TANIA MARIA / “Satisfaction”

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Tania Maria Correa Reis is a Brazilian vocalist, pianist and composer. Born May 9, 1948 with a professional career of over 30 years, Tania Maria is one of only two or three true divas of Brazilian music alive today. Tania’s work mixes Brazilian Popular Music (MPB), jazz, samba and funk. It’s intoxicating the way she rocks. Heavy percussion even when (really I should say especially when) it’s just she and her piano. Her piano attack is fierce, which is to say when she hits the key they respond as a drum would.

What is not always immediately evident is her encyclopedic knowledge of jazz that enables her to bring a range of diverse influences to fruition in unlikely arrangements that read on paper like a recipe for a disaster but when she plays them, my, my, oh my how they dance together, like a nimble-footed pachyderm doing the James Brown.

Plus the lady has a brass section in her throat and Ella Fitzgerald’s scatting chops just dripping off her lips. Improvising vocals in tandem with her piano is her signature and she does it like no one else you have heard do it.

I’ve chosen nine tracks from a variety of her numerous releases. Six tracks are covers and there are two originals: “Vem P’ra Roda” and “Amei Demais (I Loved Too Much)”—there are two different versions of the latter.
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The emphasis however is on her reinterpretations. Check out the Rolling Stones song “Satisfaction.” This has got to be the most innovative arrangement ever, especially the way she reprises Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme. How does one think to start with Samba percussion, then dollop on heavy layers of funk, come back with a heavy layer of cool jazz horns plus her scatting. Wow, what an explosive mix.

Dorothy Fields & Jimmy McHugh’s “I Can’t give You Anything But Love” becomes a Rio-dwelling expatriate, favela funky but never leaving it’s jazzy roots to far behind with a growling trumpet solo. Again on the back end Tania’s expressive and exciting scatting is a virtual trumpet section onto itself.

No less impressive is what she does with Sidney Bechet’s “Petite Fleur.” She composed a counter-theme, “Florzinha” that completely re-imagines the song, especially those samba drums in the opening with a classical sounding piano vamp over top. I love it when musicians reach back almost eighty years (remember, Bechet was Coltrane’s inspiration for “My Favorite Things”).

“Besame Mucho” like most of Maria’s music mixes all kinds of rhythm influences: is it salsa, samba or tango? This time around Tania treats us to a short piano interlude. On the out chorus, my ears tell me it’s a bowed bass but one never knows what oddities Ms. Maria will throw in the mix.

“It’s Not for Me To Say” is a standard done in English like she is sitting in the hippest supper club in the world, singing in a heavily accented English before breaking into an infectious piano/scat solo that is totally enchanting. Who would not fall for this?
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Perhaps the most radical of all the arrangements is Tania deconstruction of Antonio Carlos Jobim-Newton Mendonca’s “One Note Samba” done ultra slow as though it were a blues instead of a bossa nova. I am particularly impressed with Maria’s seemingly inexhaustible ability to put classic material in a new setting and give us a totally fresh interpretation. Plus she has a knack for delivering knock out punches at the end of her songs. Here just when we think the tenor saxophonist has stolen the show with Wayne Shorter-like tonalities, Tania overdubs a brilliant vocal line in the background that commands our attention even the saxophonist is blowing up a storm. Score another one for this hard scatting sister.

“Vem P’ra Roda” is one of those elegant Brazilian funk numbers, sort of like the senior prom when all the folk in all their finery line up and three hundred pair of feet do the electric slide with deep dips and huge smiles on their lips as they twirl and add a couple of Harlem Shake shoulder twitches to the flavor. On this number she seems too cool to sweat but, as you can tell from the audience’s uproarious response, she has thoroughly moved us.

“Amei Demais” is the opening and closing song on this Tania Maria set. I really admire how deftly she lines out the melody over an ever changing rhythm background that seems to force the song to move in two directions at once. Tania makes you simultaneously samba and slow drag and, of course, such genre ambidexterity is her thing, a thing she does exceedingly well.

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Tania Maria music:

“Amei Demais (I Loved Too Much)”

“Satisfaction” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”Bela Vista

“Besame Mucho”Intimidade

“It’s Not For Me To Say”
and “Vem P’ra Roda”Happiness

“One Note Samba” and “Amei Demais”Viva Brazil

—Kalamu ya Salaam

This entry was posted on Monday, September 22nd, 2008 at 3:32 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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