When Stars Align…
…The results are nothing short of amazing, as Copa Village shows. Copa Village was produced and arranged by Antonio Adolfo (piano) and brings back Carol Saboya‘s tranquil and heart-warming vocals along with the exhilarating addition of Hendrik Meurkens‘ jazzy harmonica and vibraphone to this fine album. The other members of the ensemble are familiar names in the Antonio Adolfo discography: Claudio Spiewak (guitars), Itaiguara Brandão (bass), Adriano Santos (drums) and André Siqueira (percussion).
So, what is the story behind the album repertoire and its name? It’s probably clear to Brazilian music lovers, but here it goes. Copacabana is the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood equivalent to New York’s 52nd Street. It was in Copacabana, and most notably at the famous Beco das Garrafas (Bottle Alley) nightclub that in the 1960s familiar names such as Sergio Mendes, Luiz Eça, Baden Powell, Sylvinha Telles, Alaíde Costa, Johnny Alf and so many others made Bossa Nova a household name. Around the same period, in New York’s Greenwich Village, a similar movement was taking place with musicians and fans alike living the new developments in jazz. Those two locations gave birth to the concept of Copa Village.
Although some of the music here dates back to more than half a century ago, these tracks will sound very contemporary thanks to the impressive arrangements and solid performances. The repertoire will surprise you, as it did for me. As in any history of Bossa Nova, the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim must be present. Copa Village features five Jobim tracks, including the second most recorded song in the world, “The Girl from Ipanema,” along with other less performed beauties such as “O Boto.” Besides Antonio’s piano and Carol’s vocals, the exceptional Hendrik Meurkens is featured in the harmonica and on vibraphone (one track only). It is no mystery the affinity Hendrik has with Brazilian music. Here in MB I have reviewed two of his previous albums, Sambatropolis and New York Samba Jazz Quintet. They can give you a glimpse of the fine work Hendrik has been creating in his performances of Brazilian music.
I had a brief cyber chat with Antonio about Copa Village. We chatted about the idea for this collaboration with Hendrik, the repertoire and how he accomplished the feat of making “The Girl from Ipanema” sound remarkably fresh.
EL: Had you, Carol and Hendrik been working on this project these past years or were the 2014 summer performances you had with them the driving force to get this album recorded now? The addition of Hendrik’s harmonica (and vibes in one track) does give your arrangements a very cool sound.
AA: In fact, the project of the album with the three of us began earlier in 2014, when Hendrik, Carol and I agreed we would do some performances in NYC in June/July. So we started thinking what we could play and, perhaps record. I know Hendrik is excited, and rightly so, with his compositions and we figured we’d have Carol record them (three HM [Hendrik Meurkens] songs in Portuguese), since he had recorded (or would record) one or two in English with another singer – and I think he did it on one of his albums (Samba, Little Samba). So I suggested to Ana Terra to write lyrics to two songs and Paulo Sergio Valle, co-author of “Summer Samba,” to write the lyrics for “Show de Bola” — title given by himself – for it was the most Bossa Nova track in the album, with the exception of course of “Garota de Ipanema/The Girl from Ipanema” and “Água de Beber.” Incidentally, we also thought it’d be cool to record these often-recorded songs but with a somewhat different approach. I think “Garota de Ipanema,” for example, is a masterpiece, in spite of having been recorded in all possible ways. So, I decided to create a new arrangement, mainly a different concept, especially harmonically and in its phrasing. You can hear it gave a different face to our “garota.” Carol likes it, and Hendrik too.
EL: Well, there is no doubt upon hearing the introduction of “The Girl from Ipanema/Garota de Ipanema” that a new approach is there. What about the other songs?
AA: It was a natural selection to have three HM songs, two of mine and another a partnership with HM that we wrote here at home in May. We thought the disk should have a song we wrote together (“Copa Village”). And we did that in 15 minutes, here at home. That was the day after we received the Brazilian International Press Award. I know that HM has already incorporated this half-chorinho to his current repertoire.
As for my own music, because this record reminded me of the 1969 album with Elis [Regina] and Toots [Thielemans] in Sweden, Aquarela do Brasil, where I was Elis’ pianist, and he (Toots) recorded “Vision” with that modern take that everybody liked and used at that time. In this disc, Copa Village, I suggested a new vision: the melody changed a lot – part of the first and the entire second half of it – but keeping the harmony slightly the same — just a little similar. The original lyrics of this song are Tibério’s [Gaspar] — and the song was also recorded by Taiguara and Agostinho dos Santos. Nevertheless, both Toots’ and our recording for this song were instrumental with Carol doing vocalise. And since it had hit songs on the disc (“Garota” and “Água de Beber”), I suggested we recorded “Pretty World” (“Sá Marina”) (in English in fact!) because this song is like a business card wherever I go. In Brazil, for example, I am asked to play it often in every show. I worked slightly on the harmony and feel of it. And to wrap up the other tracks, it would have to be from the master Jobim, our great reference. He always makes room abroad for our music and for Brazilian musicians. And since we recorded two very famous songs (“Garota” and “Água de Beber”), we chose three other beautiful songs: “O Boto,” “Pois É” and “Two Kytes,” the latter with English lyrics by Tom himself.
I think our performances in NYC were great. From there Carol, Hendrik, Adriano Santos, Itaiguara Brandão and I went right into the recording studio (in Brooklyn) almost completely rehearsed. André Siqueira’s percussion came in later, when Carol added her vocals in Rio in September, when I was there. Later we decided to add Claudio Spiewak, who has been the guitarist and mixing engineer in several albums I’ve done.
I personally like those Adolfo’s choices for including “O Boto” and “Two Kites” as well as “Pois É.” “O Boto” is one of those Jobim songs where his love for nature is evident. The melody is unpretentious and yet elaborate. As for “Pretty World,” I confess I had never paid much attention to Alan & Marilyn Bergman’s lyrics. As with most Brazilian songs with English lyrics, the original idea is generally lost in translation giving the song an entirely new context. Although I love the Bergman’s work, I just had never had the chance to listen carefully to those lyrics until now. However, with Carol’s spellbinding voice, how can one resist not delving into that world? So, yes, this English version of “Sá Marina,” though completely different from the Portuguese lyrics, is very charming and appealing. I especially like these verses: We’ll hang a little sign that just says “Paradise, population two.” With a minor modification, if I may, this pretty much sums up Copa Village. In this case, though, it’s paradise, population three. Carol, Antonio and Hendrik bring paradise to my ears.
Carol Saboya, Antonio Adolfo, Hendrik Meurkens
AAM Music AAM0707 (2015)
- The Girl from Ipanema/Garota de Ipanema (Antonio Carlos Jobim – Vinícius de Moraes – Norman Gimbel)
- Copa Village (Antonio Adolfo – Hendrik Meurkens)
- Show de Bola (Hendrik Meurkens – Paulo Sergio Valle)
- O Boto (Antonio Carlos Jobim – Jararaca)
- Como se Fosse (Hendrik Meurkens – Ana Terra)
- Água de Beber (Antonio Carlos Jobim – Vinícius de Moraes)
- Pois É (Antonio Carlos Jobim – Chico Buarque)
- Pretty World (Antonio Adolfo – Tibério Gaspar – Alan Bergman – Marilyn Bergman)
- Two Kites (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
- Nosso Mundo (Hendrik Meurkens – Ana Terra)
- Visão (Antonio Adolfo – Tibério Gaspar)