The seeds for “The Astrud Project” were sewn on jazz vocalist Anne Walsh’s previous album, “Brand New.” On that 2016 set, Walsh penned biographical lyrics to Brazilian jazz singer Astrud Gilberto’s lyric-less scat on “Nao Bate O Coracao,” retitling the song “The Writing’s on the Wall.” Walsh did a similar thing with Gilberto’s scatted “Beach Samba,” which led to recording an entire album that pays tribute to Gilberto’s seminal bossa nova catalogue. Produced and orchestrated by Grammy nominated arranger Tom Zink, “The Astrud Project” drops July 8 on the A to Zink Music label.
“Looking over Astrud’s life and career in researching that song (“Nao Bate O Coracao”) was the beginning of a deeper dive into the songs that inspired this collection. I’ve always found a kindred spirit in the vocal approach that Astrud took. Her light, straight tone is what really makes the music she sang shine. There is little doubt that Astrud’s approach set the stylistic vibe for the bossa nova movement of the 1960s,” said Walsh who will preview the new album at a concert performance at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato in Los Angeles on June 22 that will feature Zink and an orchestral ensemble.
Walsh and Zink say that Gilberto served as “sort of a poster child for innocence and the unaffected musical beauty that summed up the early bossa nova movement.” To honor the indelible mark she made on the music for which they hold immense ardor, the spouses recorded some of Gilberto’s best-known songs as well as lesser-known selections, adding their own fresh twist to the arrangements and approach. “The Astrud Project” is comprised of eleven tunes and encompasses a mix of songs sung in English and Gilberto’s native Portuguese, including the iconic “The Girl From Ipanema.”
“Learning the Portuguese lyrics is so important to understanding how the music should swing. In Brazil, you can find yourself listening to a conversation and faintly hear the cadences of the various percussion instruments. That is such a huge part of getting the music under your skin as a singer; really internalizing the percussive feel of the language. I sing most of ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ in Portuguese because it’s impossible to get that same rhythmic feel from the English lyrics,” said Walsh.
Gilberto’s sultry and sensual voice meshed perfectly with Brazilian jazz rhythms and the rich melodies written by Antonio Carlos Jobim (“Dindi,” “The Girl From Ipanema” and “Fotographia”) and other emerging Brazilian composers of the era such as Baden Powell and Vincius de Moraes (“Canto de Ossanha”) and Marcos Valle (“Crickets Sing For Anamaria”). She uniquely illumined pop songs like “Call Me” and selections from the great American songbook (Legrand and Mercer’s “Once Upon a Summertime”) by applying her trademark bossa nova varnish. On “The Astrud Project,” Walsh skillfully plies her exquisite voice and passion for Brazilian jazz to the lavishly produced and orchestrated tracks meticulously crafted by Zink.
“Our hope was to keep that sunny innocence of the original, while updating the sound and playing to reflect our own perspective on the era. One of my favorite elements as an orchestrator is how the original recordings could go from simple two-person performances to huge orchestral arrangements and yet still retain the fun and light sound that characterizes bossa nova. This recording moves from guitar/voice duos to very large ensembles with full string, woodwind and brass sections. All of the arrangements are original, but I focused on retaining the sense of innocent beauty that was so characteristic of Astrud’s recordings,” said Zink, who earned a Grammy nod for his arrangements on Walsh’s “Pretty World” (2009), nominated alongside some of his biggest influences, Gil Evans and Claus Ogerman.
Zink plays piano throughout “The Astrud Project” and was joined by Mitchell Long (guitar, cavaquinho), Kevin Winard (drums, percussion), Chris Wabich (drums), Mike Vacarro (flutes, clarinet, bass clarinet), Gary Meek (flute solos), Tony Guerrero (trumpets, flugelhorns), Andy Martin (trombone), Charlie Bisharat (violin), Tom Lea (viola) and Irina Chirkova (cello).
Boston born and now based in Long Beach, California, Walsh is a classically trained vocalist, lyricist, composer and educator. She recorded amalgams of Brazilian and contemporary jazz for “Pretty World” followed by the “Go” (2011) and “Brand New” albums. Walsh earned praise from Grammy-winning guitarist Pat Metheny for writing lyrics to his “So May It Secretly Begin” for “Pretty World.” That set included another instrumental song for which she wrote lyrics, Keith Jarrett’s “My Song.” Walsh and Zink are very much at home in the Brazilian jazz space, which has proved to be a fount of creative inspiration for their recordings, spawning “The Astrud Project.”
“Our previous jazz albums are a mix of bossa nova and smooth jazz, but we wanted to go all in on this project paying tribute to Astrud and the bossa nova era,” said Zink.
“The Astrud Project” contains the following songs:
“On My Mind”
“Crickets Sing for Anamaria”
“The Girl From Ipanema”
“Canto de Ossanha”
“Voce É Eu”
“Once Upon a Summertime”
Additional information is available at https://www.annewalsh.com.
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