Wednesday, September 29, 2010

O movimento

As I was doing research on Brazilian music - and specifically bossa nova - for my 5th grade classes, I came upon some pretty funny stuff...there was a pretty rich cultural exchange between France and Brazil in the 60s, which led to some French singers covering Bossa Nova tunes, or penning some numbers inspired by it. Or even coming up with some interesting collaborations, like Françoise Hardy working with Tuca on La Question.

But there's also Sacha Distel doing Incendie à Rio...! Check out also this funny video of him dancing a bossa on the quays in Paris, complete with female dancers. I wonder what the kids would think if I played it for them...he's also supposed to have covered Desafinado and Samba pour une seule note but I couldn't find it. I know he does a pretty decent version of Corcovado. By this guy:

(Antonio Carlos Jobim)

I also found out that Moustaki did a cover of Aguas de Março, one of my favorite Tom Jobim songs: Les eaux de Mars. I still think Elis Regina sings it best. See her do it live with Tom, this is amazing:

And I knew about Pierre Barouh's love song to bossa nova from the movie Un Homme et Une Femme, Samba Saravah, a cover of Samba de Bençao, by Vinicius de Morales and Baden Powell- but I didn't know he also recorded a version of Agua de Beber, another beautiful Tom Jobim tune.
The French adaptation is actually pretty nice, a little wistful, maybe too wistful for fifth graders?

And speaking of Baden Powell, I might have to play them some of his Afro-Sambas to illustrate the link to African music- like this Canto de Xango

I could go on and on really, but to end, here's the muse of bossa nova, Nara Leão, doing another one of my favorites, Morena Do Mar:

It's been a crazy 90˚F (30˚C)  in San Francisco, so this is perfect...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Invisible Ocean

Next weekend will be spent in the trees for music making, star gazing, river swimming and fishing, forest floor sleeping, food sharing and more...I'm playing on saturday but you might as well stay both days to take in the forest and the Yuba river - not to mention the impressive array of performers...details and tickets are on the festival’s website.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Martha Argerich

On one of my last few days through France, my aunt (who plays the piano) lent me a book about Martha Argerich, Martha Argerich, l'Enfant et les Sortilèges, by Olivier Bellamy. I read it when I got home, and it started me on a little youtube-video-watching binge of her. Truly amazing. And the character, the woman, the musician. She played the piano for the first time in nursery school, when a little boy dared her to play the instrument, and she went up there and played one of the songs her teacher would play for them sometimes, perfectly, in rhythm, and then another one and then another. She can read a piece of music and instantly know it. She learned a Prokofiev concerto in her sleep: her roommate was practicing it while she was taking a nap. Insane, right? And then you listen to her and her playing is so clear, distinct, articulate. But also passionate and strong, like a roaring lion, or a race horse going full speed. Here's one of her performances for the Chopin International Competition in 1965 - she was 24 - that she eventually won:

I love watching the expression on her face when the camera is on it, and especially when the main theme returns, that young, amused sense of triumph. I feel like she could play any piece of music and really explain it to me, like she did with this Prokofiev Sonata. And watching her hands I could do for hours, here she is doing Ravel's Jeux d'Eaux:

I like it best when it's just her and the piano, but some of those concertos are worth her take on it too, like Schumann's Am or Prokofiev's No 3 (the one she learned in her sleep!).

All this made me long for a piano... even though I could never play like her, there is something about playing it that makes everything right for me, somehow. To console myself I resolved I would go and see Hélène Grimaud play with the Symphony when she's here in January. She's supposed to play Schumann's concerto, which she does beautifully too. And maybe I will want this for Christmas.

For now here's a little video of Martha Argerich in her home, when she lived with the Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit, her husband at the time.

And finally, if you can listen past the very crappy sound, another 1965 Chopin competition piece, Scherzo no. 3. I really like this one:


Friday, September 3, 2010

A day in Paris

One last travel post...I'm back to California and its schizophrenic weather (furious winds, fog and jacket wearing temperatures immediately followed by solid blue skies and digits in the 80s). While getting back into my life, which sometimes feels like putting on clothes you haven't been wearing for a long time, it's nice to still think of the sweetness of being in France.

I ended my trip with a day in Paris, most of it spent following my friends around as they were strolling around shopping, slowly making their way to Gare Saint-Lazare where they were to meet another friend and I'd hop on the metro back to their place.

The weather was muggy and wet, it even rained a few times. But it made for a pleasant walk, and a quick little taste of the city. We took our time though, and stopped for lunch, and saw all the terraces full of lunch eating Parisians, it was somewhere between 12 and 2, and you knew they were soon going to empty out after that...

Here are a few things that caught my eye:

(that's how all that good meat travels)


window ears

the Opera's newly refurbished angels

where all the cute shoes live... the Repetto store.

wouldn't it be nice to play there one day?

or to walk through a film shoot

full of 1930s beauties.

saw the mosaics of the Printemps store

and the restrooms at the Ritz!


When I found myself on my own again, I walked into a Fnac for a last minute book and music browse. I came out with another Emmanuelle Pagano (Les Mains Gamines) (I loved this one before), an Anna Karina CD of songs from movies, including this sweet lil' one - and the last Jean-Louis Murat album, Le Cours Ordinaire des Choses.  I listened to it that evening - while smoking cigarettes at the windowsill, taking in those rooftops under grey skies and the late nightfall - and have been listening to it a bunch since. There are two obvious hits - the title track, and the second one, Falling in love again, which had tickled my ear when I heard it on the radio a few days before - but also a few other beautiful numbers, like La Mésange Bleue ('on n'aime plus...d'amour') or La Tige d'Or, and at least one funny song, Comme un cowboy à l'âme fresh. I don't know that many albums of his, but for this one Murat went to record in Nashville and it came out so very well produced- yet never over the top or tasteless, but close to perfectly balanced. It's like he went in there and brought all his favorite Neil Young albums for reference, and got those guys to work on their guitar solos. Even though there is much more to it than just guitar solos.