Pianist, arranger, composer, producer and educator, Cliff Korman is unstoppable when it comes to Brazilian music. As a pianist, he has been featured in a number of recordings with artists both north and south of the Equator. In 1999, together with Paulo Moura, Korman released Mood Ingênuo: Pixinguinha Meets Duke Ellington. That live album treated us to a make-believe world showcasing what it would have been like if Pixinguinha and Duke Ellington had ever met. Then in Carlos Malta’s 2000 Pimenta, Korman left listeners wanting more of his duet with Malta. Together they “reinvented” Jobim’s classic “Garota de Ipanema,” and it is still one of my favorite instrumental renditions of that song. In 2001, back together with Paulo Moura, Korman released Gafieira Dance Brasil, an album that relived the golden era of gafieira, another of Brazil’s traditional and sensual dances. As an arranger and producer, Korman is responsible for Chuck Mangione’s The Feeling Is Back and Ana Caram’s Blue Bossa, for example. He was also a guest performer in Gerry Mulligan’s Paraíso, Toninho Horta’s Foot on the Road and Ana Caram’s Maracanã and Bossa Nova albums, just to name a few. In the middle of all of this, he still finds time to teach at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, the School of Music of Brasília as well as the City College of New York and Drummers Collective in New York City.
Migrations is Korman’s new album and another example of his long involvement with Brazilian music and, in particular, with choro. Working with Korman in Migrations we have the Brazilian Tinge, a dream team of musicians. Featured in this album are Billy Drewes (clarinet, sax), Luis Bonilla (trombone), Rob Curto (accordion), Andy Eulau (bass), Henrique Cazes (cavaquinho), Marcello Gonçalves (7-string acoustic guitar), Vanderlei Pereira (drums), Café (percussion), Beto Cazes (percussion), Cida Moreira (voice) and a chorus comprised of Murí Costa, Jane Balzana, Eduardo Ferrer, Malu von Krüger, Eliza Lacerda and Juliana Rubim. Arranging all music and on piano we have Cliff Korman, the force behind Migrations.
The album concept, according to Korman, was “inspired by Sebastião Salgado’s photographic exhibition of the same name” in New York. Korman expressed in music the various themes associated with that exhibit. The way Korman blended his personal experiences with those of Salgado’s exhibit and also Chiquinha Gonzaga’s music creates the recording we are given here. About the entire experience of composing, improvising and using returning citations, Korman said the following:
“From the initial recorded tracks I created a sonic palette to which I limited myself as I layered secondary parts and improvisations. This process was not completely predetermined but shaped itself as I delved into the work. The underlying motion between cultures, identities, times, and the motion within a linguistic expression (in this case musical) does not run just linearly but also on vertical, simultaneous channels.”
The idea of using Chiquinha Gonzaga’s anthem “Abre Alas” as a returning citation in different arrangements serves as a common thread to a variety of themes Korman explores musically: choro, ciranda and dance. What is most remarkable about this creation is how smoothly Korman travels from one number to the next. From the overture, “Entrance: Abre Alas,” Korman suddenly switches to “Chorondo,” a soft, swinging choro in which Korman’s fast piano solo plays along with Pereira’s delightful drums and (Beto) Cazes’ solid percussion. After a climatic piano solo, half way through the melody, the danceable choro is back with the reeds taking the solo lines. The interlude “Cavaquinho” serves as a preamble to another Gonzaga piece featured in Migrations, “Corta Jaca.” Before playing that number, Korman and (Henrique) Cazes softly set the tone to a magnificent entrance by Curto’s accordion in the first part of “Corta Jaca.” Accordion and piano then share the rest of the melody. This is a powerful, bold arrangement. Without wasting a single moment of precision, “Abre Alas 6/8” is outstanding. In less than a minute, Korman takes your breath away in that daring and effective arrangement. The title track starts off with Drewes’s clarinet solo highlighted by sparse piano notes and chords. Soon after this brief introduction, the choro ensemble comes together and sweeps you away with a melody that evokes the best of traditional choro in some of Rio de Janeiro’s old dance halls in the early 20th century. Drewes reigns throughout this track. Once again Drewes will be featured in the children’s song “Pobre Cega.” Here, however, in addition to Drewes and Korman “crying” solos, the haunting voice of Cida Moreira recites these powerful verses:
Pobre Cega, por que chora ela Assim tanto estes seus olhos? Não, meus olhos não choram… São as lágrimas que choram Com saudades dos meus olhos. Poor blind woman, why do Your eyes cry so? No, my eyes are no crying… It is my tears that cry, For they miss my eyes.
Before closing the album, one more dance is featured with “Domingo à Noite com Café.” The infectious xaxado rhythm is highlighted here with Eulau’s bass and Pereira’s drums. And when Drewes’s sax solo takes over, the effusiveness overflows beautifully.
The album liner notes, written by Korman himself, guide you through his own creation. It is a special treat to follow Korman’s journey in creating the material for this recording. You can read more about Cliff Korman and hear samples of Migration here. Also be sure to visit Cliff Korman’s web site as well as other reviews of his work mentioned above.
Cliff Korman & The Brazilian Tinge
Planet Arts 200321 (2004)
All music by Cliff Korman except where noted.
- Entrance: Abre Alas (Chiquinha Gonzaga)
- Choro: Chorondo
- Interlude: Cavaquinho
- Dance: Corta Jaca (Chiquinha Gonzaga)
- Interlude: Abre Alas 6/8 (Chiquinha Gonzaga)
- Procession: Abre Alas (Chiquinha Gonzaga)
- Choro: Migrations
- Interlude: Pandeiro/Caixeta
- Ciranda: Pobre Cega (Brazilian Chidren’s Song)
- Interlude: Childlike
- Interlude: Abre Alas (Chiquinha Gonzaga)
- Intro: Domingo
- Dance: Domingo à Noite com Café
- Exit: Abre Alas (Chiquinha Gonzaga)
- Coda: Childlike