It is not that often that I am off on a Saturday night and by chance it coincides with the opportunity to hear a visiting artist who I always wanted to see perform. I was so inspired by meeting Carmen, the musicians and also hearing them perform that I wanted to share some feelings about my Saturday night experience out on the town with my dear wife and many friends. It was a great afternoon in fact meeting Carmen, Jonathan, Theo and Mauricio at Maria de Barros house where we were also celebrating a good friends birthday with a huge pot of Catchupa!
First of all it was an honor to hear Carmen Souza with her group perform. She has been blazing a trail with busy touring schedule I know and I have been following her career developing over the years from afar. Carmen and her musicians blend a lot of styles of music with a very unique and exciting approach to Cape Verdean Jazz. There are not too many Cape Verdeans out there using the true jazz approach so it is an exciting and refreshing look at this music that is so rich and so close to my heart and Carmen has succeeded in bringing it all together with her musical skill, beautiful voice and great group of musicians.
Carmen sings and plays guitar with confidence and has a sincere and natural stage presence. Her voice reminded me a little of Macy Gray sometimes but she has many timbres, sounds, tones and inflections. At times she sounded like a classic American jazz singer. Her arranger, producer and collaborator on Bass; Theo Pas'cal is a great Portuguese bassist playing the grooves associated with the different styles beautifully and he is a lyrical and virtuoso soloist as well. On keyboards from Nigeria is Jonathan Idiagbonya. Jonathan was amazing, taking great solos and adding nice orchestration to the group. His jazz and world music sensibilities are a rare and refreshing combination to hear. Jonathan shined on the piano even though I know his sustain pedal was not functioning! (A true pro) The drummer, who apparently has only been with them a couple weeks was phenomenal. Mauricio Zottarelli is a master of Brazilian and jazz drumming who may be new to Cape Verdean rhythms but blew everyone away with his musicality, volume control, solos and addition to the group. The group is playing their own music and I love to hear their unique voice and creation but since I love so much the great Cape Verdean drummers and drumming style I found myself wanting to hear the more authentic Morna, Coladeira, Funana, Batuque and Mazurka drumming sometimes but that is my own taste, Mauricio did a great job and I could tell he did study some of the style.
The Venue looks like a cool place, literally underground in the heart of Venice. Its called "The Del Monte Speakeasy" and has a lot of potential but there was something missing for me and this is one of the reasons I wanted to write today about the show. What was horribly missing was a true listening audience. Yes, there were those of us that were paying close attention to the intricately arranged and well rehearsed music but there were so many people yapping and talking that it was a shameful experience and made me embarrassed about the city I live in. Carmen was gracious about it, but she even had to mention it on stage. Come on, Los Angeles! I guess I was even more disturbed because some of the people talking were musician friends of mine. I think that there's a lot of people that go out just to see and be seen and then post it on facebook but they don't open their hearts to the art and have the patience and interest to learn and experience something new and hear the sonic poetry of some visiting musicians. I know that LA has listening audiences so this was just not a good fit as a venue I suppose but it really disturbed, surprised and directly insulted the band. Why would these people pay a cover charge just to order drinks and talk on top of the beautiful music. I don't get it. Shame on you's!
But in the end it was an incredible experience with the festivities continuing into the night back at Maria and Cristihan's place. The Catchupa and drinks never ran out and our dear friend Irlando celebrated his birthday memorably! I cant say that I want to have too many Saturday nights off in the future but this was sooo worth it. Thank you Carmen and group, Maria de Barros, Cristihan and everyone who brought the great vibes. I am now an official fan of Carmen Souza, she won me over completely!
Listen to the music!