EKATERINOSLAV – NEW YORK – SAO PAULO
Nicole’s Raízes is a recording that reveals its secrets unhurriedly. There is a deceptive simplicity in a collection of songs in various Brazilian styles and rhythms. But to those who know Jewish music, many of these melodies and stories will soon begin to sound specially familiar. Just as for those who love Brazilian music, some of the sounds and grooves that felt so comfortably well-worn are not quite what they seemed.
Produced by FRANK LONDON
Pablo Aslan, bass
Cyro Baptista, percussion
Rob Curto, accordion
Paul Meyer, nylon string guitar
Brandon Seabrook, mandolin and electric guitars
with Special Guests:
Lorin Sklamberg, Isra-Alien (Oren Neiman & Gilad Ben Zvi), Renato Thoms , Michael Winograd, Jake Shulman-Ment, Frank London, Danny Blume
INTERVIEW JEWISH FORWARD June 25, 2015
Music Review: Blogcritics
by: Jack Goodstein
Raizes/Roots, the June release from vocalist Nicole, describes itself as “Jewish music re-imagined as Brazilian song.” It is an apt description of this celebration of her musical roots. Those of us who grew up spending vacations on the Borscht Belt in New York’s Catskills will immediately recognize familiar melodies, here wrapped neatly in bossa nova and other Brazilian rhythms. And while there is surely a pleasure in that recognition, there is perhaps a more significant pleasure in the musical transformation breathing new life into these memories.
“Dois Musicos,” for instance, is Nicole’s “re-imagining” of the title song of the very successful 1936 musical comedy Yidl Mitn Fidl (Yiddle with a Fiddle). “Com Saude,” which opens the album, is a bossa nova take on “Abi Gezunt,” from the 1938 film Mamele. Interestingly, both are classic films starring the delectable Molly Picon. These are beloved songs that, in their original arrangements, would likely have a limited audience today. Yet in the hands of Nicole and her assemblage of talented musicians, they may well have a more popular appeal.
The songs, translated and adapted into Portuguese by the singer, also include verses in Yiddish, “so people,” she is quoted in the liner notes, “could know how the original sounds.” Along with popular songs from the musical cinema, the album includes versions of traditional melodies like “Bulbes,” here called “Batatas,” and “Ontem,” a reworking of the Chassidic song, “S’Iz Nito Kein Nekhtn (There Is No Yesterday),” as well as new work like Nicole’s composition “Passarinho,” a lullaby based on a poem by Abraham Goldfaden.Nicole
Special guest artists include clarinetist Michael Winograd, who contributes some evocative solo work on “Chuva” as well as a bit of klezmer on the romping “Nova Danca.” Frank London adds some inventive trumpet work to the haunting anthem, “Cantando Por Um Mundo Melhor (Singing for a Better World).” The bulk of the work is handled by a quintet featuring Pablo Aslan on acoustic bass, Rob Curto on accordion, Vyro Baptista on percussion, Paul Meyers playing nylon-string guitar, and Brandon Seabrook on mandolin and electric guitar.
Yiddish melodies in Brazilian dress, world music melded with Latin jazz—Raizes/Roots is an album that deserves your attention.
CD Review: Midwest Record
NICOLE/Raizes-Roots: Rather than find the jazz in Jewish prayers or doing klezmer versions of Christmas carols, Nicole takes songs that go back to Jewish movies as far back as the 30s and sends them to Brazil having them mostly come back as pretty authentic sounding sambas, particularly if you can’t speak or understand Yiddish. Recorded in New York with real cats like Pablo Aslan keeping things in line, this set gives multi-culti a new vector that you can even imagine being heralded in Brooklyn. Check it out, particularly if you want to try out a samba hora.
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
By CJ Shearn
Jazz is truly a global music that absorbs traits from other styles, yet the music remains always identifiable. The beautiful thing about the genre, is seemingly disparate non related cultural elements that can be blended together to create something fresh and utterly thought provoking. Vocalist Nicole Borger provides an intoxicating mix of traditional Jewish folk songs with Portuguese lyrics and Brazilian rhythms on “Raizes/Roots” (Soundbrush Records, 2015) her fifth album as a leader. Borger was born in Ekaterinoslav, Ukraine, relocated to New York City and finally Sao Paulo, Brazil. Music was a passion for her always, though she took a different path in college to study law, as time passed her career choice and true passion was music, and while living in Brazil she joined a choir. At the age of 40, she decided to pursue a degree in composition.
On this new album, Borger reconciles her love of traditional Jewish music with her passion for Brazilian music and surrounds herself with a flexible group of musicians including bassist Pablo Aslan, one of the leading exponents of blending jazz and tango, Danny Blume on guitar, and the versatile Cyro Baptista on percussion whose resume has run the gamut from playing with everyone from Herbie Hancock, to the Silk Road ensemble with cellist Yo Yo Ma. What results, is an intriguing combination of Brazilian styles of all colors with traditional Jewish songs. The album opener “Com Saude”, a reworking of “Abi Gezunt” a traditional Yiddish folk song from the 1938 movie “Mamele” takes the listener on a journey right away with its floaty guitars and Nicole’s behind the beat phrasing. “Bataatas” one of the albums’ most more memorable tracks utilizes Baptista’s berimbau in combination with her warm, velvety voice for simultaneously strange, wonderful texture and hypnotic mood. The extremely unique thing about this collection of music is she includes a Yiddish verse amongst the original Portuguese lyrics, so that listeners familiar with the original tunes can make a connection. For sure, anyone familiar with alto saxophonist/composer John Zorn’s reworkings of Jewish music in his “Book of Angels” (Tzadik) may find much to like here.
Nicole Borger has created a very likeable and continually fascinating body of music on this album that finds unity amongst the tradition of Jewish music being mixed with different styles, and with that unity it is her hopeful wish to promote music that brings people together regardless of difference. Like drummer Jaimeo Brown’s powerful east meets west, electronics, spiritual and secular driven “Transcendence” (Motema, 2013) Nicole Borger finds her own unique way of adding something different to the jazz lexicon, in an era where everything is truly connected.
CD Review: O's Notes
Raízes is billed as Jewish music re-imagined as Brazilian song, a rather interesting concept. The songs have dual identities; Yiddish tunes housed in Brazilian samba and bossa nova and could capture the hearts of both audiences. Nicole does a fine job with the lyrics supported by a fine team of musicians that includes Pablo Aslan on bass, percussionist Cyro Baptista and Brandon Seabrook on mandolin and guitar. Nicole (an American) was one of the first female partners in a Big 8 accounting firm residing in Brazil. She followed her passion for singing and blended her roots and experiences into a modified art form, an appreciable effort highlighted by "Chuva" and "Ontem".
D. Oscar Groomes
O's Place Jazz Newsletter