Samba Para A Vida
(Everjazz Records)


Based in the New York City area, composer, pianist and arranger Richard Sorce is creating a musical buzz with his 2017 album entitled Samba Para a Vida, credited to The Richard Sorce Project. An advocate and musicologist of the historic and contemporary Brazilian jazz scene, Richard's 72 minute, 15 track CD is very evocative with its echoes of the Brazilian "samba" musical style originally pioneered by Antonio Carlos Jobim back in the early 1960s and throughout the most of the 1970s. The album features a number of fine musicians including Brazilian samba vocalist Iara Negrete, who at times sounds inspired by Jobim vocalist Astrid Gilberto. Richard’s sweeping keyboards and arrangements adds much sonic depth and luster to the album, which highlights performances from a number of musicians including Sue Williams (bass), Don Guinta (drums) Rob Reich (guitar), a three piece horn section and sumptuous sounding strings. With some tracks featuring the breathy Brazilian language vocal tracks of Ms. Negrete, other tracks are purely string intensive Brazilian flavored jazzy instrumentals that feature Richard’s superb acoustic piano style. Commenting on his music from the CD liner notes, Richard states, “My work has been referred to as a hybrid style by many who have heard previous recordings, and for that I am pleased.” Fans of Brazil's timeless samba music and especially the glorious sound of Antonio Carlos Jobim, will be quite enchanted by the colorful, and tastefully recorded sound of Samba Para a Vida. / presents an interview with

: Can you tell us where you’re originally from and where you live now and something interesting about it? What other states in the US or countries have you lived in?

Richard Sorce: I’m from New Jersey, approximately 20 miles from New York City. Although I’ve spent time in other states and a few countries, for some reason I’m still in New Jersey. I will say however, that it is a rather convenient location considering its proximity to New York City and the music and arts scene.

mwe3: On your new album Samba Para a Vida, you composed and recorded music that is influenced by Brazilian music. When did you first start listening to and becoming interested in Brazilian music and tell us about your main influences from Brazilian music. Also, have you traveled to Brazil? There’s a big Brazilian community here in South Florida. Speaking of Brazilian music, I just found 2 Brazilian language newspapers here and and they both have music sections.

Richard Sorce: I first became drawn to Brazilian Music about the same time it started to make its way to radio in the U.S. Of course, there was Jobim and those like Getz, Carter, Gilberto and others, but I was also very attracted to Sergio Mendes’ arranging. It was then that I began composing in that style and was able to perform these tunes with my five-member “lounge” group! We worked no less than 5-6 nights weekly in hotels and other venues where the audience expected pop hits, but I always managed to include original Brazilian-style tunes as well... mine as well as those by Jobim, Mendes and others. Interestingly enough, I’ve never been to Brazil, at least not in this current life.

mwe3: How is Brazilian jazz or contemporary music different from American or European jazz in your estimation? Also do you consider Brazilian music to go under the Latin Jazz banner? Interesting as Brazil is a huge country too, although there are a lot of countries in South America, it’s amazing.

Richard Sorce: When discussing Brazilian music and Brazilian jazz I believe it’s necessary to define a specific period, since as we all know, the style of Brazilian Music during the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and even the 80’s has changed. The North American invasion of pop and rock has affected the style of music that I’ve been told is now quite popular in Brazil. The music I, and many others, write that is reminiscent of Brazilian music during the decades I mentioned doesn’t stand a chance of becoming popular again; but that doesn’t answer your question; nevertheless, I felt it necessary to mention that.

The differences that I see between Brazilian music/jazz and American/European jazz lies in the rhythmic, melodic and harmonic aspects… and what’s left? Well, there are other aspects, but these are of primary importance, at least to me. Melodically, Brazilian music is lyric-based, meaning that it contains an element of lyricism whereby the melodic line is virtually always “singable,” even without lyrics. The directional pitches of the line are seemingly never contrived, but contain a very natural curve. Rhythmically, the music doesn’t swing, it grooves always; the “pocket” is locked in at all times. Obviously, syncopation is intrinsic in both styles, but in Brazilian jazz, the emphasis is not on swing. On the harmonic side, which happens to be the aspect of most interest to me, functional chord progression in the typical western European tradition is not the concern; the concern is with harmonic progression generated by the counterpoint of the intrinsic chord and voicing factors. While a melody can be strictly diatonic, the harmonic progression can be extremely chromatic, all while not sacrificing the flow of the melody and the tonal center of the phrase or phrases. I could go on and on about this, but I think you get the idea.

mwe3: How does your music and recording schedule fit into your work on the faculty of Ramapo College and William Patterson University in New Jersey? How did you become involved with music education; what courses do you teach and how do you balance your time at the college with performing and composing music?

Richard Sorce: As an undergraduate I saw myself as a college instructor. After my bachelor’s degree, I taught for a few years in a middle school; I left that position to perform full-time with my “commercial” band while working on my master’s degree. With that degree I became a part-time professor at NYU and while there, taught and pursued my Ph.D., which I ultimately completed. I’ve been teaching music theory, musicianship and composition. College teaching schedules are not nine to five, fortunately, so time for composition, recording and performing is not problematic.

mwe3: What is your favorite period of Brazilian music? I kind of remember the sound of the first “Girl From Ipanema” song from the JFK years, and then of course Jobim’s famous A&M / CTI / MCA Records 1967-73 period is still fondly recalled although it was years before I came to first appreciate it in the later 1970s. It’s still among my favorite music of all time and I even saw Jobim and his family perform a show at Carnegie Hall in the mid-1980s. I was sitting in the tenth row, center orchestra. Low key, but memorable.

Richard Sorce: The decades mentioned earlier, from the 1950’s to the 80’s, are special. Many of those who know “The Girl From Ipanema” and a few of Jobim’s other hits often don’t know the magnitude of Jobim’s output, which, by the way is staggering in scope and output.

mwe3: How did you meet singer Iara Negrete and, by mixing both vocal pop with instrumental Brazilian jazz, did you want to fully showcase the wide range of Brazilian pop-jazz and jazz instrumental genres on Samba Para a Vida? Also how did you come up with the title of the album? I just saw on your web page that all the vocal songs are translated into English. Brazilian language pop vocals are pleasing to the western ear, I guess you were also striving towards authenticity too?

Richard Sorce: I met Iara by accident, well almost by accident. While I was planning this CD, Samba para a Vida, I mentioned to my wife that I really would like to have a native female Brazilian sing these songs. While on LinkedIn one day, I either stumbled on Iara’s page, or she on mine, and we made contact. It was then I learned she was in São Paulo, Brazil. I heard a few of her tracks and shouted, I want her on my CD! My wife said I was dreaming, she’s in Brazil! That didn’t matter, especially when Iara mentioned that she was coming to the U.S. She did, and we met and she listened and she translated my English to Portuguese. We rehearsed, very little, she’s super quick... we went to the studio, and you have in your hand the result of our chance meeting. It was all very magical. This doesn’t happen very often in the music profession. And… yes, you are quite right, the “sound” of Brazilian Portuguese words for me, at least, is very mellifluous. The title of the CD just happened; Samba para a Vida-Samba for Life. The English lyrics can be found on

mwe3: How does Samba Para a Vida differ from your other albums and how many albums have you released and recorded and are they available on CD as well? How do you compare physical product with downloads? I would hate to lose the CD completely, as it’s only 35 years old. And the Samba Para a Vida CD came out brilliantly. Who else worked with you on the production and engineering, design of the packaging and art?

Richard Sorce: Samba para a Vida, I believe, is the result of experimentation on the previous two CDs. The first two were more or less a renewed journey into the style. I left the commercial side of music for many years while pursuing the composition of “contemporary classical music.” I came back to the Brazilian style about seven years ago and decided to write exactly what I felt, which meant not writing for a particular artist or a specific event or program. I did that for many years, had a few hits on Billboard, had my concert music performed in numerous concert halls and had much of it published.

All my work is available on CD, and some old material on vinyl. I despise downloads for many reasons. One is quality, another is that no one knows who’s who on the recording. I love reading all the credits, labels, producers, musicians, publishers, etc., etc. I am the producer and my wife, Barbara, is associate producer… she has great ears! She’s an artist and also did the artwork. Along with Robert Melosh, owner and engineer of R.E.M. Studios, Barbara and I produced, mixed and mastered the recording.

mwe3: What can you tell us about the main keyboards and pianos you play on the Samba Para a Vida album and did you use synths and also any sampling on various tracks? Did computers affect your approach? It's clear the album sound is totally natural and real, and not at all synth sounding.

Richard Sorce: I played a Knabe Grand and only used a Yamaha digital piano for a few parts. My strings are synthesized, and they are all scored as one would score strings for an orchestra. I don’t let computers affect my work; for me computers and sequencing programs are great editing tools, but that’s it.

mwe3: You composed all the vocal songs on the album. Are you a singer as well? Are there challenges in being an American composer writing Brazilian-flavored pop vocal music in the quintessential Jobim style instrumental sound while also demonstrating to a Brazilian singer as to how you want the vocals to sound?

Richard Sorce: I am not a singer, but I know singing. Every note I write is written by hand on manuscript paper…old school. With regards to what I want from a singer, here’s the answer: I will only work with singers who are trained both musically and vocally. There’s never a communication problem and I don’t have to say something a hundred times to get the meaning across. One more requirement is studio experience; another is no auto-tune except for rare moments when a slight, very slight tweak might be necessary.

mwe3: Is the band on the new album your core band? I recognize some of the names. What can you tell us about the band you feature on Samba Para a Vida and do you perform concerts as well?

Richard Sorce: That is the core band with an occasional sub. They are all full-time professionals, and the most difficult aspect is getting everyone together for a performance since they’re constantly performing, teaching, traveling or recording with others.

mwe3: What plans do you have for the remainder of 2018 and into the new year and will there be a follow-up album to Samba Para a Vida and what kind of musical direction are you planning on going in next?

Richard Sorce: The next CD, untitled at the moment, is being planned. All the music is written and I think it will be a softer, more laid back approach. I probably won’t be using the horn ensemble on this. It will most likely be piano, bass, drums, guitar, vocals, percussion and maybe a few brass and/or woodwind solos. But that’s now, who knows what could happen along the arrangement way?


Thanks to Barbara Sorce and to Lisa Kachajian for the use of their photos of Richard Sorce. Black & white picture of Iara Negrete courtesy of Fábio Nunes.


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