Midnight Jazz

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

May 30, 2008
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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.



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

About author

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