Monday, May 23, 2011

Brazilian Blast

It's always a special occasion when Desafinado plays, but last Saturday night at the Iron Post was a Brazilian blast of fun and music. Everybody was in top form, the songs were great, the audience was enthusiastic, and there was lots of variety--with friends joining in at various times. In the photo above, you can see the incomparable Elis Artz belting out her heart in these gutsy, romantic, rhythm-filled Brazilian favorites--with George Turner on guitar at her side.
On several numbers, Gina Reynolds, whose lovely soprano voice was known to us as the singer from another local Brazilian band called Bate Calado, joined with Elis Artz in a vocal duet. Their voices complement each other very well, and it was a pleasure to hear their harmonies. They both sing in Brazilian Portuguese, of course, and also sort of dance while they sing, which helps get that samba rhythm going throughout the room.
Gina did a solo number as well, and you can see that George Turner on guitar and Tom Paynter on flute were on hand to back her up.

Tom is a talented multitasker: in addition to the flute (soprano and alto), he is a highly accomplished jazz pianist. The Baldwin at Iron Post had been tuned recently (we heard Tom's quartet play there Thursday night) and the sound was wonderful!
Another member of the Bate Calado band, Luciano Tosta, has joined Desafinado full-time. Luciano is from the northeast of Brazil, as is Elis. He plays an electric mandolin, a small guitar, and a very wide range of intriguing percussion instruments. These include cymbals, gourds, whistle, and wind chimes!
Luciano's charming young daughter, Anna, was on hand. She hit the cymbals on a cue from her dad and was delighted to help out!
Another musician known about town as playing with quite a few bands, including Bossa Nuevo, is Karim Yengsep. Karim has become a regular with Desafinado, playing either acoustic bass or electric bass. And we're glad he's joined! He's a passionate and talented addition indeed.
But to me Brazilian music (and Cuban as well) is never quite right without the infectious sound of the congas. Giraldo Gonzales is one of the original members of Desafinado and he used to also play with Sandunga in the past, the Cuban guajira son band that we like so well. Giraldo is a busy guy with job, family, and community politics going on, but he makes time to come and provide the beat that keeps me tapping the table (spilled some of Elis' wine at one point during a very lively number).
Here's a nice solo shot of guitar virtuoso George Turner. I've heard George playing with a number of local groups about town and now he has joined Desafinado. He did some terrific solos during this gig. Every time I hear him he's just getting better and better with that sweet guitar improv.
Of course, I can never say enough about the fantastic voice of Elis Artz. I was so amazed to learn a while back that she was not a professional singer back home in Brazil but had started singing with the Desafinado band here in C-U. Her singing is magical and she is such a radiant person, so obviously delighted with the tunes themselves that you can't help learning a few lyrics in Portuguese and singing along from time to time.
Elis, who is going to Brazil soon for a six-week visit to family back home, knows lots of Brazilians here in town. Saturday night two of her friends were available to do a couple of numbers with her. Unfortunately, I didn't get their names, but they were both talented and the songs were great.
This guy played a special kind of drum as well as singing a duet with Elis while the other friend played guitar. After their numbers, I told my husband David, "When you see Brazilians making music together, you can tell that these are a people who know how to have fun!" The two friends agreed heartily when I repeated it to them.
 In addition to some favorites, including some songs by the great Antonio Carlos Jobim, the group played several pieces I hadn't heard before. All the choices were terrific, ranging from soulful sambas to lively toe-tappers.
I forgot to include the tambourine as one of Luciano's specialties.

Tom sometimes plays a chord on the piano at the same time as he's playing the flute. In the photo above, I caught him including the melodica as well, a really cool portable keyboard instrument he blows into, making a sound a little bit like an accordion. It's a unique sound and a just-right addition to many of the songs the group performs.
Giraldo was off in a dark corner, but I managed to get one more pic of him. He's always smiling and nodding along with the music. He doesn't sing, but I suspect that he knows all the words ...
Karim seems to have that ability to enter completely into his bass playing so that he appears to be in a musical trance! Delightful!
Elis and Gina did another duet near the end of the evening, joining together for that most famous (in the U.S.) of Brazilian songs, popularized by Burt Bacharach, "The Girl from Ipanema."
Desafinado is a terrific group, and I'm always surprised that they don't do more gigs than they do. I think people are beginning to get to know Brazilian music locally and it's getting more popular.
I noticed too that a lot of local musicians support each other by showing up for gigs. It's nice to see familiar faces and socialize a bit during the breaks. I think that if the owner of the Iron Post would make an effort--maybe clean the place up a bit, get more comfortable chairs, and expand the food menu as well as bringing back great musicians like those in Desafinado--that the Iron Post could become a really premiere jazz club in Champaign-Urbana.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Crazy Spring!

Spring is my favorite season, but in the Midwest it's a very unpredictable time indeed. We had not only April showers aplenty (and now May showers) but April cold as well this year. A very brief hot spell finished off the daffodils, but cool wet weather made the flowering trees and tulips last a long time. It did put off  shopping for annuals, however.

Then another heat wave finished off the tulips, lilacs (except for the dwarf lilacs still blooming), and the loveliest big spring blooms--the tree peonies. Fortunately, I got a few pics in before the rains came to finalize things.
We are lucky to have a number of tree peonies in the garden, some of which are old and big. A lot of branches were broken last year in heavy rains and the show wasn't as magnificent as it has sometimes been in the past, but the big fluffy flowers are always a joy to behold.
A few days without rain provided a quick time to take photos and also a chance to bring out the houseplants for the summer. Usually I have planted at least some of the container annuals by then, but this year I hadn't even started looking for them yet.
By the time that all the tree peonies on the east, west, and north areas of the yard were blooming, the temperatures started rising.
Suddenly, it was extremely humid and in the high eighties. We weren't really ready for it and it was exhausting. Okay, we said, it's summer now ... too bad spring is over, but open those windows and turn off the furnace.
So I went to a garden center and got a bunch of great annuals: angelonia, lantana, osteospermum, callibrachoa, saliva, marigolds, vinca, lobelia, coleus, petunia, euphorbia, scaveola, bidens, gazania, zinnia, wax begonia, verbena. Had a heck of a time getting them unloaded from the van, set up on trays, and watered (no room on the convenient table this year because the houseplants were already taking up the area).
I was wiped out by the heat and humidity but grateful that I had gotten them watered (the pots were pretty dry at the nursery). Five minutes later, we got a huge downpour. Now the temperatures have dropped such that it may be in the mid-thirties tonight. Close the windows, turn on the furnace, switch back to winter nightgowns!
Meanwhile, the Persian lilac is still blooming well. The tall "regular" lilacs are finished and ready to be pruned. And "Miss Kim" lilacs are blooming their heads off and filling the cold wet air with their wonderful scent. Lots of other flowers are blooming now too.
The lily of the valley doesn't last long, but they are little charmers and so sweetly scented!
The bearded dwarf German iris (Iris pumila) are gorgeous now in the raised beds on the east side. I've seen some delightful stands of full-sized German iris around town now too.
Like their big cousins, these short irises come in a wide range of luscious colors.
The brilliant azalea was in full bloom last week, although the nearby rhododendrons are just starting to open, probably confused by the weather!
As you can see, the bush was covered with blossoms. And I love that hot pink color!
Spring tall phlox (Phlox divaricata) are a joy now too, with their delicate look and fragrance. They bloom in the woods around here also and are sometimes called Wild Sweet William.
The short white cress called Iberis is also in bloom now in the southeast raised bed. They don't seem to have a fragrance, but the pure white is lovely and especially beautiful at night in moonlight.
In shadier beds under the maple and the pin oak are the yellow wood poppies (Stylophorum). They are so cheerful and I like their shapely foliage too. They do tend to spread a bit, however.
I was happy to see the return under the pin oak of this rare Japanese Jack-in-the Pulpit from my friend Frank (Asarum sikkokianum). The black tail is amazing!
All of our ferns love cool moist air, of course, and the maidenhairs are nice right now. But the ones that are spreading the most are the reliable Ostrich Ferns, upright and oh so green!
We've got a couple of these white bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis alba) in partial shade, and I really like them a lot. They are very reliable and undemanding and lovely in the spring.
Of course, I like the deep pink one as well. Even though they aren't flowers, the pink/red/marroon leaves of the Japanese maples add color to the garden now. They will turn green in summer and then deep red again in the fall.
Although it is finished blooming now, I did catch a photo this year of the Fothergillia, a very easy shrub with honey-scented bottle brush flowers.
 Well, by the time I get this blog up (the Blogger program was unavailable for a while ... just when I finally found free time!) new plants are blooming. But it's too wet and cold to take photos today!

How's your garden?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

In a Treasury (again!)

A pair of my earrings made it into another etsy treasury! It is very nice to be included.