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June Bastable reviews this album for us: The superlative musicians are: Catina DeLuna (vocals, piano, body percussion, arrangements), Otmaro Ruiz (piano, accordion, arrangements), Larry Koonse (guitars), Edwin Livingston (bass), Aaron Serfaty (drums).

With special guests: Alex Acunha (percussion), Bob Sheppard (flute), Nick Mancini (marimba), Mike Shapiro, Clarice Cast, Greg Beyer (percussion), Choir: Afton Hefley, Adrianne Duncan, Francis Benitez, Naomi Taniguchi, Maya Ruiz, Pam McLean, Catina DeLuna, Nick Mancini, Jason Luckett, Otmaro Ruiz.

Born and bred in Brazil, Catina DeLuna began playing piano and singing from an early age. After graduating with a BA in Brazilian Popular Music from the UNICAMP University in Sao Paulo, she instigated two important bands: Arire,  

as pianist, singer and arranger, and Serenata Brasiliera in which she performed Brazilian classics from the 1920s and 1930s whilst dressed in authentic period costume.

After relocating to the United States, Catina earned her Master’s degree from Northern Illinois University where she became visiting scholar, and now, having moved to Los Angeles she teaches privately and at the Silver Lake Conservatory and the Los Angeles Academy. Catina has also toured in Japan and Singapore and has worked as voice-over artist in many radio and television commercials.

Venezuelan-born Otmaro Ruiz, Catina’s collaborator and arranger on this Lado B Brazilian Project album, is a pianist, arranger and educator.  Based in Los Angeles since 1989, Ruiz has worked alongside such greats as Arturo Sandoval, John McLaughlin, Tito Puente, Billy Cobham’s Spectrum 40 Band, Frank Gambale, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, Frank Morgan and Robben Ford, and was Dianne Reeves’ pianist and musical director for five years. He has led his own exciting and innovative Crossover Latin Jazz groups in addition to many well-received albums.

In private life, Catina DeLuna and Otmato Ruiz are also husband and wife, and together they have revitalised Brazilian jazz on Lado B Brazilian Project. (Lado B means “Side B” or “flip side”).

One thinks of Brazilian music as Carnaval, samba and bossa nova, but this album goes further.  The eleven sumptuous tracks on this album range from early styles to present jazz fusion with new interpretations of classics by such as Antônio Carlos Jobim, Milton Nascimento, Pixinguinha, Egberto Gismonti and several others.

To pick out just a few from this superb album, the first track has the melody and lyrics of Lavadeira do Rio layered on top of an instrumental performance of Maracatu. This clever ploy is rendered all the more beautiful by 

Catina DeLuna’s flawless voice, which sometimes just follows the melody without words: so thrilling to hear such perfect pitch.  And speaking of “words”, the fact this album is mostly in Portuguese only adds to the exotic mystery and sexiness of the whole experience.

Garota De Ipanema (Girl from Ipanema), provides a different take on the original Jobim piece, being re-harmonised, re-timed, and with some gorgeous instrumentals as well as DeLuna’s glorious pure voice following the melody with and without words. Click here for Catina DeLuna’s website and this particular track on the home page

O Canto Da Ema is somewhat unusual!  Here we have DeLuna’s voice, crystal clear as a spring waterfall, accompanied only by her own “body percussion”!   

The eleven tracks are: Lavadeira do Rio and Maracatu, Garota De Ipanema, Cavalo Marinho (Baiaio Barroco), Contrato de Separação,Chovendo Na Roseira, Estrela Azul, O Canto Da Ema, Encontros e Despedidas, Lamentos, Quase Frevo, Fotografia.

The whole album is joyful, exciting, innovative, beautiful, dreamy, elegant, exotic, emotional at times: a must for anyone who loves Brazilian or Latin fusion.

Brazilian music is a road that has been well-traveled, but pianist/vocalist Catina DeLuna and pianist/arranger Otmaro Ruiz have re-examined the repertoire for their latest recording “Lado B: Brazilian Project". To take the most familiar example first, “The Girl from Ipanema” gets a welcome makeover with mixed meters, revised harmonies, an unexpected modulation and a slower, more reflective tempo. It's like a new song, and I suspect that a listener jumping into the middle of this track would have trouble recognizing the chord sequence. The opening track overlays Lenine’s “Lavadeira do Rio” over an instrumental version of Egberto Gismonti’s “Maracatu”, thus bringing the worlds of MPB, alternative rock and contemporary jazz together. DeLuna’s smooth, flowing voice is a striking contrast to the biting mercurial single piano lines she plays in her solo later in the track. The surging percussion of Mike Serfaty, Clarice Cast and Greg Beyer bring this arrangement to a stunning conclusion. There are no translations of the Portuguese texts, but DeLuna’s rich voice is so well-matched to the ensemble (basically flute, marimba and rhythm section) that her contributions can be appreciated on a purely musical level. On “Contrato de Separação”, her wordless phrasing is particularly elegant against the flute of guest artist Bob Sheppard and the guitar of Larry Koonse. The sound of water—which opened the album—reappears at the beginning of “Chovendo Na Roseira” (“Double Rainbow”) juxtaposed with the voices of a 10-piece mixed choir. The choir reappears throughout the track, with Ruiz’s superb vocal scoring and long meter rhythms offering a fresh approach to this fine Jobim composition. One of the album’s highlights is a new song “Estrela Azul”, which contrasts a liquid DeLuna vocal with a menacing ostinato part for bass (Edwin Livingston) and piano (Ruiz). The coda features overlapping vocal lines over a delicate guitar improvisation. The influence of Bobby McFerrin appears on the baião, “O Canto da Ema” which moves from solo voice with body percussion to a well-developed episode with DeLuna’s overdubbed voices. Despite the language barrier, DeLuna breaks your heart with her passionate readings of the ballads “Encontros e Despedidas” and “Fotografia” (ably supported by Ruiz’s accordion). The band’s name “Lado B” is Portuguese for “Side B”, noting the best tracks of an LP could be found there. Look no further than this album for a superb recasting of Brazilian music.


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