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. Richards 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
Richards 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. facebook.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Can you tell us where youre 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: Im from New Jersey, approximately 20 miles
from New York City. Although Ive spent time in other states
and a few countries, for some reason Im 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? Theres a big Brazilian community
here in South Florida. Speaking of Brazilian music, I just found 2
Brazilian language newspapers here gazetanews.com
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, Ive never been to Brazil,
at least not in this current life.
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, its amazing.
Richard Sorce: When discussing Brazilian music and Brazilian
jazz I believe its necessary to define a specific period, since
as we all know, the style of Brazilian Music during the 1950s,
60s, 70s and even the 80s has changed. The North
American invasion of pop and rock has affected the style of music
that Ive 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 doesnt stand a chance of becoming popular
again; but that doesnt 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
whats 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 doesnt
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.
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 bachelors 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 masters 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. Ive
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 Jobims 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.
Its 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 1950s
to the 80s, are special. Many of those who know The Girl
From Ipanema and a few of Jobims other hits often dont
know the magnitude of Jobims output, which, by the way is staggering
in scope and output.
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
Iaras 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, shes in Brazil! That didnt 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, shes 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 doesnt 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 www.richardsorce.com
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 its
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?
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 whos 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
has great ears! Shes 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 dont
let computers affect my work; for me computers and sequencing programs
are great editing tools, but thats 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?
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, heres the answer: I will only
work with singers who are trained both musically and vocally. Theres
never a communication problem and I dont 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 theyre
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?
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 wont 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 thats now,
who knows what could happen along the arrangement way?
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.