Anoushka Shankar

Most songwriters and singers tend to write music and perform their songs based around the themes of heartbreak, love that was lost, or some other issue that is personal to them.  In the album Land of Gold, Anoushka Shankar decided to take a completely different approach, one that is almost never, if ever, taken.

l_dcdd80982da1da7f6a8284f7e899f23cIn a lot of ways, Shankar is following in the footsteps of her father, Ravi Shankar, from when he did a benefit concert in 1971 with George Harrison, as well as a documentary film and subsequent album, that was aimed at helping over seven million refugees of the Liberation War in Bangladesh.  They also were able to help the victims of flooding, famine, and cyclones that destroyed the area. Their album featured a lot of the top stars of the day such as Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, and Bod Dylan.  The concert brought in a crowd that numbered over forty thousand at Madison Square Garden, and included Ali Akbar Khan, a Sarod virtuoso.

After witnessing recent new, Anoushka was inspired to make the album Land of Gold because of the images of people running from unbearable hardships from the civil war, poverty, and oppression. She had given birth to her second child in the days leading up to the recording and was disturbed by the idea that she was able to provide for her children where, in deep contrast, so many others were not able to provide for theirs, no matter how hard they tried. They are, many times, completely unable to even give their children safety from the cruel world around them. Her words can make anyone reflect on the conflict going on and how it has created a humanitarian crisis that we have all witnessed in the news for quite a while.




Coltrane and Gould

The company, Mosaic Records, is known to produce reissued box sets that are amazing under the watch of Michael “spelunker” Cuscuna, a jazz curator, who loves to find buried treasures from deep within the vaults of jazz companies in order to share them with jazz fans around the world. Because of a lovely tip that was posted on Mosaic’s blog, I was able to learn about the beginnings of a seminal recording by John Coltrane, an album that got me started with my journey (maybe the word obsession here fits better) into jazz when I was still in high school.

p7I had always consider Morton Gould to be a conductor and composer of classics that were light for popular audiences. Come to find out, he also worked on national radio broadcasts as a conductor in the forties and fifties, making him well known to listeners in America.  I was clueless about this, having no idea that any of his work was loved by a musical explorer and iconic jazz musician.

In the early 1940’s, Gould wrote American Symphonette, a piece that included a passage that jazz musicians loved called “Pavanne.” Jimmy Lunceford, Glenn Miller, and several others were part of the recording. After Coltrane heard it, he decided to use it’s theme to his Impressions recording in 1961 as a springboard.  This became part of his repertoire that was standard with his gigs up until the time of his death in July 1967.

A Rutgers University musicologist name Dr. Lewis Porter wrote a biography of John Coltrane that was quite definitive.  In this biography, he tells readers of  the inspiration that Coltrane used in his recordings through his two part blog post.  He also shines a light on how many other orchestras and jazz musicians loved the Gould “Pavanna.”  I was quite facinated by listening to the clips from Dr. Porter. I never knew before about the connection that Morton Gould and Coltrane had. Of course, it is never too late to learn something new.




The Brazilian Singer, Clementina de Jesus

clementina_de_jesus_-_divulgacaoClementina de Jesus was a Brazilian singer that was not very well known. She was born in Brazil in 1901, south of Rio in the town of Carambita.  She was a very unlikely performer, thanks to her upbringing.  Before being discovered, she worked as a maid for several decades in her native land. In 1963, Herminio Bello de Carvalho, a composer and record producer, discovered her.  Carvalho approached her and persuaded her to participate in the Rosa de Ouro show that took place in some of the Brazilian capitals. He soon led her to make her very first record with Odeon Records.

Several days ago I heard a song playing on the radio that reminded me of Clementina. In Brazil, she was best known as “Mom”.  I learned about her many years ago myself, when she was still alive and putting on performances. She had a stroke in 1986 that sent her to her grave, but performed up until that time.  She was 63 when her career started and performed for 23 years, dying at the age of 86.  Her concerts wee mostly samba, making her famous and loved by many other samba greats including Elizete Cardoso, Paulinho da Viola, Alcione, and João Nogueira. The regular Brazilians also had quite a love for Clementina because of how she was poor growing up and worked cleaning houses for a living before she was discovered. Those poor, regular people who lived in the favelas (the poor, hilltop shanty towns located just above the famous beaches of Rio) felt that they could identify with her.

Clementina had a very distinctive voice that she used in her professional career to record her four solo albums as well as a few other recordings she made alongside some famous samba artists such as João da Bahiana and Pixinguinha.  Despite the fact that she started her career very late in live, Clementina de Jesus was one of the best known singers in the country of Brazil.  She contributed a lot to carnival music and was loved by all because of how she could relate to the poor in the country.