The Bossa Lounge Sessions: A Live & Studio Experience (2 CD, 2020, IRMA Records)
25 years after their debut album One which made over 10.000 sales, lead the pioneering italian acid jazzmovement and featured James Taylor (JTQ) on the Moog synthesizer, why rest on your laurels and celebrate with the usual reprint/remaster from the past? Gazzara is a band that never ceased to play live on stage so they opted for a new double soul/jazz/bossa album titled The Bossa Lounge Sessions instead, featuring 29 tracks played live by the original roman trio – Francesco Gazzara (keys), Massimo Sanna (bass), Mauro Mirti (drums, percussion) – along with guest musicians and including many rarities. CD 1 features 14 tracks recorded live on stage between 1998 and 2010 during the band’s international tours (Italy, Russia, Portugal, Japan, UK), with many of Gazzara’s bossa/jazz classics, some unreleased covers – Chitlins Con Carne (Kenny Burrell), Do It Again (Steely Dan), Hot Barbecue (Jack McDuff) – and original live recordings from the early acid jazz era (1996) when the group’s line-up included fellow musicians Gianni Del Popolo (guitar) and Alex Gigli (drums). CD 2 features 15 more recent tracks recorded live in studio between 2013 and 2020, with a tracklist based on the soul/bossa tunes from the latest Gazzara albums The Bossa Lounge Experience and Portrait In Acid Jazz rearranged for the instrumental trio with long time guesting friends Dario Cecchini (flute, sax) – featuring on CD 1 too – and Eduardo Piloto Barreto (flute). This second CD comes with an added bonus: two brand-new Gazzara songs and the unreleased instrumental versions of three old bossa/jazz tunes originally included in Brother And Sister (2006) and My Cup Of Tea (2009). The Bossa Lounge Sessions: A Live & Studio Experience isn’t just the first live record by Gazzara. It is also the very first double live album released by long time independent and established italian label IRMA RECORDS: a fascinating way to add that vintage flavour of the 1970s when jazz/rock artists were presented by their labels with a classic double live collection. The extra atmosphere is also guaranteed here by a warm bossa/lounge sound made with hammond, rhodes, moog, and latin percussion. The Bossa Lounge Sessions: A Live & Studio Experience definitely shows the real live sound of Gazzara through the years while offering some present work – as the original new tunes on CD 2 – from a band that never stands still, even during a pandemic, when playing live on stage is temporarily not possible.
Portrait In Acid Jazz (2017, IRMA Records)
The latest Gazzara album Portrait In Acid Jazz – 7th in their discography – showcases the band’s exemplary and instantly recognisable way of producing jazz related music that stimulate the body while pleasing the mind. The group may have slimmed down from the first album’s seven-piece, but the original trio still blows roofs off wherever they play, live or in the studio. Adding the invaluable help of guest vocalists Lily Latuheru and Yasemin Sannino the new material recreates the unique atmosphere of early acid jazz era, when jazz and funk flirted with soul, bossa, disco and electronica. Instrumental toe tappers such as We Had A Ball and Jazid Wonderland sit well between gospel-soul vocal numbers as Heaven, Into the Night and Laces. Even lounge/bossa and disco/funk are still relevant, according to tunes as Jazz Is and Portuguese Soul. A portrait in acid jazz doesn’t mean a collection of covers, but an original album conceived and released with a deep passion for anything jazz related, the sparkle that led Gazzara’s studio and live work in the past 20 years. Let’s face it, despite all its history and the anectodes that surround its most famous exponents and followers, acid jazz as a musical scene was very hip between the late eighties and the early nineties. Gazzara could easily have stayed one of the few italian acts that abandoned the diversity of acid jazz as a genre to embrace national language lyrics and pop music. Or they could have been a band for purists, releasing always the same album for a few chosen fans, as credible as f**k. They chose neither route. Led by keyboardist, arranger and composer Francesco Gazzara they chose to make jazz related music that was as contemporary and relevant in the years as anything else coming out from the trend of the moment. This is why since 1996 their albums never sound the same despite their songs always keep a distinct Gazzara feel made of jazz, funk, bossa, lounge and soul influences.
The Bossa Lounge Experience (2013, IRMA)
A few years back Gazzara dedicated a whole album to one of their biggest influences, The Bossa Lounge Experience, following the classic styles of Sergio Mendes, Tom Jobim, Eumir Deodato, Azymuth and Marcos Valle. The album’s title should be familar for long time followers of the act led by keyboardist and producer Francesco Gazzara, as it recalls the group’s past collaborations with some brazilian music stars (jazz singer Ithamara Koorax, poet, lyric writer Paulo Sergio Valle) and also the band’s old infatuation for the repertoire of Eumir Deodato. The record fully reveals the band’s musical preferences through a number of cover versions – some totally unexpected – produced and arranged with the recognizable Gazzara style. The album sound is rooted in the traditional bossa trio formula (Azymuth), with Rhodes electric piano and Hammond organ perfectly suited to an extremely tight rhythmic session (Massimo Sanna on bass, Mauro Mirti on drum and percussion, both founder members of Gazzara) which balances vintage soundtrack moods with samba/funk dance grooves. Here we go then with some classic tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Marcos Valle covered and arranged orchestrally, while – speaking of bossa nova – Donald Fagen‘s New Frontier and Modjo‘s Lady (Hear Me Tonight) surprisingly get a loungy elegant treatment. A detailed mix between samba and disco/funk updates Blow Your Mind, absolute gem from Jamiroquai. Gazzara’s instrumental version follows the hammond funk style of Booker T. & The MG’s, suggesting a tight link between acid jazz and lounge music, something unthinkable of in the early ’90’s. Another example of the album’s Experience – a warm mix of acoustics and electronics for the dancefloor – is the peculiar and innovative cover of Katy Perry’s California Girls. Sounding like Snoop Dogg sharing a cocktail with Daft Punk, Zero 7 and Astrud Gilberto, the modern lounge impact of this Gazzara version – featuring dutch/moluccan vocalist Lily Latuheru – offers a different interpretation of the song’s party hedonism. Similarly Shock The Monkey by Peter Gabriel features here in an unexpected Motown soul arrangement, respectful of the original version but deeply coloured by a vintage groove and big band horns. Also highly recommended is the bossa style version of You’re The Best Thing by The Style Council, a name already covered by Gazzara in 2001 when they included Homebreakers in The Spirit Of Summer album’s tracklist. Another surprise – suggesting quite a wide panorama in the band’s musical preferences – is to find out where the album’s best disco/house track comes from: Please Don’t Ask was written by Phil Collins and released in the Genesis album Duke (1980). Both harmonies and melody recall the original, but new rhythmic arrangement underlines a hidden dance attitude in the song. Despite coming from the same musical family tree, Hoping Love Will Last by Steve Hackett (1979) is another story. A great Genesis fan, Francesco Gazzara’s cover choice was influenced by the original track’s lead vocals – a very young Randy Crawford – and by the noir mood of the arrangement. Gazzara’s version features a strong vocal interpretation by Lily Latuheru plus live orchestrated string and winds. The Bossa Lounge Experience is not just an album of covers: amongst the eight original tracks Bahia Moon Reprise stands out, where the brazilian Olodum rhythm begins interacting with latin/funk harmonies to eventually explode with an irresistible orchestral march – echoing the Italian ’60’s soundtracks by Piero Piccioni and Piero Umiliani – played by a mighty brass band led by saxophonist Dario Cecchini (Funk Off, Italian Secret Service). This is a well-known name on the italian jazz scene and long time Gazzara collaborator as arranger and co-writer. A direct development from his work on The Piano Room’s project, Gazzara Plays Genesis’ Play Me My Song (IRMA) was finally released in late 2014, a double album (both LP & CD formats) entirely dedicated to the legendary english prog gods with Francesco Gazzara managing all keys and conducting a small chamber orchestra ensemble. In January 2020 its follow-up Here It Comes Again (IRMA) was released receiving enthusiastic reviews and personal appreciation by such great artists as ex Genesis guitarists Steve Hackett and Anthony Phillips.
At Work With Mr. Gazzara (2010, Jean Records / Redland)
The sampler At Work With Mr. Gazzara (A selection of rare grooves, bossa, nu jazz and chill out tunes) (JeanRecords/RedLand) includes 18 previously unreleased reworks and remixes of original tracks plus various collaborations (session and co-writing material) with other artists.
My Cup Of Tea (2009, Silence/Ritmica)
Gazzara’s 5th album My Cup Of Tea was released after a year of crowded sessions, with many guests contributing to the work of original line up: Francesco Gazzara (keyboards), Massimo Sanna (bass), Mauro Mirti (electro-acoustic percussion). Co-produced by jazz lounge guitarist Marco Lamioni the album features the deep talent of moluccan-dutch singer Lily Latuheru, the peculiar vocal timbre of italo-turkish Yasemin Sannino and the jazz/soul vocals of Italian Pierluca Buonfrate. The other guests are a deluxe choice too: flutists Dario Cecchini (Funk Off, Italian Secret Service, Jovanotti) and Cuban maestro Eduardo Piloto Barreto, a solid presence in the band’s line up for many years. All the album tracks are originals except the cover of 70’s hit Disco Bouzouki, written by Daniel Vangarde, father of Thomas Bangalter (Daft Punk). Forever True is the soul opener, Feeling Good In Your Soul (featuring London MC Kevin Ettienne) will make you sweat, while Your Way Your Style recalls the jazz lounge atmosphere of the early 60’s. Sit back and relax with My Cup Of Tea, but don’t forget to stand up and dance as the album gets hot!
Brother And Sister (2006, Silence/Ritmica)
Brother And Sister like the sun and moon, soul and pop, rock and jazz, black and white (the keys of a Rhodes piano): there’s a lot more than all this in both the title and the sound of Gazzara‘s 4th album, follow-up to The Spirit Of Summer. After more than a year of sessions between Rome, Florence, Rio De Janeiro and Los Angeles, Brother And Sister was released right after its first single Love Needs Time. Recordings have been conducted by keyboardist and composer Francesco Gazzara (piano, rhodes, hammond, moog and acoustic guitar) with original band members Maxssimo Sanna (bass) and Mauro ‘Mirtao’ Mirti (percussion,). Great help comes from many special guests: featuring on vocals the fascinating italo-turkish singer Yasemin Sannino (from the band’s live line up), Rio De Janeiro’s jazz star Ithamara Koorax (Marcos Valle, Eumir Deodato) and Chicago vocalists Wendy Lewis and Desirèe Mohammad (both known from Gazzara’s previous albums). On flute and sax shines the talented Cuban maestro Eduardo Piloto Barreto, while on double bass Luca Fogagnolo adds spicy jazz flavours to the album. Composer Marco Lamioni acts as co-producer and featuring guitarist, with his unique cool jazz style nicely crafted for Gazzara‘s sound. Tunes from the album include first single Love Needs Time (feat. Yasemin Sannino on lead vocals), title-track Brother And Sister, dancefloor fillers Rio Funk and Love Is The Answer (feat. Desy Mohammad on lead vocals), super bossa O Passarinho (featuring Ithamara Koorax on lead vocals and remixed in 2007 as a second single by the popular DJ Tom Novy), the evocative Lost Time In Porto and a cover of Hung Up On My Baby, hidden soul gem written by Isaac Hayes for the 1974 movie soundtrack Three Tough Guys.
The Spirit Of Summer (2002, IRMA Records)
In 2002 third Gazzara‘s release The Spirit Of Summer – a funkier feel with various influences from soundtracks to lounge music – rocketed the band to both sides of the Oceans, first to a live residency at the Yokohama’s Motion Blue club in Japan and secondly to the HBO headquarters in New York, when a couple of tracks from the album were included in the first episodes of TV’s huge success Sex & The City. The Spirit Of Summer is a crafted bridge between acoustic brasilian atmospheres and dancefloor house. Three added musicians joined the original trio’s line for the album sessions: Cuban maestro Eduardo Piloto Barreto on flute, jazz/house Chicago vocalist Wendy Lewis and Giovanni Di Cosimo on trumpet. The title-track – remixed in two different versions by New York DJ’s John Cutler and Dave Warrin – entered the Masters At Work selections, the best in house music charts reference. With a new line up – Francesco Gazzara (rhodes, moog, hammond, guitar), Yasemin Sannino (vocals), Massimo Sanna (bass), Mauro Mirti (percussion), Eduardo Piloto Barreto (flute), Gazzara toured the album also in Japan and Portugal. This is what great brasilian composer Eumir Deodato had to say about Gazzara in 2002: “I was totally amazed when I heard Gazzara’s rendition of two of my favorite original songs, ‘West 42nd Street’ and ‘Havana Strut’. The band was not only able to capture the essence of those tracks from the 70’s but also to give them a strong and fresh flavour. It’s amazing to hear how good these guys sound! Especially Francesco’s production. I wish them all the luck in the world!” Following The Spirit Of Summer entered a period of parallel projects for Francesco Gazzara as Hammond Express (from space age to lounge soul) and The Piano Room (a jazz trio playing prog rock), while two unreleased Gazzara tracks were released by IRMA Records in 2005: Verdade Ou Magia, sung by brasilian jazz singer Ithamara Koorax – with portuguese lyrics especialy written by poet Paulo Sergio Valle, brother of bossanova king Marcos Valle – and the Herbie Hancock cover Butterfly, rearranged in an acoustic and orchestral style, not far from the Henry Mancini rendition of the same tracks in the early 70’s. One more track, a surprising jazz/funk version of pop hit Turn It On Again by Genesis – featuring Yasemin Sannino on vocals – followed in 2006.
Grand Central Boogie (IRMA Records)
In 1998 Gazzara‘s second release Grand Central Boogie departed from the acid jazz boom to explore the fertile grounds of house music and electro. The single Timeless – remixed by the american DJ collective Orange Factory – gained decent popularity after being included in the french compilation Hotel Costes Vol.3. By now the band’s original line up – reduced to a trio with Francesco Gazzara on keys, Massimo Sanna on bass and Mauro ‘Mirtao’ Mirti on percussion – was already touring abroad, playing in some prestigious events such as the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. With Grand Central Boogie Gazzara’s sound went under a deep metamorphosis, approaching an electro-boogie style – courtesy of Ohm Guru aka producer Ricky Rinaldi – mixed with the live talents of young vocalist Elise and soul legend Michael Allen, singer and producer from Memphis Hi Records label. With this album Gazzara quickly established themselves as a live band on the european jazz/house club scene.
One (IRMA Records / Sony Music)
In 1996 Gazzara released their debut album One to considerable critical acclaim and general appreciation. Acid jazz with the rigour of a classics recording, by turns innovating and vintage, a rich tracklist with many guests (James Taylor from JTQ amongst all), it established that the musicians involved were pure talents in their own right. The album sold more than 10.000 copies in a few months in Europe alone and brought Gazzara’s live act to the UK, with a memorable gig at the legendary Jazz Cafè in Camden Town, London. Three singles/remixes were released: Can’t Hide Love – of Earth,Wind & Fire fame -, Our Man In Rio and Sexuality. At this stage the band featured its five founder members – Francesco Gazzara (keys), Massimo Sanna (bass), Mauro ‘Mirtao’ Mirti (percussion), Alex Gigli (drums), Gianni Del Popolo (guitar) – plus Chicago soul vocalist Desirèe Mohammad and London MC Kevin Ettienne.