Monday, March 23, 2009


Written by Kit O'Toole

Published March 23, 2009

Listening to Ramana Vieira’s album Lágrimas De Rainha (Tears of A Queen) provides an instant education in fado, a form of Portuguese folk music. Perhaps Vieira summarizes it best on “Amália,” a tribute to the late “Rainha do Fado,” or “Queen of Fado,” Amália Rodrigues. “We longed to hide in all your sorrows/This is life, this is love/This is fado,” Vieira croons.

Ramana Vieira Put simply, fado evokes intense emotion, namely heartache, disappointment, and melancholy. According to’s history of the genre, “fado performance is not successful if an audience is not moved to tears.” Fado’s origins date from the 19th century, possibly from an African dance. In the 20th century Lisbon’s working class adopted the music, chiefly as a tool for expressing their frustrations and sadness. Singers called fadistas performed the songs in brothels, saloons, street corners, and in poor Lisbon areas. In order to communicate feelings of heartbreak, singers crooned over a Portugese guitar and one classical guitar; current fado incorporates other instruments such as piano, violin, and accordion (see World Music Central’s excellent history of fado).

As Vieira emphasizes on her album, the undisputed fado legend is Rodrigues; from the 1940s until her 1999 death, her name became synonymous with the music. According to World Music Central, Portugal’s prime minister called for a three-day period of mourning after Rodrigues’s death. This event demonstrates the music’s importance in the country.

Vieira continues Rodrigues’s legacy by introducing wider audiences to fado. “United in Love,” which she composed and performed at the 2006 Winter Olympics, best exemplifies her attempt to appeal to a modern audience. Piano and soaring electric guitar accompany her English language lyrics. The aforementioned tribute to Rodrigues, “Amália,” is sung primarily in English. A standout track, Vieira pours her soul into the words, letting listeners experience the depth of her admiration for the legendary singer.

Other highlights include “Coimbra,” a lovely 1939 song (and Rodrigues standard) made more accessible through heightened percussion and cello. “Fado Marujo (Fado of the Sailor)” features intricate classic guitar picking and swaying beat that contrast with the lyrics’s sadness. “Povo Que Lavas No Rio (People That Wash in the River)” also speeds the tempo of the original ballad, but Vieira’s mournful voice retains the song’s melancholy. The Spanish guitar dominates, with Jeffrey Luiz’s rapid strumming and picking astounding the listener.

Fans of world music should enjoy “Maria Lisboa,” with a beat and guitar work reminiscent of the Buena Vista Social Club. An original tune, “My Country Portugal,” provides a rest from the album’s sad tone. Sung in English, the song celebrates Portuguese culture, particularly from Vieira’s Portuguese-American perspective. The samba beat, along with Vieira’s joyful vocals, invite audiences to dance.

The remaining ballads represent more traditional fado; according to Tears of A Queen’s liner notes, the album gets its title from a Portuguese Romeo and Juliet-type story. In 1355, a maid and her employer, the son of the king of Portugal, fell in love. Their love was forbidden, leading to the maid’s execution by public stoning. The son never recovered from her death, even after ascending to the throne. The tale inspires various star-crossed fado songs, including the album’s title cut and “Lágrimas Caladas (Silent Tears),” another original composition. The bottom line: fado fans should enjoy the melodramatic tone of these tracks.

For those unfamiliar with fado, Tears of A Queen provides an interesting lesson in Portuguese culture. Vieira obviously remains committed to the musical form and wishes to update it for modern listeners. Traditional fado fans may not appreciate the introduction of electric guitar and bass, but Vieira never neglects the genre’s origins. To visit Portugal without leaving home, pick up Vieira’s new album and be transported.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009



At the142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, CA

(Mill Valley, CA, March 17, 2009) Called “a rising star in World Music” by the San Francisco Examiner, vocalist Ramana Vieira will bring her unique style of Fado music to the 142 Throckmorton Theatre on Saturday, April 18th at 8:00 PM to celebrate the release of her new CD “Lágrimas De Rainha (Tears Of A Queen)” on the Pacific Coast Jazz label. Ramana Vieira has solidified her place as one of the premier world music artists who understands the tradition of
Portuguese Fado singing, a melancholy and often-mournful music similar to the American blues, yet continues to creatively construct a path into the future by combining new musical textures and original compositions. Ramana will be accompanied by her amazing ensemble of musicians that include: Marcie Brown (cello), Alberto Ramirez (bass guitar),Jeffrey Luiz (classical guitar), Stephen La Porta (drums/percussion), and special guest musicians Benito Cortez (violin) and Didier Bouvet (guitar).

On the new CD, “Lágrimas De Rainha”, Ramana paints sonic pictures that support her desire to invent a fresh Fado sound blooming from the ground of her own Portuguese family roots. Many of the songs on the recording are inspired by Ramana’s main influence, Amália Rodrigues, known as the "Rainha do Fado" ("Queen of Fado") and who is attributed to popularizing the Fado worldwide. According to Ramana, “nobody else is doing what we are doing with Fado. Take the feel and groove of Shakira and the melodic textures of Dulce Pontes and that is how I would describe our music.”

The 142 Throckmorton Theatre, located at 142 Throckmorton Ave. in Mill Valley, CA, is founded on the philosophy that theatre, music, dance, film, poetry, visual and related arts are essential components of a rich and rewarding life, and an indispensable part of human inspiration and education. Tickets are $25.00 general admission/$35.00 for reserved seating and can be purchased by calling (415) 383-9600 or online at

For more about Ramana Vieira visit: or

Monday, March 16, 2009

He's got Brazil in mind (among other things)

Jazz pianist Danny Green is exploring 'different harmonies and melodic forms'

2:00 a.m. March 15, 2009

“For me, music is another form of communication,” says jazz pianist Danny Green. (Laura Embry / Union-Tribune) -

Although they won't be married here until June, Emily Kohl has already inspired a unique wedding and pre-wedding present rolled into one from her fiancée, San Diego jazz pianist Danny Green.

Not only did Green write his stirring ballad, “With You in Mind,” for her, he also made it the title track of his impressive debut album, which was jointly released in January by two locally based labels, Alante Recordings and Pacific Coast Jazz.

The song “With You in Mind” will also be performed live as the wedding processional music for Kohl, although Green won't be playing it himself at the ceremony on Coronado.

“I'll kind of be busy standing up there with the rabbi,” said Green, who has asked one of his former UCSD music professors, Kamau Kenyatta, to do the honors for him on piano.

Equally adept at jazz, classical and various Brazilian styles, Green uses his 11-song album to showcase his passion for borders-leaping genres. But even in its most intricate moments, his music never sacrifices soul for technique or substance for flash.

“I used to play a lot more flashy and hurt my hands from doing too much,” said the San Diego native, who graduated from UCSD in 2004, lives in Normal Heights and averages up to five performances a week. “So, when I started geting into Brazilian music, I made it a key point to get away from using flashy tricks and to play with more substance.”


Monday, March 9, 2009


Sonidos y Mas: Carnaval with Brasil Brazil

Brasil Brazil.jpg
Formed by veteran Brazilian singers Ana Gazzola and Sonia Santos, Los Angeles-based band Brasil Brazil celebrates the music of their native country with an elaborate show that includes several standards and original songs - a formula they devised when they first started the project over a decade ago as the U.S. hosted the 1994 soccer World Cup.

They have since been touring massively, appearing at various festivals around the globe with an upbeat, rhythm-filled show that narrates the history of Brazilian music through song. They have yet to make a stop in Houston, but told Rocks Off they would very much enjoy doing so.

The duo has recently released its third self-titled CD, which includes classics like "One Note Samba," and "A Felicidade" (from the soundtrack of Black Orpheus) alongside a bossa-nova take on Nirvana's "Come As You Are" and Nat King Cole's "L-O-V-E." As on previous discs, the tracks blend into each other without interruption - pretty much as they do live.

Rocks Off recently caught up with Ana Gazzola via e-mail...


Sunday, March 1, 2009


A Musical Voyage with a Unique Approach

(Washington, DC – February 24, 2009) Called “a brilliant example of all that is good in contemporary jazz” the Saltman Knowles Quintet, a Washington DC based band on the Pacific Coast Jazz label, will celebrate the release of their fifth CD, “Return Of The Composer” on Friday, April 3rd and Saturday, April 4th from 9 PM to 1 AM ($12 cover) at the venue HR57 located at 1610 14th St. NW, Washington, DC. The Saltman Knowles Quintet, known for their long-term artist collaborations that serve up melodically alluring and rhythmically infectious music, will feature Mark Saltman (bass), William Knowles (piano), Jimmy “Junebug” Jackson (drums), Antonio Parker (saxophone) and the soulful and unique instrumental sounds of vocalist Lori Williams-Chisholm.

According to Saltman Knowles: "What makes this record different from other jazz recordings is the use of “vocalese” (using the voice as another instrument) and our color sensory system of composition. We're lucky that we can have both an instrumental sound, like a straight swinging quintet, as well as a vocal sound. The music we write is melodic, harmonically dense, and swinging. Often our music is a sketch of personal situations in our lives or of those friends who are close to us. Music is our way of commenting about life." On “Return Of The Composer” Mark Saltman and William Knowles uniquely use the voice of Lori Williams-Chisholm as an instrumental texture. Her voice executes complex melodies while avoiding the cliché of standard vocal presentations to create the icing on the cake of this delicious voyage of musical expression.

For more information about the CD release event go to or call 202-667-3700. For information on purchasing the CD or more about Saltman Knowles go to or