Midnight Jazz

Vinny St. Marten is New York’s best-kept secret

February 27, 2008
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Reviewed by Vivian Fields

Vinny St. Marten/Blindness Is a State of Mind

In a better world, Vinny St. Marten is performing before a crowd of adoring millions, seduced and mesmerized by his blue-eyed crooning. Then again, it’s never too late, isn’t it? Label him as New York’s best-kept secret, and it’s been that way too long if you read his history on the web. Actually, on this EP Marten will beat you to that as he, with the heartfelt warmth of a grandpa and the dramatic tone of a professional storyteller, shares some of those stories with you. The first one, “Think About It (Roy’s Song),” dates back to decades past but sadly is still relevant in these times. As a young blind man, racism absolutely made no sense to Marten as he had no sense of color to begin with. But his friendship with a black boy named Roy attracted bigoted dismissal from his peers. The track, part spoken-word diary, part classic soul, cuts deep; the emotionally reflective piano gives it a cinematic backdrop, and this is probably the best use of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech ever.

Marten leaves behind social commentary on “Please Let Me Be Your Eyes,” a love song with longtime partner Elysa Sunshine. Hearing Marten’s husky voice swimming alongside Sunshine’s silky smoothness makes for a gentle, sun-soaked message. Although there are only three cuts on this EP, they are all memorable and lovable, written with a profound degree of nostalgia and wisdom.



Luiz Simas masters Brazilian jazz on ‘Cafuné’

February 23, 2008
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Reviewed by Vivian Fields

Luiz Simas/Cafuné

Luiz Simas – isn’t he famous? With a name that certainly rings a bell, even if you aren’t a fan of Brazilian pop, Simas certainly casts a superstar presence on Cafuné. This is a man who sounds like he has been filling arenas for decades, and he probably has; or, if he hasn’t yet, he certainly will. This is a firecracker of a record, exploding with jubilant Latin rhythms, richly textured jazz backbeats, and even elegant classical touches. The year is still new, but Cafuné already has my vote as among the year’s finest.

Sung entirely in Portuguese (English lyrics are included with the disc), Simas’ songs are stories, slices of life that show how universal the situations we engage in daily are. Reading the English translation, I was really surprised at what the words actually were; there is depth to these tunes. For example, “Cabelos Brancos” seems to be a prodigal son who has returned to his family after a long journey of self-discovery, only to realize that he has lost time with the people who loved him the most.

Musically, this is a spectacular record. “Sambinha do Chinés” injects Oriental flavors on playfully energetic piano. “Cabelos Brancos” is a river flow of elevating sax and laid-back piano, flute, and cello. “A Chama” combines Brazilian pop with classical atmospherics while “A Revolta dos Mares” is ice-cool lounge music.


Posted in Brazilian Jazz

‘Charmed’ brings new life to torch songs

February 21, 2008
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Reviewed by Michael Sutton


Valentine’s Day may be over, but that doesn’t mean you still won’t be Charmed by Torch. Showing no fear – and remarkable confidence – in performing jazz standards with new original material of their own, Torch display class, good taste, and overall stellar musicianship. It all begins at the top with vocalist Seela Misra, whose late-night crooning is as sensual as it is soothing, especially on “Just Say the Word,” probably one of the most romantic and fetching numbers on here, and the instantly lovable “Alone Together.”

However, it’s not just about the slow-dance picks. “Is It Enough” and “My Baby Just Cares for Me” are driven by Misra’s animated performances. They serve as an example of how a strong vocalist, one with a vivacious personality, can elevate songs to another level. Experience, too, is key; this doesn’t sound like the work of newcomers but people who are so familiar with this genre, what really makes it tick, that they can invigorate it with their own distinct vision.

The drumming is particularly special, giving the tracks a solid foundation as on “Is It Enough” and “Caravan,” the Duke Ellington classic. Some people might pitch this to only an older crowd; however, that would be a mistake. Real music transcends age groups, and even kids who aren’t familiar with torch songs will register with the emotions and passions conveyed on Charmed.


Posted in Jazz Vocals

About author

Julian Wilson, Editor, has been writing about different genres of music, from jazz to techno, for nearly two decades in print.