Karrin Allyson

A Kiss for Brazil



iTunes - $9.99

MUSIC REVIEW BY Randy Morse, The Best of Brazil


A Kiss for Brazil is a magnificent album! I've eagerly anticipated its release, especially after you announced that my favorite Brazilian singer, Rosa Passos, would join you — my favorite American jazz singer — as a special guest. What could be better? On top of that, your backing musicians (V'tor Gonçalves, Yotam Silberstein, Harvie S, and Rafael Barata) are stellar. You've said that before you and Rosa met, you had been fans of each other's music. I imagine that when the two of you discovered this, you might have told each other what drew you to each other's music. What do you admire in Rosa's work and what has she said she admires in yours?

Karrin: I know for me it was an earlier CD of Rosa's that one of my long-time friends, guitarist Danny Embrey (who was in the Sons of Brasil — a great KC band I learned so much from!), gave me and "Dunas" was on it... and I wore it out! She told me for my music, it was first our Ballads, Remembering John Coltrane CD.

I love the arrangements on the album, but no credit is listed. Are they the work of you and Rafael?

Karrin: I arranged these songs, with the important and wonderful input of this stellar group in the studio. Also the 'shout' chorus on "Manhã de Carnaval" I composed (I love writing lines to already existing melodies... many we have recorded) but V'tor 'tweaked' it.

It's so nice hearing you sing in both English and Portuguese. You use the distinctive Portuguese pronunciation of cariocas (Rio de Janeiro natives), giving a "sh" sound to words ending in S. Was this a conscious choice or is it simply the pronunciation your language coach taught?

Karrin: Good ear Randy! Yes, I have a friend and coach Lúcia Guimarães — she's a carioca and so, voila! She's meticulous, and I am so grateful to her.

I have several questions about the lyrics on A Kiss for Brazil. To start, there are two songs with English lyrics so close to the original Portuguese. One is "Month of March in Salvador," which has brilliant English lyrics that you and Rafael based on one of my favorite Rosa Passos compositions, "Dunas." They so closely capture the essence of Fernando de Oliveira's lyrics. What can you tell me about your creative process working together on this?

Karrin: Rafael translated it for me from the Portuguese, then I made more of a poem (in English) out of it. I am a Nature Girl — so, I loved trying to get close to what Fernando wrote in Portuguese. Also he gave us his blessing! Which means a lot.

The other song with beautiful, new English lyrics close to the sentiment of Vin'cius de Moraes' Portuguese is Tom Jobim's "O Grande Amor," which you and Rosa also sing together. No one is credited. Is this you and Rafael again?

Karrin: My wonderful friend and colleague Chris Caswell wrote these beautiful English lyrics... we were not able to include him on the credits (but got his permission) because of publishing technicalities.

Then there are three songs with English lyrics that are wonderful but which completely change — sometimes radically — the sentiment of the original lyrics: "Flor de Lis," "The Gift," and "The Island." All three are about failed relationships, but the English lyrics turn them into beautiful love songs. For example, Djavan's original lyrics for "Flor de Lis" begin in despair: "God help me! It's the end of our love." And in V'tor Martins' original lyrics for "The Island" ("Começar de Novo"), the singer is starting over after finally breaking free from the "claws" of domineering partner. I'm curious about your thoughts on this.

Karrin: Yes, it's very interesting to try to 'compare' these meanings — as you say, many times they're a completely different meaning! The Island or Começar de Novo — I believe was included in a Brazilian soap opera! Perhaps also having something to do with militarization in Brazil at that time. I love that Brazilians (jazzers, in this case) often include political/activism beliefs, along with love of nature. Both are close to me as well. And of course, LOVE. Carmen MacRae sang Flor de Lis (in English) and I've always loved that lyric. Djavan is a force and it's a fun song to sing.

The last two songs I want to talk about have English lyrics by two of my favorite lyricists, Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Returning to "The Island," your interpretation and the arrangement are amazingly sensual! When I first listened, Ravel's "Bolero" came to mind as you build the intensity. Near the end, Rafael's cymbal crashes accompany your passionate scatting. It ends with Rafael imitating a rapid heartbeat with sidestick and brushes and your barely-audible whisper, "We're almost there." Whew! Any comments?

Karrin: Yes, whew! I put it in 3/4 time... which helps change it up a bit — and it's a very adult version — with (for me) a real vision/fantasy of being isolated on an island with waves crashing in... with your lover.

Your version of "So Many Stars," written by the Bergmans with Sérgio Mendes, is simply gorgeous! V'tor plays a wonderful accordion solo, and your vocal brings me back full circle to Rosa Passos. When I reviewed one of her albums 20 years ago, I said her singing is so intimate "you can almost feel her warm, moist breath on your ear." You — as exemplified by this song — have that same intimacy in your singing, and I love it. It's so great having you and Rosa on the same album. Thank you!

Karrin: Thank you Randy — that means a lot to me. I appreciate your perspective and your musically-loving observations. I'm singing to YOU!!!





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