The Spirits of Brazil, Weaving Through Jazz Sounds

Stacey Kent and Jim Tomlinson at Birdland

Ruby Washington/The New York Times

Stacey Kent performing at Birdland.


With her bright, alluring sliver of a voice — a darting musical tongue of flame — Stacey Kent has few of the traits commonly associated with jazz singing. Yet with her lightly swinging delivery, curt phrasing and attraction to Brazilian bossa nova, she is a jazz singer in the iconoclastic mode of the much-missed Blossom Dearie, whom some critics wrongly dismissed as more cabaret than jazz.

Instead of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, the spirits who guide Ms. Kent belong to the Brazilians, Antônio Carlos Jobim, and João and Astrud Gilberto. Dreaminess trumps realism. Ms. Kent and her husband, the saxophonist Jim Tomlinson, suggest a latter-day answer to Ms. Gilberto and Stan Getz, whose early recordings remain the foundation of what they do. And on Tuesday evening at Birdland, where Ms. Kent and Mr. Tomlinson arrived for their annual New York City appearance, the opening set was sprinkled with Jobim songs, animated as much by Mr. Tomlinson’s intensely smoky solos as by Ms. Kent’s girlish chirp.

But there is more. In recent years the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, who writes fanciful, mildly surreal lyrics to Mr. Tomlinson’s music, has given Ms. Kent a quasi-literary identity. The portrait evoked by their collaborations is that of a reflective free spirit and latter-day romantic cautiously following her exploratory instincts. Although Ms. Kent has an introspective side, you could never describe her sensibility as tragic or even deeply sad. She projects an innate buoyancy.

Ms. Kent’s other defining characteristic is her pan-European musical outlook. She grew up in New Jersey, but she and her husband are based in England and have built up large followings in France and Germany. In her 2010 album, “Raconte-Moi,” Ms. Kent sings in fluent French.

It all made for a heady mixture in a show that was a kind of retrospective, the high points being the Sammy Cahn-Benny Carter standard “Only Trust Your Heart,” and a Tomlinson-Ishiguro collaboration, “The Changing Lights,” a song that defines Ms. Kent and Mr. Tomlinson as sophisticated, cosmopolitan jazz impressionists.

A Fateful Day in 1963; and in 2011

“One Red Rose” recalls a national tragedy, the day President Kennedy was assassinated, through specific impressions, filtered through 50 years of subsequent insightImage and experience. The three-movement work is for string quartet; its title derived from a detail reported by a Secret Service agent who examined the presidential limousine.

Recently, the Brentano String Quartetperformed this deeply emotional and thoughtful work by composer, Steven Mackey. The finale, “Anthem and Aria,” similarly juxtaposes collective anguish and acutely felt private grief.

I was on my way home from a chorus rehearsal, just 12 years old, and I heard the news on the radio not really knowing the true meaning of this horrifying news. I came home finding my Mother working on her stenography with the many LP’s of voices dictating letters at all speeds. When I told the news that Kennedy was shot and killed, she stopped and froze; it was the first time I ever saw my Mother weep.

I knew only then what really happened and that my message to her, blurted out by an innocent and naive child, wasn’t a news bulletin at all but more like daggers to the heart. It was only some five decades later that I saw that same profound sadness in my Mother’s eyes but amplified to deafening decibels; at my Father’s funeral.


Phil Kline continues to wow us all with Unsilent Night performances!

Unsilent Night“People who have no background in music are drawn to it just as professional musicians are. It makes the community so strong and connected to music.” Sunday, December 22, marked the 20th Anniversary of Unsilent Night.”

The brainchild of Phil Kline, who composed the music in 1992, it was intended to be played on portable cassette players, which participants shouldered as they walked through the streets of Greenwich Village.

The work, made up of sustained chords, bells and, toward the end, wordless choral singing, is recorded on four separate tracks; parade participants receive one of these to play on their devices. Some participants naturally pair up with another complimentary “track-holder” and then moves on to another.

These days, boomboxes have been replaced with iPhones and mp3 players. New York City has always been a city of music and theater. This combines those 2 in an improvisational flash mob. The Holiday Season in the Big Apple is to be experienced.

With such diversity and millions of inhabitants, the sprawling New York Campus become a Musical Village. Over 30 cities from around the world will take part in the Unsilent Night experience.

Muscial America Special Report: Use of new media and technology is transforming and expanding audiences

In Musical America Special Report for 2012, much is discussed about the year in review. What is most fascinating are the predictions from some of the big names on music; a symphony and opera CEO, a music critic, a Dean of one our most prestigious music conservatory, a record executive, a fund-raiser, and a musician. There seems to be a common theme no matter who you talk to:  the use of social media, reinventing the concert space, the use of untapped technology.

All these ingenious techniques are there to reach a larger and diversified audience; inclusion is the magic word as was so evident in the recent New Philharmonic’s Philharmonic 360 concert at the Park Avenue Armory; a surround sound experience that draws the audience into a special sensory experience.  We are only limited by our lack of imagination. Fortunately, many Orchestras are embracing the 21st Century performance experience. The use of technology is not a gimmick; it is 21st Century reality.

In this special report, there is an article by Albert Imperato &Jessica Lustig, Founding Partners, 21C Media Group. They predict that the future will bring “new online audience experiences.” They believe that “the growing role of digital technology and the online experience are already having a transformative impact. Webcasting of concerts is an encouraging trend, especially of such big events as the

Philharmonic 360 concert at the Park Avenue Armory in June. There is a massive online audience; in 18 months, 76,000 people all over the world watched a master class by a London

Symphony Orchestra contrabassoonist! We have better tools than ever for finding people interested in what we do, and for delivering the highest quality work to them.”

“Delivering the highest quality work”–to all those who have “technophobia,”we can still deliver a product of immense quality but now we can deliver it to more people. And isn’t that idea of performing, to reach the greatest number of people in an environment in which they feel comfortable and welcome. There is room for everyone around the table. Let’s keep the door open to all and let us continue to find more ways to bring even more people to our table. There will always be room. Additionally, let’s keep our ears open and listen to those who come. Listeners have some fantastic ideas as well.