taken up handstands and juggling, if it came to it, but as it happens what she’s got on offer was apparently enough to steal some attention away from her older sibs. She’ll steal yours, as well; she’s basically the dictionary definition of “dynamo,” if the dictionary is Portuguese—meaning she bowls you over more through focused stillness and gentle undulation than any overwhelming display of prowess or volume. Her power is mainly implied; it’s all about control, and hers is exquisite.  Read the rest of this entry »

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

Forró, Funk, Jazz, Latin, Record Reviews, Samba, World Music 1 Comment »


“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: “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: 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: “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: The Rough Guide to Samba

Latin, Record Reviews, Samba, World Music No Comments »


Though many new Brazilian artists have recently had a lot of attention in the international market, few actually represent samba, the country’s best-known musical genre. On this compilation from Rough Guides, we have a comprehensive sample of contemporary singers and songwriters alongside legends like Alcione and Martinho da Vila, who open the disc with a live take on “Duas Faces,” a classic song from Rio de Janeiro.

Da Vila’s daughter Mart’nalia (who has toured the US in recent years) appears on her hit “Cabide,” an uptempo tune that has a classic feel thanks to its simple organic approach. Pop singer Marisa Monte leads the “old guard” of Rio’s Portela Samba School on “Volta Meu Amor,” a heartfelt chorinho whose lyrics talk about the end of a love affair. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Céu + Curumin/Double Door

Electronic/Dance, Funk, Latin, New Music, Pop, Psychedelic, R&B, Rock, Samba, Singer-Songwriter, Soul, World Music No Comments »

Céu/Photo: Renan Costa Lima


Throughout her career, São Paulo-born Céu (pronounced SEH-uh) has been inspired by electronica and American soul music, but on her recent release “Caravana Sereia Bloom” (loosely translates as “Mermaid Bloom Caravan”) she goes into a different direction. The music is influenced by various elements of Brazilian regional music. An example is the lead single “Retrovisor” (“Rear View Mirror”), a tune whose main rhythm is reminiscent of the sounds commonly heard in countryside nightclubs around the country’s southeastern region. Read the rest of this entry »