vəˈräɡō/: a woman of strength or spirit; a female warrior.
photo credit: Robert Torres

Celebrity Series of Boston is making Jazz Cool Again – Virago Magazine

In a recent interview with Gizmo, a 22 year old bass player, who’s played with the likes of The Roots, Meshell Ndegeocello, Talib Kweli, and Victor Wooten, he stated that from a traditional point of view, there’s been a disconnect between jazz and hip hop.

It’s a pattern that has bothered me for some time now, but Gizmo and friends, like Casey Benjamin and Derrick Hodge, have been challenging the traditional label of jazz.

Gizmo went on to state that jazz is a very loose term nowadays, thrown around to describe certain songs if but for convenience, simply because most songs carry elements of jazz, hip hop, electronic, pop, world music, etc.

From that point of view, we are in a cool place and time for all kinds of music. Seeing this trend of “uncategorizing” music is a beautiful thing. I’m reminded of the famous Miles Davis quote, “I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later.”

As part of the Celebrity Series of Boston, I recently had the chance to see the Luciana Souza Trio at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Souza, who was raised in a family of Bossa Nova innovators, transcends traditional boundaries of jazz into world and classical music, along with her band mates, Lionel Loueke (guitar), Grégiore Maret (harmonica), Kendrick Scott on drums, and Massimo Biolcati on bass.

From the very first note that Loueke struck on his guitar, you’re in another world. Maybe you’re in Benin, maybe Brasil, but you are transported. As an fellow player, Loueke can play it straight or easily flow into improvisation. As a singular player, he can easily carry his own show, playing the bass line with his right hand, whilst using vocal intonation and tapping for percussion. Every note is a story with Lionel Loueke, at times straddling the boundaries between prog-rock-like soloing and African folk music.

Souza, who mused about her love for Boston, knows how to use her voice in all ways. During “A Pebble in Still Water” she alternated from Ella-Fitzgerald like scatting to traditional Bossa Nova. Singing from the “Book of Chet” (Chet Baker), she described a childhood full of Chet Baker: “When I listened to Chet growing up, something changed in me.”

Kendrick Scott’s drumming was effortless and precision-like, while Biolcati provided a solid, yet versatile backbone for a set full of improvisation. Grégiore Maret’s playing culminated in a crescendo between himself and Loueke during “Aquelas Coisas Todas” with Maret literally falling to his knees on stage while playing.

Souza’s soaring vocals during songs like “The Thrill is Gone” mixed in with Brasilian tradition in songs such as “Straw Hat”, a touching recollection about her father, made for an night of eclectic and unforgettable moments.

About Kristen Demesilda

Kristen Demesilda
Writer and Photographer for Virago Magazine, Kristen grew up listening to vinyl and highlighting the dictionary. Her work has appeared in IrockJazz.com, The East Harlem Journal, Boston's Culturehive, the Ithacan and other publications. Her love of music cannot be eclipsed by her love of words. She's been coined the "Akira Kurosawa of Blogs" by such people as herself. An aspiring musician, she has a serious penchant for peach-flavored anything, multi-tasking, slow-paced thrillers and dreams of going back to South America, laying on the beach, and drinking from a coconut.
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