a lively and seamless blend of samba and bossa nova arrangements with some of the most iconic American vocal performances from Billie Holiday, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, The Isley Brothers, Bill Withers and others.
For The Brazil Connection, original multi-track masters and an all-new, state-of-the-art separation technology were used to extract the classic vocal performances. Once in hand, the newly isolated vocals were melded with brand-new, authentically arranged backing tracks from an all-star cast of Brazilian musical pioneers from the bossa nova and samba genres, including Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner Roberto Menescal and Brazilian musical legend, Marcos Valle.
The result is a series of 12 new, refreshingly different master recordings of classic standards with superb, new Brazilian arrangements.
The Brazil Connection is the brainchild of music producers Frank and Christian Berman, who had previously explored such distinct cultures for Rhythms Del Mundo, an album gathering acclaimed artists like Sting and Coldplay with the legendary Buena Vista Social Club. The album was mixed by Jerry Boys
, 6 time Grammy Award winning mix engineer.
Music is the heart and soul of Brazil, celebrating with syncopated beats and beautifully expressive melodies. It's the life force of the entire culture. Those Afro- Brazilian rhythms are in the way people speak, in the way they walk, even in the way they play football. From a simple family get-together to the celebrations that take over the country during Carnival season, music is the foundation of any social gathering.
We have always had a huge appreciation of Brazilian music. Between us, we have a massive collection of bossa nova and samba recordings, new and old, a lot of which we found in flea markets in Amsterdam, Paris and London. Among our most prized finds are ten rare albums by the famed singer, composer and producer Marcos Valle, whose legend has grown over the years and who was sampled recently by Jay-Z and Kanye West. Our favorite bootleg is a copy of the legendary 1962 Carnegie Hall concert in which Roberto Menescal—another great singer, composer and producer we have discovered—performed with Tom Jobim, Sergio Mendes and other bossa nova legends. Can you imagine all those pioneers together in one concert? Once you get into this music, there really is no way to stop.
It was this joyful and timeless music that inspired the idea for this collection. Our goal was to bring the Brazilian joie de vivre to iconic performances by well-known American artists like Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brothers and many others. What would these classic songs sound like had they been recorded in the studios of Rio de Janeiro in the first place, with the best Brazilian musicians and arrangers?
The answer came after a year of preparation, listening to records, sorting through catalogues of many musicians and choosing the right songs for this project. Our plan was to use original multi-track masters and also a new, state-of-the-art separation technology that could extract the vocal tracks. We could then meld the original performance with newly recorded, authentically arranged backing tracks from an all-star cast of Brazilian musical pioneers that we call Studio Rio.
By March 2013 we were ready. We left for Brazil and arrived in Rio in the middle of their rainy season—the sound of the raindrops reminded us of Tom Jobim's bossa nova classic, "Aguas de Marco" ("Waters of March"). Inspiration was everywhere. It turned out that our apartment was next door to the house where the song "Girl from Ipanema" was born. The beach was just a few blocks away and that became our office. It was the perfect environment for brainstorming and creating.
Everything seemed to come together on its own. Through a series of wonderful coincidences in Rio we were introduced to our idols Marcos Valle and Roberto Menescal. They both agreed to work with us and the adventure began. In order to get to Menescal's studio we had to take a little boat through a small rain forest outside of Rio. It was an incredible experience to meet one of the founders of bossa nova on his own turf. Menescal, who just received his Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award, fell in love with Aretha's take on "Walk On By" and started to work on a wonderful arrangement right away.
We met Marcos Valle at his beautiful home, where he went right to his piano and began to interpret Andy Williams' "Music to Watch Girls By" in his tasteful, distinctive way. Later we found out that Marcos had been a guest on Andy's television show way back in 1962 and had written two songs for him that year. Just another wonderful coincidence.
The most influential Brazilian composer and also one of our favorite artists of all time has to be Tom Jobim. We wanted to find some of the amazing musicians who recorded with him in the studio. Fifty years after Jobim made the music that really defines bossa nova, we found that many of his sidemen were still active, including Paulo Braga—part of Jobim's famed rhythm section. It was magic; everything just fell into place.
We had in mind the idea that these all-stars would be a perfect match for a reworking of Billie Holiday's masterpiece "You've Changed." We started recording the first verse, and suddenly Braga stopped playing—he had tears in his eyes! Something had been lost in the translation and he hadn't quite understood the essence of the project. He noticed that he was actually playing along with the original vocal track of Billie, not some singer interpreting the song, and it had caught him unaware. He got himself together and played beautifully through the rest of the take. It was a truly touching moment.
Our Portuguese needs much improvement so we had a translator but after a while we didn't use one at all. Musicians understand each other without words. Music is our language. During almost all of our sessions they would all be together in one room, set up in a circle, playing live. You can feel the space and interaction between the players, many of whom have known each other for more than forty years.
We returned to Rio a few more times after those first sessions, working on more songs, and in the end we recorded over twenty tracks, twelve of which are on this collection. It was an amazing journey—bringing together these American classics and the vibrancy of Brazilian music with the help of so many talented musicians, arrangers and a dedicated production team. We learned many things putting together this music including what was the most important, and least surprising lesson of all: Brazil is the most musical place we have ever been in our lives.
—FRANK AND CHRISTIAN BERMAN