Midnight Jazz

Luiz Simas left successful career in Brazil to find new life in America

May 30, 2008
Leave a Comment

An Interview with Luiz Simas

Written by Vivian Fields

Luiz Simas represents the best in Brazilian jazz; on his new album Cafuné, Simas not only displays his mastery over Latin rhythms but manages to impress with his lyrical skills as well, telling stories that cross language and cultural boundaries, unifying all of us.

Vivian Fields: What does Cafuné mean?

Luiz Simas: Cafuné is a soft, affectionate stroking on the top of somebody else’s head. In Brazil, you can ask someone else to do a cafuné on you by saying “Me faz um cafuné.”

Fields: In 1989, you left a successful musical career in Brazil to relocate in the United States. How difficult a transition was that for you? Did you fear that you were not going to be able to achieve that kind of fame in America?
 
Simas: It was a very difficult and long transition, but I never had that kind of fear. I’m really driven by faith, positive thinking. Plus, my main objective has never been fame per se but just to be able to compose and perform and share my music with everyone.

Fields: Where did you learn how to sing?
 
Simas: My singing evolved naturally over the years. When I was very young I went to Rio’s music conservatory and had music theory classes, which included solfeggio (reading and singing). After that I participated in a choir in Rio, and when I was 18 I was an exchange student in the U.S. (in Lakewood, Ohio), and participated in the high school’s choir too. Besides, being in Rio during bossa nova times in the ’60s meant I was always singing, either at the piano, or accompanying myself on acoustic guitar (which I used to play a little).

Fields: Cafuné has Portuguese lyrics with English translations in the booklet. Have you ever considered recording a CD in all English?
 
Simas: In fact, I have already recorded a CD almost all in English, Recipe for Rhythm. It’s available online. I wrote all the music in that CD as well, but the lyrics were written by an wonderful American lyricist, Ellen Schwartz. But yes, I would like to record a CD with my own lyrics in English someday. That’s a plan in the back of my head for the near future.
 
Fields: Brazilian jazz is so timeless. Why is that this style has aged so well over the decades?
 
Simas: I think it’s because it combines some elements which have universal appeal: gorgeous melodies and harmonies, sophisticated rhythms, and a relaxed, free attitude to singing and playing.

http://www.luizsimas.com

Advertisements

New Age artist finds inspiration in Hinduism and Buddhism on ‘Goddess’

May 14, 2008
1 Comment

An Interview with David Hicken

Written by Vivian Fields

David Hicken’s new album, Goddess, is an enigmatic and stunningly beautiful work. Capturing the essence of New Age with its immaculate instrumentals, Hicken also absorbs the otherwordly, sometimes mythical elements associated with the genre. But what distinguishes Goddess from other New Age releases is that it is thematically unified, a concept album that is usually associated with progressive rock.

Vivian Fields: Each track on Goddess is named after a different deity. What was the inspiration behind this work?

David Hicken: I discovered Hinduism while living in Sri Lanka, and I visited many beautiful temples. One of the first Goddesses that I learned about was Lakshmi, which became the first track of the CD. After that, I liked the idea of writing each piece to represent different deities.  

Fields: How did you go about composing each instrumental to fit the individual Goddesses? Were they conceived to capture their personalities or what they represented?

Hicken: I wrote exactly what came to me when I thought about each deity and didn’t try to manipulate the music to fit my idea of their personalities. Even though the tracks for Ishtar and Pele are very mellow and peaceful, I wasn’t concerned that it didn’t fit our notion of these “warrior” Goddesses because I felt that it reflected the softer side of their personalities.

Fields: Do you consider yourself to be a spiritual person?
 
Hicken: Yes, I am very spiritual and I have a great interest in all of the world’s religions – particularly Buddhism and Hinduism. I take time to meditate every day and I love to be surrounded by peace and tranquility.

Fields: How much of the Hawaiian environment that surrounds your everday life influences your musical composition and performances?


Hicken: I am so very fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and I am surrounded by exquisite beauty everywhere. My studio overlooks a park, mountains and the ocean, and it was once the site of the most important temple on the island of Oahu. I am very much influenced by the wonders that surround me, and I’m sure that it is reflected in my music.

http://www.davidhicken.com


Pianist Bob Geresti dazzles with large body of work

May 1, 2008
Leave a Comment

An Interview with Bob Geresti

Written by Vivian Fields

Some people have discographies; for pianist Bob Geresti, his body of work could be called a library. Since the early ’90s, Geresti has recorded and self-released one album after another, stretching his creative vision across the musical landscape. Among these is “Keys into the ’70s,” wherein Geresti covers classic-rock favorites such as Styx’s “Babe” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and transforms them into cinematic piano instrumentals. There is emotion in Geresti’s playing; these aren’t soulless paint-by-numbers makeovers for the Muzak set. Geresti is an artist, and most definitely a prolific one.

Vivian Fields: You have recorded in a few years more albums than people have in a lifetime. What brought forth such a massive output of creativity?

Bob Geresti: I started in 1992, selling my first three albums to gift shops and my sales skyrocketed in the next several years with fans wanting more from me. I felt that my years in piano bars were informative years for me. Those years helped me to see what songs the public really liked. My arrangements of songs and my style was what people really enjoyed. I liked learning songs by ear, even though I can read music, because I could put more of me into the songs. I’ve always had an extensive repertoire and enjoy all kinds of music.

Fields: Your albums always have a theme to them, whether they’re ’70s rock songs covered as piano instrumentals, Christmas discs, film scores, or spiritual pieces. What goes into your decision-making process in figuring out what you’re going to do next? Is it just your mood at that moment or have these styles always interested you?

Geresti: I tried to do what the public asked for as far as songs and then use a theme for the album. My mood would have some input as to how I would come up with the arrangement. I would play songs each night and some nights I would come up with a great arrangement which I would then keep and record so I would play it the same way each time. All of the different styles have always interested me. I enjoy coming up with a way to play a song that you would never think of, but would really sound good whether it was a religious song, a love song, or a classical tune to which I add my own flair.

Fields: Of all your recordings, name two that you are most proud of and why.

Geresti: It’s tough to name only two when I’ve had several. My first original album would have to be one since I feel it’s hard to get people to listen to or buy original music since they don’t know those songs.  However, during my live performances, I play my originals and people love them and always come over to comment on how well they liked the song and which album it was on.  Also, cable companies began playing my songs as well as most recently the Weather Channel. They played an original from my first album on the local on the 8’s and has received a great response. The other recording would be “Speak Softly To Me,” which has been my best seller since I released it. One song on this album I feel really sells it is Pachelbel’s “Canon In D.” I’ve had several people come up to me and say that they were big George Winston fans, but that they really liked the way I played the “Canon.” I like the way George plays it too, but my arrangement is different and has captured many fans for me.

Fields: Which of your albums have proven to be the most commercially successful, and why do you think people were so attracted to them?

Geresti: This I somewhat answered in the question above with the “Speak Softly To Me” album but the “Divine Devotions” album has been a very successful recording. As a matter of fact, it sold faster than any album when it first was released. I think my arrangements of a few of the songs on those twp albums is what really attracted people to them. I had well-known songs on each album with great arrangements.

Fields: When did you start playing piano? At what age did you feel you mastered the instrument? Or do you feel you still have more learning to do?

Geresti: I started at the age of nine and then took lessons when I was 10 through my senior year in high school. I majored in piano at West Virginia University for four years, of which two of those years I took lessons. It’s hard to say at what age I mastered the piano but after a few years of lessons, I was impressing people at malls where I would sit down and play and in school. But in college is where I really started to play songs with my current style, doing them the Geresti way which I have continued through today. As far as more learning, I still find new songs and come up with great arrangements of them during my practicing (which I still have to do!) I really still enjoy practicing especially since I purchased a Yamaha concert grand piano two years ago.

http://www.gerestimusic.com


About author

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

Search

Navigation

Categories:

Links:

Archives:

Feeds