Multi-talented singer/songwriter Luiz Simas is like a chameleon. He has performed with Brazilian artists including Raul Seixas, Roberto Carlos, Elza Soares (was her musical director when she performed at the Village), Lobão, Ritchie and many others. He was also the founding member of several groups in Brazilian music: Agora-4 (bossa nova, late 1960’s), Módulo 1000 (heavy psychedelic and experimental rock, early 1970’s) and Vimana (funk/symphonic rock, mid-1970’s). In 1998, he released an album of pop songs, Recipe for Rhythm, backed by a band of musicians that included Sérgio Brandão (bass) and Romero Lubambo (guitar) among others. Simas sang and co-wrote all music in the album with Ellen Schwartz’s poetry. He followed that release with the remarkable 1998 New Chorinhos from Brazil, a collection of 10 original choros written by Simas himself. That was followed by Impromptu (2000), also with 12 original Simas piano solos. Though he is an accomplished performer in just about any genre he plays, Simas appears to be more comfortable when he is at his piano performing his own works and others by Brazilian greats such as Ernesto Nazareth and other choro masters. That is evidenced by his latest album, Luiz Simas Live in New York City.
The album was recorded live at the Consulate of the Republic of Poland in New York City. The performance there was the same as the sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall in 2003. Though live recordings often bring with them some technical problems, such as instruments balance and other unwanted noises, a live album also captures just how good an artist can be. There is no chance for error. In over 70 minutes of glorious music, Simas covers a lot of territory. He is accompanied by Barbara Blonska on flute, Steve Kowarsky on bassoon and Jorge Amorim on percussions. Together, these musicians play compositions by Simas, Villa-Lobos, Jobim and even a few by Gershwin and other notable US composers.
The album opens with the peaceful, overture-like “The Legend of the Enchanted Lagoon,” one of Simas songs in this collection. Kowarsky’s bassoon solo clearly shows the Villa-Lobos influence in this composition, but it is Amorim’s percussion accompaniment that takes center stage, particularly in the baião section of this eight-minute long composition. Throughout this recording, Simas adds unexpected gems side by side with Brazilian classics and his own music. The combination is very pleasing and never feels out of place, thanks to Simas’ arrangements and performances. He even finds room to sing in Villa-Lobos’ “Bachianas Brasileiras Nº 5.” The best pieces performed here are, undoubtedly, the many choros. Whether by Abreu, Nazareth, Jacob or Simas, those pieces shine and prove just what an accomplished musician Simas is. Blonska’s flute solos are also a delight to hear. She brings life to Jacob do Bandolim’s “Doce de Coco,” when Simas stands back and let the flute take over. The featured Jobim medley is appropriately followed by Simas’s own “Chorinho com Bossa” and “Twisted Samba.” The biggest surprise of the album has to be Simas’ haunting vocal in “Cantilena,” from Villa-Lobos’s “Bachianas Brasileiras Nº 5.” The album closes with a rousing arrangement of Zequinha de Abreu’s world renowned “Tico-Tico no Fubá.” With the touch of a visionary, Simas adds to the original song excerpts of “Summertime” and “Brasileirinho.” This mixture of different worlds and styles take “Tico-Tico no Fubá” to a whole new dimension. It is truly remarkable. A bonus track recording of “Odeon” is added at the end of the album.
To learn more about the artist and hear sample tracks, please visit Luiz Simas on the web.
Luiz Simas Live in New York City
Lydjul Records LJ197 (2003)
- The Legend of the Enchanted Lagoon (Luiz Simas)
- Odeon (Ernesto Nazareth)
- Blue Hyacinth (Luiz Simas)
- Doce de Coco (Jacob do Bandolim)
- Tea for Two (Vincent Youmans)
- For J.S. Bach (Luiz Simas)
- Jobim Medley: Meditação (Antonio Carlos Jobim – Newton Mendonça) / Água de Beber (Antonio Carlos Jobim – Vinícius de Moraes) / Se Todos Fossem Iguais a Você (Antonio Carlos Jobim – Vinícius de Moraes) / Wave ( (Antonio Carlos Jobim) / A Felicidade (Antonio Carlos Jobim – Vinícius de Moraes) / Garota de Ipanema (Antonio Carlos Jobim – Vinícius de Moraes) / Triste (Antonio Carlos Jobim) / Corcovado (Antonio Carlos Jobim) / One Note Samba (Newton Mendonça – Antonio Carlos Jobim)
- Chorinho com Bossa (Luiz Simas)
- Twisted Samba (Luiz Simas)
Incidental music: Lata D’Água (L. Antonio – J. Junior)
- Bachianas Brasileiras Nº 5 – Cantilena (Heitor Villa-Lobos)
- Variations on Tico-Tico no Fubá (Zequinha de Abreu – arr. Luiz Simas)
Incidental music: Summertime (George Gershwin – Ira Gershwin – D. Heyward) / Brasileirinho (Waldir Azevedo)
- Odeon II (Ernesto Nazareth)