Sandy Cressman is a San Francisco jazz vocalist, who has devoted the majority of her career to the study and performance of Brazilian music. This Saturday, Sandy will be appearing at along with the Jovino Santos Neto Trio and together they will perform her Homage to Brazil- a “musical journey through the world of Brazilian jazz” at Bake’s Place. Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sandy about her career and about Brazilian music. She was warm and engaging and clearly very passionate about what she does. The following are excerpts from our conversation:
It is clear from your bio that you’ve had a natural affinity for Brazilian music almost your entire life. What about it resonates with you?
In knew the first time I heard it, there was something about the passionate nature of the music that was appealing. Performing it myself really suited my own personal expression. Early on in junior high, I heard a girl sing Sergio Mendes’s hit “Mas Que Nada” and it totally floored me. I didn’t know how to go out and seek the music at that time. But by the time I was into college and into jazz, I heard it again…..Tania Maria, Flora Purim….and was really excited. One time I was at a Pat Metheny concert, and the music that was playing on the break was so beautiful that I walked to the soundboard to find out who it was. It was Ivan Lins. I went out and bought as much as his music as I could.
Later, I was on touring Japan with a Japanese group. The guitarist for that group gave me recordings of Djavan to listen to. I was overwhelmed. When I got back from Japan, I bought all the Brazilian music I could find. At one point, the pianist Marco Silva sat in as a sub for Pastiche. He brought me cassettes of Brazilian music and fed my addiction further. In 1995, Marco asked me to come and sing Brazilian music with him. It was a little café duo gig. Each week we would bring in new tunes to try out. That was really the start for me.
Why do you think the popularity of Brazilian music is so enduring?
I think the rhythm is infectious. There’s a feeling of passion that’s very Brazilian yet not restricted to Brazil. A lot of people feel that passion. It makes you feel really good. It really takes you somewhere.
Tell me about putting together the music for “Homage to Brazil.”
Well, my first record was “Homenegem Brasileira”. I have known Jovino for fourteen years. We met at California-Brazil summer camp. He’s one of the rare pianists that can play the broad repertoire of Brazilian music that I like to sing with authenticity and freshness. The last time we played at Bake’s, it was Jobim’s 80th birthday. At that time, we decided to do a tribute to Jobim. This time, we decided to mix up composers. We came up with some songs that our quartet can explore and have fun with. Basic arrangements but not everything is planned.
Tell me a little bit about playing with Jovino.
Jovino is just a stellar musician. He knows his craft, knows Brazilian music and knows jazz. He has a certain openness to the unexpected and he’s non-judgmental, which makes it such a comfortable experience to play music together. I’m a guest on his soil. He respects the work that I’ve done to do it as well as I do. It feels like I’m being collaborated with and respected.
How do you think your approach to the music differs from other vocalists and musicians?
I’m not Brazilian but I try to be true to the spirit of the music. The musicians I use, the way I sing and phrase it. I typically sing to a non-Brazilian audience and I am able to give them a background on the tunes and why I like them. They get a history and exposure to things they might not have heard before.
To someone who is new to Brazilian music and wants some ideas as to what recordings to check out, what suggestions would you make?
Joao Guilberto. Also, I have a Brazilian music discography on the teaching page on my website.
What is playing on your i-Pod right now?
Chico Pinheiro. Really cool, modern Brazilian music.
For more information about Sandy, please visit http://www.cressmanmusic.com/.