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Latin Music Rings from Waterbury Palace to Hartford Public Library

Jan 27, 2016

Anders's steamy vocal stylings simmer soulfully on everything from classic bossa nova to Rolling Stone's classics and Billie Holiday ballads.

A welcome wave of South American hipness accompanied by mixed amounts of soothing coolness and refreshing warmth is forecast for Connecticut this weekend, thanks to appearances by the Argentine-born singer/songwriter/arranger Gabriela Anders at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, and the native Brazilian pianist/singer Abelita Mateus at the Hartford Public Library.

Anders, a native of Buenos Aires who sensuously embraces Latin music, jazz and soul, exhibits her sultry, regal stylings on Friday, January 29, at 7:00 and 9:00 pm at the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury.

Mateus, who just returned to the States from Brazil, leads her tight-knit trio on Sunday, January 31, at 3:00 pm at the free Baby Grand Jazz series at the Hartford Public Library, 500 Main Street.

Anders, who first made a big splash in 1998 with her debut album Wanting (Warner Bros. Jazz), grew up totally immersed in a fount of music as the daughter of the noted Argentine jazz saxophonist/bandleader Jorge Anders and the granddaughter of a classical violinist and a piano teacher.

South American and North American musical influences as well as classical and pop, were the nurturing, formative core of her childhood, the foundation for the diversity that was to become one of her trademarks.

Among the many sounds she was enchanted by in her childhood were classical Brazilian guitar music, the concertina-like bandoneon so essential to many tango ensembles, and, of course, the jazz her father adored and performed. Among schoolmates, Anders, already devoutly ecumenical in her tastes, was the only kid in her class who had even heard of Miles Davis, an American jazz superhero ensconced in her expanding, personal pantheon of revered musicians and genres.

After graduating from high school, Anders moved to New York City to study music and begin pursuing her career.

In Argentina, Anders had studied classical guitar privately, and music, and piano at a conservatory in Buenos Aires. Later, she took instruction in orchestration for brass and strings with the noted American arranger Don Sebesky.

This provided grounding for her songwriting, arranging, and steamy vocal stylings that simmer soulfully on everything from classic bossa nova to myriad songs ranging from Rolling Stones classics to ballads associated with Billie Holiday. Her CD, Bossa Beleza (JVC/Japan) exemplifies the marriage of her personal style and her first love, bossa nova.

Billboard Magazine has praised Anders as a multi-talented, eclectic artist whose music has “a touch of tango romanticism and a taste of samba cool.” Tickets to the Palace Theater Poli Club series:  $27.00. Information: palacetheaterct.org and (203) 346-2000.

Mateus, the next headliner at Baby Grand Jazz, grew up in Sao Paulo, starting out as a serious student of classical piano until, she says, falling madly in love with jazz, a passion that brought her to America to study. As fervent as ever, that love sustains the fine pianist's quest to keep growing musically.

Back in her native Brazil, Mateus had already performed with such artists as Raul de Souza and Hermeto Pascoal. Since settling in the Big Apple in 2012, she’s performed with Claudio Roditi, Tommy Campbell, and Sharel Cassity.

Starting in 2014, Mateus has worked on her own special project called Mixed Feelings, which she describes as a fusion of her samba and bossa nova roots with contemporary jazz, incorporating the “new sounds” she’s absorbed on the New York scene.

Currently, Mateus is the pianist for the Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience, which is directed by Gillespie alumnus, John Lee. Recently, she’s performed at such prestigious venues as the Blue Note, The Kennedy Center, The Hollywood Bowl and Ronnie Scott’s in London.

At Baby Grand Jazz, Mateus will be accompanied by the rising, young South Korean bassist Daseul Kim and drummer/percussionist Phillip Gillette, who’s looked sharp with greats ranging from Jimmy Heath to Danilo Perez.

Daseul Kim, Abelita Mateus, and Phillip Gillette.

With its simpatico members hailing from Brazil, South Korea and the United States, Mateus's interactive trio unifies the chameleon-like tastes of its players through their fresh, interpretive collaborations on jazz and Brazilian numbers.

Baby Grand Jazz, with its international theme in the opening weeks of its 2016 season, has morphed into a weekly mini-UN session.

Since opening day on January 3, the library's weekly Sunday concert series has struck an international theme, consecutively presenting a string of foreign-born headliners including Colombian harp virtuoso Edmar Castaneda; guitarist Sinan Bakir, who was born in Turkey, and his accompanist, the Russian-born pianist Alex Nakhimovsky; followed by the Tel Aviv-native pianist/composer Alon Nechushtan, and, just last Sunday, the Japanese-born pianist Ayako Higuchi.

Following Mateus’s appearance, the popular series on February 7 presents Hartford’s globe-trotting pianist/vocalist Warren Byrd in a duo collaboration with the noted Dutch trumpeter, Saskia Laroo. As part of the Laroo/Byrd dual alliance, which has triumphed throughout the world, Laroo also plays bass and does some vocals. At times, Byrd even plays bongos. What the pair is really up to, besides celebrating its abundance of verve and versatility, is best described by Byrd himself:

“We try to imagine what it would be like if Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis would engage in musical dialogue to work out their differences on a street corner in Greenwich Village. We compose pieces on which to explore this concept, trying to reconcile spontaneity, drive, challenge, sincerity, drama flow and swing.”

Saskia Laroo.
Credit Ruediger Schestag / Saskia Laroo
Warren Byrd.
Credit warrenbyrd.com

Aiding and abetting the dynamic duo in its return to Baby Grand Jazz is its special guest, the celebrated vibraphonist/composer, Jay Hoggard, a longtime educator at Middletown’s Wesleyan University. Just to hear Hoggard’s splendid vibes resonating to the rafters in the library’s scenic atrium would be reward enough -- the ideal dessert for the cordon bleu main course served by the Laroo/Byrd Duo.

Byrd stresses that the object is to pay due reverence to Duke Ellington’s famous musical credo: “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”

Besides being Hartford’s jazz jewel on Main Street, Baby Grand Jazz, with its international theme in the opening weeks of its 2016 season, has morphed, at least metaphorically, into a weekly mini-UN session, but with, of course, infinitely more harmony and obviously far happier results.

Information: hplct.org

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