Archives for posts with tag: Natalie Cole

Playlist: World Cup 2014, Brazil

world-cup-soccer-ball-2014-5c2ttgmySwept into the World Cup whirlwind, I find myself yearning for a soundtrack to what feels more like a festival than a sporting event. Since the host country is home to some of my favourite music, it’s fitting to craft a Brazilian-inspired playlist to enliven things.

This playlist owes a debt to radio programmers who expand and sometimes erase boundaries to help popularize music like this. Gilles Peterson of BBC Radio 6 is credited with a quarter of the tracks on this list, simply due to his excellent collective, Sonzeira and their new release, Brasil Bam Bam Bam (Brownswood, 2014). Similarly, I need to thank Toronto DJ John Kong for introducing me to track #11 by Wando, which has been in high rotation for the better part of a decade since I first heard it. Another standout is Gilberto Gil’s excellent acoustic session for MTV Brazil: Gilberto Gil Acoustic (Atlantic, 1994)

  1. Um Toque (feat. Gabriel Moura), Sonzeira, Brasil Bam Bam Bam (Brownswood, 2014)
  2. America Latina (feat. Marcos Valle & Patricia Alvi), Sonzeira, Brasil Bam Bam Bam (Brownswood, 2014)
  3. La Costa, Natalie Cole, Thankful (Capitol, 1977)
  4. Pais Tropical, Jorge Ben, Jorge Ben (Universal, 1969)
  5. Maculele, Nazare Pereira, Beleza Tropical: Brazil Classics 1 (Luaka Bop, 2003)
  6. Samba em Pilet, Luciana Oliveira, Pura (YB Music, 2013)
  7. Palco, Gilberto Gil, Gilberto Gil Acoustic (Atlantic, 1994)
  8. Aquelle Abraco, Gilberto Gil, Gilberto Gil Acoustic (Atlantic, 1994)
  9. Flamengao, Bebeto, Malicia (Copacabana, 1980)
  10. Waters of March, Basia, Clear Horizon – The Best of Basia (Sony Music, 1998)
  11. Nega De Obaluae, Wando, Wando: Retratos (EMI Music, 2006)
  12. Brasil Pandeiro (feat. Emanuelle Araújo, Arlindo Cruz & Chico Chagas),  Sonzeira, Brasil Bam Bam Bam (Brownswood, 2014)

Obrigado por ouvir!

Feature: ‘Virtual Bands’ 

This video intrigues me. It features some of my favourite musicians recently playing alongside an original Marvin Gaye vocal track.

This post is about that ‘virtual band’ concept and how we might take it in. Is it a loving homage, merely derivative, or just good music?

The earliest instance of this phenomenon I can remember is the video for “Unforgettable…with Love,” (Elektra, 1991) featuring Natalie Cole alongside archival footage of her father, Nat King Cole. At the time, it struck me as a brazen attempt to trade on her father’s name and reboot her struggling pop career. It worked. The album went 7x platinum. As uneasy as the I was with the means, the recording was tasteful and the overall effect of the video, heartwarming.

Fast forward to the 2012 London Olympics closing ceremony where we saw John Lennon duet with a children’s choir on “Imagine” and Freddie Mercury entrance nearly a billion TV viewers in a call-and-response routine filmed more than a quarter century earlier.

Today’s technology makes nearly anything possible. Why remix when you can reanimate? But as with any new technology, once it matures, its application becomes more relevant than its technical wonder.

Why remix when you can reanimate?

This brings me back to the Marvin Gaye All Stars, recorded under the auspices of Italian national radio, RAI. The architect of the session was Alessio Bertallot, a broadcaster, musician, and host of RaiTunes, airing weeknights on RAI Radio2 (incidentally, Bertallot is a fine radio programmer…I recommend his podcasts).

Assembling high calibre musicians like Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick of Incognito and Thundercat (a.k.a. Stephen Bruner) is a good start if you value quality over the technical trickery of bringing Marvin Gaye back to life. The accompaniment on the recording is laid back and respectful of the vocal track, but is set in a jazz-funk arrangement that gives the song contemporary lustre. Jason Lindner on the Rhodes is my new keyboard hero.

Another example from the RaiTunes archive is Billy Jean’s All Stars, featuring Maunick on guitar, Marcus Miller on bass,  jazz fusion great, Billy Cobham on drums, and of course, Michael Jackson on vocals.

Again, the treatment is tasteful, blends with Jackson’s vocal track, and gives the song an entirely different vibe from the original version.

Alessio Bertallot on ‘Play’

I asked Bertallot what gave rise to the ‘virtual band’ series. He responded that mixing genres, live performances, and recordings is a means to “open minds and boundaries.” Indeed, RaiTunes’ collection of videos on Bertallot’s youtube channel are an eclectic mix of musicians, spoken word, and even visual artists interplaying with the radio medium.

On the subject of reusing classic vocal tracks, Bertallot cited an exchange he had with Bruner, a critically acclaimed musician and none other than Erykah Badu’s bassist. Bruner recounted “sitting in his bedroom, as a teenager, for hours and hours trying to play along with Marvin Gaye’s voice.” This very humble account of a kid trying to master his instrument has the kernel of what makes these virtual bands more about ‘play’ than anything else.

Bertallot explains, “In Italian we have two different words [for ‘play’]: one is suonare, which means play music. The other one is giocare, which is what children do. I prefer the English and French way of having just one word for both meanings: musicians must keep innocence and spontaneity.”

Re-watching the Marvin Gaye All Stars video, I see what he means. Four ‘kids’ with their instruments, playing along with a legendary voice from the past, just for fun. Ecco la musica gioiosa!

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