Listening to Robbie Williams' rendition of Harold Arlen's melancholy "One for My Baby" from Williams' multi-platinum album "Swing When You're Winning." This track features the legendary Bill Miller on piano. Miller played on Frank Sinatra's original version and was his accompanist for over 40 years. Bill Miller performed "One for My Baby" at Sinatra's funeral in 1998. When he recorded this track with Robbie Williams, Miller was 84 years old, yet his distinctive light touch on the piano hadn't diminished, and nor had his ability as an accompanist. Miller died in 2006, while touring with Frank Sinatra Jr. He was 91.
I am enjoying the soothing yet rhythmic sounds of UK Latin jazz band Kymaera on their "Rio Moods" album. This is one of those albums by a collection of not-so-famous yet extremely talented session musicians who love making beautiful acoustic music, and one of the reasons I enjoy Kymaera's blend of soft lounge-style jazz is the presence on nylon string acoustic guitar of Simon James, one of the artists behind the fabulous Acoustic Alchemy sound. Of course, the main reason I couldn't resist this album is that it is a tribute to that great bossa nova songwriter, Antonio Carlos Jobim.
After I posted the above, I received an email from guitarist Simon James, who wrote: "Thank you for your kind comments. It's one of the albums I most enjoyed making especially as Antonio Carlos is one of my favourite songwriters. Many of its roots lie in the early days of Acoustic Alchemy."
I've been listening to the crystalline sound of singer-songwriter James Taylor’s recent compilation album. Quite apart from the fact that this is probably the definitive collection of all his greatest hits, it is a beautiful example of how great poetry and lyricism can combine with pure acoustic artistry to produce a complete and fulfilling musical experience without relying on clever electronic sampling. An aural kaleidoscope.
I have been enjoying Dutch songwriter Michel van Dyke’s 2004 album “Bossa Nova.” Less an example of bossa nova and more a retro-stylistic mix of slightly melancholy lounge and cool Latin pop, this is a highly listenable album, even though it is all sung in German! Some light bossa nova influences do filter through, however, if you listen closely enough. Great album, and one I never tire of listening to.
One of the more talented songwriters I have recently become acquainted with is the very experienced UK entertainer Earl Okin, who is largely unknown here in New Zealand. Okin is a well-known entertainer in England sought after for his talents as a musician/comedian, and while I am unfamiliar with the comedic side of his work, as a lover of bossa nova I am particularly taken with his songwriting ability in the classic bossa nova style.
The particular example I have in mind is the song "Butterflies" from Okin's album "Songs From a Garden Shed." I was struck by the song's simple beauty (chord structure, melody, and gentle rhythm), and after listening to it a number of times I also became intrigued as to what inspired Earl to write the song, as the lyrics (which I do not usually pay a great deal of attention to) also struck a chord with me, so I wrote to him about it. Earl's reply is, in part, reproduced here below.
"'Butterflies' was, as usual with me, inspired by a chord. In this case, the D major 7th chord with which it begins. It seemed to lead to other interesting chords and that's what led to the song. When I'd completed the song, I needed a lyric. I had a friend called Roberto Corte-Real in Brazil, sadly now deceased, who once told me that the famous beach in Rio De Janeiro is artificial. Before the war, the beach was comparatively tiny. Mostly, there were petal-coloured little houses, each with their own sandy-soil garden, going right up to the edge of the sea and among the flowers and plants that grew in these gardens, butterflies could be seen. They are, of course, no longer there. Then, as you say, the metaphor occurred to me."
The story behind the lyrics is touching and is one that can be told many times over around the world as man continues to wreak havoc with the natural environment. In the context of this song, however, these subjects are merely peripheral. As touching as it is (metaphoric references notwithstanding), the merits of the song itself—the melody, chords, and rhythm—as an example of the classic bossa nova style are much more significant than its accompanying lyrics.
To be introduced to or reacquainted with the original bossa nova sound, the definitive album to buy would be Getz/Gilberto, featuring Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Recorded in 1963, the album is available on CD through Verve Music Group, catalogue number 0602498840221. I highly recommend this album.
Listening to music by Kiwi musical genius Adrian Stuckey, who these days heads his Bignote Productions Recording Studio on the Gold Coast of Australia. Adrian was one of the musical 'brains' behind New Zealand Idol and is an extremely gifted musician and audio engineer. Adrian and I go way back but somehow our musical paths have rarely crossed. His album "Rhythm of Love" is probably best described as a cruisy mix of techno-funk and Latin, and while very cleverly mastered, it is also gives a very revealing glimpse into the natural skills of probably one of New Zealand's most talented professional musicians. A limited edition album available only to a selected few.
Andre Mendes da Costa shares news, reviews, and updates.