Midnight Jazz

Laura Pursell’s ‘Somewhere in this Room’ is ‘meticulously crafted and classically arranged’

June 2, 2008
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Reviewed by Vivian Fields

Laura Pursell/Somewhere in this Room

Laura Pursell’s Somewhere in this Room is too beautiful to be categorized as Adult Contemporary. Given that the genre has embodied too much cheese the past couple of decades, laying the Adult Contemporary tag on this meticuously crafted and classically arranged project is too superficial. The first five or so minutes of Somewhere in this Room, the opening “Overture,” is a sweeping instrumental piece that’ll leave you breathless and in awe with its waves of lush violins and evocative piano. Pursell doesn’t even sing on it; it isn’t until the second track, “When You Come Down,” that Pursell is introduced, seducing us with a fragile voice as sweet and warm as Karen Carpenter’s in her prime.

From “Overture” you get the impression that Pursell will pursue chamber-pop on the rest of the CD. Not at all. Pursell veers from the bluesy regrets of “Not Much to Lose” to the bossa nova charms of “When You Smile” to the orchestral masterpiece that is the title cut. Producer Andrew Bonime does an outstanding job of keeping the record consistent even when Pursell strays from one genre to the other. The album is not meant to be sliced into pieces on an iPod; it must be experienced from beginning to end, letting its various parts melt into each other to produce a massively satisfying and hauntingly pretty whole. Somewhere in this Room is nothing less than a work of art.



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.


Australia’s Kinderjazz swings from Latin to blues to funk with childlike glee

March 5, 2008
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Reviewed by Vivian Fields

Kinderjazz/The One for Me

Spring is here, and so is the bright, bouncy, and buoyant new album from Kinderjazz. Let the sunshine in because that’s what Kinderjazz is all about. As hinted by their name, Kinderjazz are a kid-friendly Big Band from Australia. The group has numerous members – enough to crowd a house, that’s for sure – that are highly skilled musicians performing music which will appeal to the child in anyone. Because they are aiming for the kiddie market, they might not be taken as seriously, most likely unfairly dismissed as a novelty act. No, not at all. Kinderjazz are simply taking styles of music often targeted towards grown-ups and wrapping them up in the most delectable bubblegum.

The One for Me consists of original material that may sound like songs from more than 40 years ago. Again, the difference is Kinderjazz’s approach, producing tunes that tykes can boogie to without the influence of purple dinosaurs. “Kinderjazz” and “That’s Fine” steal our hearts from the very beginning, percolating with giddy Latin rhythms; I love how the former runs into a smashing, crashing conclusion. The energy on The One for Me will leave you – and your children – breathless. The band never seems to tire, leaping from swing to jazz to funk with the open-minded and wild imaginations of – guess what? – kids.


hologramª magically mixes Pink Floyd space rock with Latin jazz

January 28, 2008
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Reviewed by Vivian Fields


As you can probably tell by their enigmatic name, hologramª are not your typical jazz-fusion group. In fact, hologramª are as creatively linked to the space rock of Pink Floyd and Yes as they are with their jazz roots. Maybe psychedelic jazz could be used to label this otherwordly foursome. “Expansion” and “Solarwinds” define the group’s sci-fi bent. “Expansion,” with its intergalactic intro, and “Solarwinds,” powered by gusts that morph into spine-tingling jazz rhythms, are truly extraordinary. The group uses jazz’s lack of stylistic borders to stretch their creativity and raise their consciousness. In doing so, we’re taken on a fantastic journey with them.

While “Solarwinds” crackles with the unbridled energy of falling stars, the band shifts into low gear with “Temple,” evoking a rainy-day environment. A band of truly gifted musicians, hologramª seems to have no artistic limitations, allowing their imaginations to run loose like wild animals. Still, there is craftsmanship here. “Rebirth” is smoothed over by warm sax and “Momentum” is fueled by radiant guitar work.


Posted in Latin Jazz

Vahe’s ‘Inspiration’ is rife with ‘evocative landscapes and exotic textures’

January 28, 2008
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Reviewed by Vivian Fields

Artist: Vahe/Inspiration

The evocative landscapes and exotic textures of Inspiration create a relaxing, blissfully romantic mood that is hard to resist. With spring just around the corner, I can’t think of a better soundtrack for the upcoming season. The emotions that Vahe conjures up are of joy, love, and contentment, and not necessarily in that order. The upbeat “Journey” drives forward with sharply played guitar; the crystal-clear mixing enables the listener to savor each riff. If you suddenly begin to download cinematic images in your brain, that’s because Vahe’s music is painting them.

“Bossa Nova” and “Cha Cha Night” are wonderful dance tunes that will have the blood pumping, especially on large, powerful speakers. The piano on “Bossa Nova” is especially pretty. But Vahe understands the dynamics of Latin jazz, able to switch tones with the self-confidence of a veteran player. “Dream” slows down the groove for mournful introspection between two energetic compositions. From beginning to end this CD should be experienced without interruption, letting Vahe guide your feelings upward.


Posted in Latin Jazz

About author

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