Sant Andreu Jazz Band live

Photo by Åsa Kettis

Premià de Mar April 21, 2017

It is a special experience to enjoy the performance of musicians at their home base. We are tonight in Premià de Mar to do exactly that. We will attend the concert of the youth band Sant Andreu Jazz Band.

Premià de Mar is a small town half an hour train ride from Barcelona, and on the way there you pass Sant Andreu. The performance tonight will take place in Sala Gran at Teatre L’Amistat in the new local culture centre L’Amistat de Premià de Mar. Sala Gran has 268 seats. Since I am in the company of my wife and six Swedish friends, this leaves 260 seats for the locals. Some of them are probably relatives or friends of band members. I bought the tickets very early so we have excellent seats in the middle of row 4. Doesn’t this sound like a perfect setting?

Well, maybe not if the band would have been an ordinary local school band. Then maybe you have to be a close relative or friend to come and enjoy the performance. But Sant Andreu Jazz Band is not an ordinary school band. It started from a music class, and now it is the base in an independant music project with young musicians performing on a very high level, led by Joan Chamorro.

I found the band through a clip on YouTube in September 2016. On the very first clip that I saw, the band member Andrea Motis was singing In My Solitude, backed up by the Joan Chamorro Quartet and Orquestra Simfònica del Vallès. I was astonished. She was so young and had the expression of youth, but she was nevertheless so sophisticated. The setting was grand like a jazz ballad performed by Diana Krall backed up by her usual jazz group and a string orchestra. And like Diana Krall this young lady proved to be not only a vocalist. She also played a solo on trumpet.

I soon found out that Andrea Motis was a member of Joan Chamorro’s creation the Sant Andreu Jazz Band, a big band with children and teenagers playing music with emphasis on a classic jazz repertoire with lots of swing. After this discovery I enjoyed the band many times on YouTube. They have made an effort of publishing a lot of clips with sound and picture of as high quality as the music itself.

The band has many vocalists and like Andrea they also play an instrument, sometimes two. The members often change roles in the band. Sometimes you are the front figure as vocalist/instrumentalist, sometimes you sit in the band backing up other band members who are the front figures in those songs. And several members also play more than one instrument.

In this way the band really works as a school where everybody is supposed to have his or her chance, but the band uses this modus operandi and still keeps up an exceptional quality. This is not to say that everyone in every way and all the time performs at a high professional level. But the quality of the band as a whole is exceptionally high, and together with the charm of youth the band is irresistible. You just have to love them.

Another feature of the general concept is that the band, or parts of the band, sometimes play together with professional musicians – often the Joan Chamorro Quartet. This is a really good concept, and it mixes the educational side of playing together with having fun together. The latter goes for both band members and experienced musicians, as you can see in the clips below. Some senior band members have been featured as La Màgia de la Veu” (The Magic of the Voice) and they often play and sing together with the Joan Chamorro Quartet under the name La Magia de la Veu & Jazz Ensemble. Again, the way they take turns as vocal front figures and backing up musicians is very nice – and impressive.

The clips that can be seen on YouTube originate from different phases of the band history, and you can thereby see the band members grow and develop as human beings and musicians. This is in itself a joy to experience, and in watching them mature you sort of adopt the identity of a distant relative to the band members.

Well, what happened in Premià de Mar? We arrived there an hour before the concert started. We passed the time in a small market place close to the church, where two bars served drinks and children ran around and played. When it was time for the concert we walked in the middle of the peaceful street (no cars passed) the short way back to Teatre L’Amistat. It all was a truly and lovely experience of local life, not an experience that you would expect when you are to attend a concert with a band who has become an international Internet phenomenon through YouTube and social media.

The concert proved to be a wonderful performance by the band, led by Joan Chamorro. It was as good as the recordings I have seen, but a live performance of course creates a much closer relation between band and audience, especially when the hall is as small as the one in Teatre L’Amistat. Since many of the YouTube clips that I have enjoyed are several years old I found that there were some new members in the band, and that some of the old members did not participate. This is of course the natural evolution of a youth band, and it is nice to see that the band can keep up the high quality although it has to cope with regeneration. Of course Joan Chamorro is to be congratulated for the successful development of the band – but the band members themselves are also to be credited for the successful regeneration process. They are all part of a living and sustainable music culture that goes on and creates new experiences for us to enjoy. Their YouTube clips are of a very high quality, but if you ever have the possibility – go and see Sant Andreu Jazz Band live!

Thank you, Joan Chamorro!

Thank you band members, here represented by Rita Payés!

The clips below mirror many different contexts where the band or part of the band performs or rehearse, often together with professional musicians. In Premià de Mar the band performed on its own, led by Joan Chamorro.

More:

Wave

Mood Indigo

Minor Swing

Àguas De Março

All Of You

Desafinado

How High the Moon

So Danço Samba

Stars Fell on Alabama

(In My) Solitude

Summertime

West Coast Blues

Anthropology

Boperation

Baião de Quatro Toques

Sister Sadie

I Like To Hear It Sometimes

Triste

Por Toda a Minha Vida

My Funny Valentine

A very nice documentary about the band: Kids and Music, la Sant Andreu Jazz Band

Read also my earlier post about the band: Sant Andreu Jazz Band

Diana Krall

Source: Youtube

It all began with Diana Krall. Or rather, started again.

Like many others I discovered new music almost every day in the intense years of youth. The music we discovered was sometimes genuinely new, but sometimes only new to our ears. We conquered new and old musical continents, and made them part of our lives. However, at some point my musical expansion was stalled, and I believe that happened for many in my generation. Maybe it happened because we were to establish our adult roles in society, and many new things demanded our attention.

Some of us tried to compensate this loss by buying albums with compilations of music from our youth, but those albums never brought us new inspiration. They just repeated what we already knew. Music outside our well known scope did not awake our musical curiosity, if there still was any curiosity to wake up. Other experiences and impressions took over the role of music in the journey towards new worlds. Nothing wrong with that, but something was nonetheless lost.

It was not until some twenty years later that I was ready again. One day at the beginning of the new millennium, I heard on the radio a Burt Bacharach song in an interpretation that was new to me. The vocalist had a deep and sensual voice, and she sang slowly with a strong sense of presence and with a serious emotional expression. And then there was the beautiful and restrained piano. The expression of this interpretation reached something in me that hadn’t been reached for a long time. The song was The Look of Love, and the singer was Diana Krall. Right there in life I was struck by music again, and it was Diana Krall who hit me.

However, I did not catch her name. It took me a few days to identify Diana, and it was not until I bought the only album that the big record store in Gothenburg (there were such at the time) had in stock that I realized that the singer and pianist was one and the same person. The album was Love Scenes. I listened eagerly and wanted more. I bought The Look of Love, When I Look In Your Eyes and the tribute to Nat King Cole, All For You. By then I had become a dedicated fan and wanted to have all of Diana’s albums, also the two earlier, Stepping Out and Only Trust Your Heart. That was my first collection of Diana Krall albums, and I have continued to buy her albums and DVDs.

So, Diana Krall made music important to me again. I noticed that a piano jazz trio or quartet was the kind of music I enjoyed the most. I often saw in my mind’s eye a bar where the overly lively guests had moved on, and a piano trio played to entertain themselves and a few remaining guests. I was one of them. This type of scene requires a certain kind of music. That music and the setting probably say something about me, and what role music can play in my life. At least by the time I discovered Diana Krall.

Actually, early in her career Diana played the piano in a hotel bar in my home town Gothenburg. Now I sometimes go there, sip a drink, watch the piano and try to image how it once was. When I write this story, music has become a major theme in my life again, and I search for and discover new music all the time. In 2012 I started the music site Musik.pm. But Diana is still very much the starting point for what I do, and from time to time I come back to her music.

There is one album, or rather a DVD that is like a milestone in Diana’s production of music. It is Live in Paris (2002), a concert at l’Olympia in 2001 that was released on both DVD and CD. The recording of that concert released on DVD is magnificent. It is simply the best concert recording I have experienced. Diana and her fellow musicians deliver a wide range of fine interpretations of jazz classics in a masterly concert production.

It is as an interpreter of classics Diana has her strength. Her interpretations are of such high quality that they sometimes make renowned colleagues’ versions to appear insensitive and almost banal. When she, for example, slows down the tempo of I’ve Got You Under My Skin it makes the “I” of the song a more vulnerable and far more interesting person than the “I” of the swinging and more lightweight version that many American male singers have made theirs.

Diana´s music eventually formed bridges for me to other kinds of music. You can find many of them at Musik.pm. I believe bridges are necessary for us to move forward in our development, be it in music, literature or something else. There needs to be a part of the new which links to something we already know and appreciate, for us to move on and appreciate the elements that are more alien. Diana’s music has for me formed a bridge to many other kinds of music, but what was the bridge to hers? Obviously the beautiful Burt Bacharach song from my youth and Diana’s expression. Once that bridge was passed, I could learn to enjoy everything else Diana’s music has to offer. And it isn’t difficult music – quite the contrary. It is not even new – far from it. I had heard many of those songs before in other versions, but they had been more or less indifferent to my ear. But with Diana well known composers, such as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin, became important also to me. She simply became my bridge to a treasury of songs. Diana made the songs become alive to me more than any other artist I previously had heard.

But love is never unconditional or complete. On the contrary, love of a personality or an expression might make you extra sensitive to deviations from that personality or expression. One characteristic of Diana Krall that is important to me is her ability to be both strong and intimate, both intense and low-key. In one of her albums, Quiet Nights (2009), she lets the intimate and sensual dimension take the upper hand of the expression, and I think that she thereby diminishes both herself and the songs. Fortunately, Diana is back with the strong dimension of her personality and voice on later albums.

Although I on the whole have stopped buying CDs I have continued to buy Diana’s albums and DVD’s. This is a collection I want to be complete. I have also attended a number of Diana’s concerts in various places in Europe. The best of the ones I attended before 2015 was probably the concert at the jazz festival in Juan-les-Pins in July 2006. But I think it is not a daring guess that her best concert might have been the one at l’Olympia in 2001. I had very much wanted to be there, but I have instead enjoyed it numerous times on DVD. This DVD is a must to anyone who likes the music of Diana Krall.

But I would not say that Diana peaked in 2001. Her strength lies in taking well known songs to a new level of beauty, presence and serious expression. In 2015 she did exactly that with the album Wall Flower – where Diana swings her magic wand of interpretative genius over a number of pop ballads as she previously has done over a number of jazz standards and ballads in the American Songbook. And at last I got my experience of ”Diana Krall live in Paris” when I saw her at l’Olympia on her “Wall Flower Tour” 2015. It was a beautiful concert.

In the beginning of May comes her next album, Turn Up The Quiet, and I will see her when she comes to Stockholm in October. The new album will bring us more of what Diana does best – interpretations of jazz standards and songs from the American song book. Look for the album and her upcoming concerts on her world tour 2017-2018!

The Look Of Love

 

More

I Love Being Here With You

East Of the Sun

All Or Nothing At All

I’ve Got You Under My Skin

Devil May Care

We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Route 66

Love Me Like A Man

California Dreamin’

Desperado & Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

 

 

This is an updated and developed version of a post published (in Swedish) at Musik.pm on 2 May, 2013. See also ”Dear Diana”, ”Three concerts I did not attend” and ”Planets that meet”.

 

 

Searching for Lucy

”Who is Lucy Woodward? And why did I notice her only a few days ago?” This is how I started a post (in Swedish) about Lucy Woodward in February 2014 – and this is how I answered my questions.

Lucy is a young American music entertainer with a great feeling for jazz, funk, soul, R&B and other related genres. The reason why you should call her an entertainer, and not just a singer, is her ability to engage both herself and the audience in an entertaining mix of musicality, soul and humour. This is something you have to experience. Attempts to describe her in words will not do her justice. Therefore I stop trying here, and instead refer you to the links below. But why have I not noticed this wonderful artist until recently? Of course it has to do with my ignorance, but I think I share that ignorance with most people in my country. This is yet another example of our common failure to see what is happening on the music scene in other countries. However, it is a bit surprising this time because Lucy is based in a country we usually have our attention on, the US.As usual, I let Internet’s music associations lead my way when I found Lucy. I started with Gin Wigmore, but might just as well have started with Amy Winehouse, Bette Midler or Caro Emerald. Perhaps I could have found her also by starting with one of my other favourites, Nellie McKay, who is said to be one of Lucy’s sources of inspiration. You can find some traits of these artists in Lucy – but above all, Lucy is very much her own genuine Lucy Woodward.

Lucy was born in England 1977 in a musical family with a focus on opera and serious music. Her father is English and her mother American. They eventually moved to the Netherlands, where her father was the leader of a chamber choir. When the parents separated Lucy moved with her mother and brother to the US. Lucy’s mother earned her living there as a music teacher, choir director – and professional belly dancer. Lucy early took piano and flute lessons, and she took her first singing lessons when she was twelve. In the summer holidays she visited her father in Holland, and there frequently locked herself up in his studio and listened to jazz and R&B. At sixteen she became a student at the Manhattan School of Music in order to study jazz, but left school after a year. She wanted to try her wings as a singer-songwriter.

The next few years she performed in various configurations, and in between made her living as a waitress. In 2003, she had got enough attention to get a contract with Atlantic Records, where she recorded her first album – While You Can. The album met with some success, and Lucy toured and appeared on national television. However, Lucy was not totally happy with what she had accomplished, and further searched her musical identity. Her second album came in 2008, now on her own label – Lucy Woodward Is … Hot and Bothered, and her third album came in 2010 – Hooked. Both albums are very good, but I think that the force of her charisma should be enjoyed live during a club gig rather than on a well edited album. I think you will agree with me when you experience the songs below. Enjoy!”

Well, this is what I wrote in 2014, and I have since then been on my way to see Lucy live on a number of occasions in Europe. Now last in Holland, but in the end I couldn’t make it. The closest I have been was a concert at Théâtre Municipal Raymond Devos in Tourcoin, France. My wife and I visited Paris to see Diana Krall when we discovered that Lucy was going to perform together with the funk-fusion band Snarky Puppy in Tourcoin, not far from Paris. Well, we bought tickets to the concert and for the train, and booked a hotel night in Tourcoin.

When we arrived we had some hours to pass before the concert started, and we walked around to explore the city. Then it happened. In a mall I stepped on something slippery, slipped and fell backwards and hit my head hard on the marble floor. I passed out for some seconds, and guards who came running made me lie down until an ambulance arrived. Lying there I said to myself – I will miss Lucy again. After some half hour the medical personnel that had arrived made the diagnosis that I was not seriously hurt. With the help of my wife I could walk back to the hotel and rest for a few hours – and in the evening we came to the concert hall, somewhat shaken but with great expectations.

What about Lucy then? Well, she did not show up! Afterwards we learned that she was double-booked, and that she had to do another gig in London that night, together with Rod Stewart. It was actually no fault of hers, and we had a great night with Snarky Puppy, but we really missed Lucy.

(Snarky Puppy and Rod Stewart? Yes, Lucy appears together with some very different musicians. Another such group is Pink Martini. She is also one third of the vocal trio the Goods.)

So my experience of ”Lucy live” is yet to come. While searching for this experience I watch her on YouTube clips and enjoy her new album Til They Bang On The Door (2016). But maybe I could renew my wish from 2014? Returning to the impression I have of the early club recordings I repeat that Lucy in her character is something more than a singer. She is an entertainer, and probably also an actor. There is a lot of humour and a stroke of cabaret feeling in the songs and performances below, and if I could make a wish it would be that she entertained and developed that talent of hers even more. This probably also means something for her future repertoire. Maybe this is the Lucy I most eagerly search for.

What kind of Lucy are you searching for, Lucy?

 

 

More

Use What I Got

Babies

Too Much To Live For

He Got Away

It’s Oh So Quiet (From the sound track of the movie Ice Princess)

Sans Souisi

Bad Things

Sing Sing Sing

Geographical Cure (Rehearsal)

Sugar

Stardust

 

Kat Edmonson

Source: Youtube

Did not look like a star

Kat Edmonson is from Houston, Texas. When she was 19, she participated in the auditions for the second season of American Idol. She eventually became one of the 48 who were chosen to participate in the final competition in Hollywood. However, Kat did not go far. She was rejected with the comment that she did not look like a star. I understand what the juror Randy Jackson was referring to, but I make a different assessment of Kat and her stage personality. There is a measure of absentness in Kat’s performance, and she sometimes appears introverted – but regardless of the basis for that character it gives her music integrity and personality. Yes, a little bit of a mystery. There is no artificial mannerism in her performance. And thanks heaven for that!

Now Kat Edmonson is 33 years old and soon her fourth album will be released. Her three first albums are irresistible and they have received a lot of well earned praise. She is now a recognized interpreter of standards as well as of contemporary popular music, and she is also successful with her own compositions. Today critics say that Kat indeed looks like a star, but I think that she still differs in an interesting way from the usual image of a star. Her appearance expresses ”here I stand and sing a song that means a lot to me, and I hope it will to you as well.” It’s not more than that, but it goes a long way when it is Kat who is singing.

And how she sings! Kat (short for Katherine) has a voice with a very special and beautiful sound. Sometimes it reminds me of Stacey Kent, but the expression is not the same. Some have compared her voice with the voice of Billie Holiday, some with the voice of Nellie McKay. But of course, Kat is primarily Kat herself.

Kat’s mother early taught her to like the classics in the American Songbook, and that kind of music is a base for most of what she does. Some of it fits into the jazz field; some is closer to the American folk song tradition. Kat herself labels her music ”Vintage Pop”.

You can find some of the classics on her first album Take To The Sky. Many great artists have done wonderful versions of these, and one may wonder if there is anything to add. Then listen, for example, to Kat’s and her fellow musicians’ version of George Gershwin´s Summertime. There is also more recent music from other genres on this album, such as The Cardigan’s Lovefool, John Lennon’s (Just Like) Starting Over and The Cure’s Just Like Heaven. Kat makes them all her own and turns them into ”Vintage Pop”.

On the second album Way Down Low you can find a number of her own compositions. Lucky is probably the one that have received most attention. There is a lot of praise on the Internet. She wrote Champagne inspired by Cole Porter´s music, and it certainly has the feeling of a classic. What Else Can I Do is a wonderful feather light samba. But most beautiful is her sorrowful Nobody Knows That. There are also other musicians’ compositions on the second album. I would particularly highlight her delicate version of Miles Zuniga’s (in the band Fastball) blues ballad Hopelessly Blue.

With one exception Kat is involved in the creation of every song on her third album The Big Picture  sometimes on her own, sometimes together with fellow musicians. I particularly want to highlight Oh My Love, All The Way, Zuniga’s You Can’t Break My Heart, and the breath taking Who’s Counting. You literally hold your breath not to disturb the expression of this song.

Soon her fourth album arrives. In addition to original songs written by Kat I hope there will also be some interpretations of other artist’s well known songs. She is a very original and skilful interpreter. And I sincerely hope that no one has convinced Kat to transform her music and personality into something that fits into the standard frame of a modern American pop star. Kat is unique in a very positive way, and I want her to continue to be that.

 

 

More

Lovefool

(Just Like) Starting Over

Just Like Heaven

Lucky

Champagne

What Else Can I do

Nobody Knows That

Hopelessly Blue

Oh My Love

All The Way

You Can’t Break My Heart

Who’s Counting

 

This is an updated version of a post published (in Swedish) at Musik.pm on 11 July, 2014.

Club des Belugas

71Ay6YRmTFL__SL290_

Source: Amazon

Welcome to the musical universe of Club des Belugas!

Club des Belugas is a German constellation of musicians specializing in Nu-jazz and contemporary Lounge. These basic ingredients are combined with a variety of other styles of music, including Swing, Latin and Soul. Club des Belugas create atmospheric music, and the atmosphere varies with music styles.

Maxim Illion and Kitty the Bill represents the conceptual core of Club des Belugas. The two play central roles in the constellation’s creation of music and studio work. Maxim participates in live performances, but only in the subgroup Club des Belugas Orchestra. Kitty, who is described as very shy, does not participate in any live performances. Both play keyboards and Maxim in addition, bass and percussion. Kitty writes music for Club des Belugas, but also for other musicians and her own albums.

The constellation began their “operations” in 2002 and the last of nine albums came in 2016, called Nine. In the German Wikipedia’s article about Club des Belugas no less than 23 members are mentioned. At studio recordings 19 of these play in various combinations. Two different configurations play at live performances. Ten members of the studio configuration and yet another musician play in Club des Belugas Orchestra. In Club des Belugas Quartet a vocalist from the studio constellation sing together with three musicians who do not participate in any of the other constellations.

Thus, there is a large variation in terms of musicians and music styles. Is there any musical core at all – something that creates profile and identity? Maybe – maybe not, but everything is really good. Listening through Club des Belugas’ nine albums is like making a journey in an exciting musical universe. There is a great variety, but even if we visit very different musical destinations my impression still is that we all the time travel in the same spacecraft – steered by Maxim and Kitty. Join in on a tour to some of the planets!

 

More:

Save a Little Love for Me

A Men ‘s Scene

Habana Twist

It’s a Beautiful Day

Desperately Trying

Early Daiquiris

La Mer

Passing On the Screen

My Hunger Hurts

 

First published (in Swedish) at Musik.pm on 24 November, 2014

Planets that meet

planets-that-meet

Source: LuxFon.com

Those of us who discovered Elvis Presley in the 1950s have often had difficulties to accept Elvis’ later repertoire. And his manager, Colonel Parker, is regarded as the “crook” who turned the rebel Elvis Presley into a much tidier entertainer. Elvis’ first movie had the taste of James Dean, but then the movies became romantic tales of dubious quality. The music also changed. Less rock & roll, and more of grand ballads.

Was Parker then the one to blame? For sure Parker had commercial success as his first priority, but did Elvis really become anything else than Elvis himself wanted? Sometimes I think that perhaps it was the short period with songs by Leiber/Stoller, Little Richard, Carl Perkins and others which was a detour from who Elvis really was. He was, after all, a true traditional American guy with traditional American values. And he had voice for the grand ballads that later became his trademark. Musically, Elvis perhaps became exactly what he wanted. Nevertheless, he did not become what I wanted.

How should I regard this fact? Was the standard of Elvis’ later albums lower than the standard of his earlier, or did he just develop in a direction that did not suit my taste? Or both? It is difficult to know, but if I ignore the possibility of lower quality and focus on the change of genres, the change can be looked upon as follows.

It is of course presumptuous to require that an artist should continue with his/hers break through genre or expression, just because it is a genre or an expression that I like. You cannot deny an artist the right to change and evolve in a different direction than mine. In addition, even my musical taste develops over time. (The clips below show this with emphasis.) Thus, it is not certain that an artist who continues to make similar albums may keep my appreciation. Instead of regretting the fact that the last album by a favourite artist was a disappointment, I might consider myself lucky that the artist and I, like two planets on different roads in a musical universe, still met somewhere in time and musical space. That it is completely natural that we only got a couple of albums in our common musical treasury before our journeys continued in different directions.

Later in the history of popular music one can argue the same way regarding the early fans’ disappointment when Bob Dylan turned from acoustic to electric instruments.

There are many examples of artists where I have had big expectations on the next album because I so much appreciated one or two of the earlier – and when the new was released I was disappointed. It may have been because the quality of the last album in fact was lower, but it can also be that our musical paths simply had split. And to be honest, it so happens that I can get a bit disappointed about the third album if it is too close to the previous two. A popular artist has many thousands, often millions, of such individual requests that his or her music relates to. It cannot be easy to be an artist if you make an effort to please. It is probably safer for the artist to follow his or her own developmental path.

It sometimes happens that paths cross again – that one of my favourite artists return to a previous expression after an excursion in different terrain. If my preferences then have remained at the previous expression we will meet again. Like when Diana Krall on her latest album swings her magic wand of interpretative genius over a number of pop ballads as she previously has done over a number of jazz standards and ballads in the American Songbook. During her excursions on a couple of albums with original songs and other genres/expressions my interest chilled down, but now I am enthusiastic again. But some critics appreciated the excursions, and now they are disappointed.

Planets that meet – and then go their separate ways.

 

First published (in Swedish) at Musik.pm on May 23, 2015

A Fado Experience

Ana Catarina Grilo, Francisco Do Carmo and fellow musicians at Devagar Devagarinho, Lisbon

Ana Catarina Grilo, Francisco Do Carmo and fellow musicians at Devagar Devagarinho, Lisbon

It is the 24th of October. We arrive at the old Grande Hotel de Paris in the centre of Porto after a flight from Sweden, a train ride from Lisbon Airport and a taxi drive from Campanha train station. It is our first visit in Portugal, and we have come to experience Fado – a new love in music since three years. After checking in I send a message to the Porto fadista who became a Facebook friend only two weeks ago. I tell her that we now are in Porto. I am lucky. Within seconds I can see her start to write an answer. It’s magic! She wishes us welcome and asks how long we will stay. I give her the answer – only a couple of days. A minute later we have received her recommendations of two Fado houses in Porto. The adventure starts.

The next night we go to Casa da Marinquinhas, the Fado house that the fadista recommended in the first place.  It is not easy to find the place among the irregular small streets and alleys alongside central Porto. The houses are very old and there are not many people in the sparsely-lit streets. If we had not been recommended to go there we would probably had avoided that part of the city at night time. But once there we are warmly welcomed and invited to our booked table.

After four hours we have had a nice meal interfolded by at least six performances by different fadistas, male and female, and two guitarristas. The man who seems to run the place is strict in his design of the Fado experience. Food is ordered and served in sequences to fit in between the performances. Before every performance the lights in the small restaurant go down and only a couple of tiny spotlights light up a small spot in the centre of the place. There is no stage. The musicians are on the same level as us. It is totally quiet. No one continues to eat, and we are all focused on what is going to happen.

And then one of the most beautiful combinations of instruments – the Portuguese and the classical guitar – starts to colour the background of the Fado song. Soft, but nevertheless energetic. They do so with a delicate fabric of tones in which it is sometimes difficult to distinguish who is contributing which thread. Still, the different sounds of the two guitars are very distinct.

After a short and beautiful guitar introduction, often with a bittersweet colour, the fadista starts to sing. And the song is not less beautiful. The fadista tells the emotional story (most often a sad one) with closed eyes, and he/she does not open them until a storm of applause releases the tension of the fadista and the audience. There is never a second of silence between the song and the applause. It is as if the concentration of the strong emotions that the fadista and the musicians create gets its release when the last almost forceful tones of the guitars and the fadista are hit.

As the experienced visitor of Fado houses now realizes, this is not a description of what is going on only in Casa da Marinquinhas, but with variations in every Fado house. At its best the Fado experience is created in a close relation between fadistas, guitarristas and Fado house guests. Fadistas sometimes say that they need the community with the audience to create genuine and honest Fado. Guests are sometimes informed that “you and your silence are important parts of the Fado experience”.  This message has two parts. It means that the guests of Fado houses are co-creators of the Fado experience – but also that the guests cannot be co-creators if they disturb the fadistas, themselves or other guests by talking, eating or just being focused on something else than the performance. Fado is serious business, and if you are not interested in participating on these terms you should probably do something else. It might sound a little bit too strict to some of you, but why not give it a try? You will be rewarded.

However, in the genre Fado Canção the fadista sometimes invites the guests to sing along. This is a special kind of Fado with verse and refrain, and the Fado house guests can be invited to gently join the fadista in the refrain. But make no mistake – it is the fadista who is in command.

What about us who do not speak or understand Portuguese? Can we participate on those terms? I think we can. We might not understand the story that is told, but communication has more channels than language. The expressions of Fado communicate strong emotions, and the beauty of the melodies, the voices and the instruments strongly relate to our emotions. For me it is enough if the singer understands the lyrics and that this understanding colours his/hers expression. Expression communicates with my emotions more effectively than words.

After the days in Porto we return to Lisbon, the capital not only of Portugal, but also of Fado. We spend the first night in a small Fado house in Alfama where the Lisbon fadista Ana Catarina Grilo performs. The connection with her is the result of a letter to a Portuguese association in Sweden asking for advice. Before we leave the Fado house that night Ana Catarina and the guitarrista Francisco Do Carmo invites us to come to another small Fado house the next day – Devagar Devagarinho. The experience at this small Fado house proves to be the best we have in Lisbon. The small group of about thirty guests, the four musicians and the fadistas share a small space that provides intimacy and a very dense atmosphere. As in Porto several of the fadistas also serve in the restaurant. Everything about the place and the experience is really “family like”, exactly like Francisco has told us.

In Lisbon we also visit a couple of big Fado houses, where some great and well known fadistas and musicians perform, not least at Clube de Fado. However, these places lack the intimacy and the feeling of a shared experience. The experience is neither the experience of a Fado concert, where the audience is fully concentrated on the musicians on stage, nor the experience of a small Fado house. At those bigger places there are unfortunately also guests that are not aware of the special setting that the Fado experience requires. This is natural since you probably will find more tourists from other countries at those places. The experience might be good enough, but it is not the best.

We have the last three years listened to a lot of Fado, and we have attended concerts with the marvellous fadistas Mariza, Carminho and Ana Moura. However, we have almost only listened to female fadistas. It might be that I have been selective in favour of listening to female fadistas, but actually I believe that outside Portugal female fadistas in general have been much more successful than male fadistas. I believe this situation is a matter of preference, not of quality.

My impression during our visit in Porto and Lisbon was that the proportions of male and female fadistas at the Fado houses are just about equal, and I feel that the emotional expression of the Fado fits both sexes equally well. As a matter of fact I find that the male Fado expression communicates a more sincere representation of genuine male emotions than the ones I have experienced in many other cultural expressions. I can in Fado find a home for my own emotions, not only as a “male guest” in the female representation of Fado, but also when members of my own sex interpret Fado.

In general, the strong emotions of Fado, and the common focus on the experience at the Fado houses, fit my personality and temperament very well. The emotions that the music creates are felt inside every Fado house guest, but those feelings are not expressed during the Fado song. We all know that we share the experience, but we do not devalue it by comments, chit chat or eating. But in the end of every Fado song we participate in an outburst of relief and joy – a joy we all feel, having played a part in the creation of the Fado experience.

 


See also

Three concerts I did not attend

All in a merciful blend

Carminho

Mariza

Ana Moura

What is ”World music” – not?

A reflection after four years of Musik.pm

Four years ago today Musik.pm was launched. On this day I would like to contemplate on a concept that has puzzled me over the years, especially when I have visited music shops to buy recorded music. The concept is World music.

The concept World music was launched by the American musicologist Robert E Brown in the 1960’s. It was a concept used in his theory about how understanding between different people and cultures could be built through experiencing music from other cultures. However, soon World music came to be used as a commercial concept, a brand used by the record companies to promote music that was not from the North American/North European culture sphere. Predominately folk music, traditional music, ethnic and indigenous music have been included, but the boundaries are not sharp. Sometimes a mix of traditional and modern Western music is included, but never mainstream Western music.

Using the label World music in this way is confusing. With such a meaning the label seems to refer rather to local music than to a group of genres jointly appreciated by the world community of music listeners. The latter use of the word “world” would have been logical. It would also make sense if the label referred to all genres in the world, or maybe to the music most spread in the world – in that case probably music from the North American/North European culture sphere.

To label music that does not emanate from the North American/North European culture sphere as World music might indeed mean that a large share of the total music being played in the world would be included – but why give such an immense variety of music one label?

I don’t think any specific genre or group of genres deserve the label World music. And, as a matter of fact, I hope there will never be one that does. The variety of genres, and the tension and exchange between genres, represent cultural richness and create development.

So why not stop using the label World music? It gives us almost no useable clue about what to find in such a category, whether used in a physical CD-shop, a web store, in books, in papers or in magazines. It is simply too broad. I might like a few of the genres in such a category, while I dislike or am indifferent to the rest. Such a broad concept also justifies that all the different genres in such a category will have to settle with sharing one small portion of the attention of music lovers and the music industry. That is to overstate the importance of music from the North American/North European culture sphere, and to understate the importance of music from other cultures.

Since basically every genre has its roots in a particular part of the world every genre can rightly be said to be local. Even the North American/North European music is local in that sense.

Released from the conceptual burden of the label World music we can happily look out in the world and find so many interesting genres. Even the North American/North European genres seem more interesting regarded as a local group of genres than as a kind of universal music that is supposed to fit everywhere.

World music or not – here is some of the music that Musik.pm has covered the first four years. Enjoy!

More:

Paloma Faith: Upside Down

Céu: Malemolência

Koop: Summer Sun

Ana Moura: Como uma nuvem no céu

Hindi Zahra: Beautiful Tango

Roberta Sá: Samba De Um Minuto

Maria Gadú: Ne me quitte pas

Lucy Woodward: Use What I Got

Lou Doillon: Devil or Angel

Kat Edmonson: Nobody Knows That

Maria Rita: Cara Valente

Stacey Kent: Jardin d’Hiver

Club Des Belugas: A Men ‘s Scene

Mariza: Ó Gente Da Minha Terra

Cecile McLorin Salvant: If This Isn’t Love

Carminho: Bom Dia, Amor

Keren Ann: La corde et les chaussons

Sant Andreu Jazz Band: Minor Swing

Sant Andreu Jazz Band

sant-andreu-jazz-band-1

Picture from allevents.in

All around the world new generations of musicians emerge. Young people learn from earlier generations, from role models, from friends – and they also put a lot of effort themselves into developing their skills, of course.

A lot of good work is going on in schools on different levels, and today I want to shine the limelight on Sant Andreu Jazz Band in Barcelona, which is a project arising from a music class there. Conducted by Joan Chamorro, the big band brings together children between 6 and 18 years old, around a classic jazz repertoire with lots of swing.

Something exceptionally good has been going on with this band for quite some time, and I want you all to enjoy the fruits of their work. In fact they have a lot of good stuff on YouTube, which in itself is part of the success concept. They have made an effort of publishing a lot of clips with sound and picture of as high quality as the music itself.

In the band, students play together with teachers and other experienced and well-known musicians. This is a really good concept, and it mixes the educational side of playing together with having fun together. The latter goes for both students and experienced musicians, as you can see in the clips.

A very nice documentary about the band was made in 2012 by Ramón Tort. It is called Kids and Music, la Sant Andreu Jazz Band. I urge you to spend one hour to watch this film. You will enjoy a lot of good music, and what you see will make you very happy. Do not hesitate if you cannot understand the language. You will understand and appreciate the film anyway! The spoken word is not what is important. In 2013 the film was awarded best feature film at the Lights. Camera. Help. festival in Austin, Texas.

Some of the students have been put forward as soloists in other contexts than the big band. The charismatic founder and leader of Sant Andreu Jazz Band, Joan Chamorro, also runs the Joan Chamorro Quintet. The Quintet and the famous saxophone player Scott Hamilton play together with some of the featured students (or former students) in some of the clips below.

I love to see the way students pop up in different roles in the music. Sometimes you are the solo vocalist, like Rita Payés, Andrea Motis and Alba Armengou, sometimes you are in the background backing up your fellow musicians.

Thank you Sant Andreu Jazz Band, Joan Chamorro Quintet, all students, all teachers and professional musicians and – of course ­– Joan Chamorro!

Enough of words. Enjoy the clips and the film below!

 

From This Moment On

More:

Wave

Mood Indigo

Minor Swing

Àguas De Março

All Of You

Desafinado

How High the Moon

So Danço Samba

Stars Fell on Alabama

(In My) Solitude

Summertime

I Like To Hear It Sometimes

And the film: Kids and Music, la Sant Andreu Jazz Band

 

About Sant Andreu Jazz Band at Wikipedia.

 

Keren Ann

Bildkälla: YouTube

Picture from YouTube

Who is Keren Ann? This question probably means different things to different people. For people in France, where Keren Ann for many is a well-known and loved singer-songwriter, the question might imply a wish to know who she really is. What personal traits can you find behind the public image of her? Maybe followed up by a wish to know how her background has formed her personality and her work as an artist.

To people in my country the question probably has a much more basic meaning, because Keren Ann is not a person most people have heard about at all. When I discovered Keren Ann on the Internet a couple of months ago she was new to me, and I could not find much written about her in Swedish press. There are a few Swedish reviews of albums to be found on the Internet, but the albums and the reviews have not got much attention – although the reviews are very positive.

Some facts for those of us who do not know Keren Ann well: She was born 1974 in Israel to a Russian-Israeli father and a Dutch-Javanese mother.  When Keren Ann was eleven the family moved to France, where she grew up. As a professional musician she has divided her time between Paris and New York.

Keren Ann has from 2000 to 2016 released seven albums as a solo artist. In the beginning she wrote her lyrics in French, but later she turned to English. She has written and co-produced songs for other artists, and a couple of Keren Ann’s songs have been featured in films and TV series. Some of her songs have been covered by well-known artists. She has also cooperated with the Icelandic musician and composer Bardi Johannsson. They called their act Lady & Bird, made two albums, performed together and co-wrote the opera Red Waters.

So Karen Ann has quite a selection of merits in her musical CV. She is a truly international and cosmopolitan artist, although her reputation is unevenly spread over the world. Her music is hard to pin-point and label in terms of genre, time and geography – which probably has been standing in her way for the big break-through. But since her music is of such high quality I believe that the personal character of her songs will secure that they will live for a very long time – regardless of tradition. And we who have found Keren Ann will spread the word about her music to those who have not yet found her. This is what this text is about.

My first impression of Keren Ann’s music was that it combined delicacy and fragility – and unconsciously I transferred those characteristics to her personality. However, the accomplishments of her career tell another story. Her artistic width and productivity rather indicate a personality with professional strength and determination. This is also the character I see in an interview in The Guardian 2011 – Keren Ann: happy to be melancholy.

The biography presented on Keren Ann’s current website starts with chapter 7, referring to her seventh album. This is not where I am in terms of listening. I have briefly listened to all seven albums and have found many beautiful songs, but I keep coming back to “chapter 2” and “chapter 3” – the second and the third album – La Disparition (2002) and Not Going Anywhere (2003). On these albums Keren Ann’s musical expression of soft melancholy and intimacy is like a refuge, a sanctuary I do not want to leave for a long time. And when I listen to one of the two I listen from start to end. The songs on each album build the atmosphere together.

It feels a little strange to get to know an artist through her old albums when you know she has moved on and now tells other stories with other expressions. It is like we are on different ends of a time machine. I wonder how Keren Ann would feel if she thought about that?

Eventually I will move on and listen more thoroughly to the later “chapters” of Keren Ann’s musical life. We will see if I then catch up with her, or if she by then has moved on to new musical horizons and chapters. Because I have no doubt that this woman in a year or two will write “chapter eight” of her musical story.

 

La corde et les chaussons (2002)

More:

Le sable mouvant (2002)

Au coin du monde (2002)

Surannée (2002)

Not Going Anywhere (2003)

Sit in the Sun (2003)

My Name Is Trouble (2011)

Where Did You Go (2016)