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Leny Andrade

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Renowned for her vocal improvisational skills, Brazilian singer Leny Andrade was widely regarded "Brazil's one true jazz singer." Her thick, husky mezzo-soprano voice was seasoned by decades of smoking and late hours. Andrade sang almost exclusively in Portuguese and offered everything from torrid romantic ballads to world-weary blues and celebratory sambas. And she could swing hard. She introduced jazz vocal styles (scat, vocalese, etc.) into bossa nova, samba, and MPB. Her energetic meld of Brazil and modern jazz marked A Sensação, her 1961 debut, 1965's smash Estamos Ai, and 1968's eponymous set. During the '70s she released acclaimed offerings for Odeon (Alvoroço, 1973; Leny Andrade, 1975) and CBS (Registro, 1979). 1987's Cartola 80 Anos honored the father of samba. 1994's Coisa Fina, with guitarist Romero Lubambo, won global acclaim. Her 1995 tribute Luz Negra: Nelson Cavaquinho sold well at home, in Europe, and in Asia. She shared a Latin Grammy with Cesar Camargo Mariano for 2007's Ao Vivo. In 2010, Alma Mia, her first collection of boleros appeared. In 2014's Iluminados: Leny Andrade Canta Ivan Lins & Vítor Martins, and Alegria De Viver with Roni Ben-Hur, shared enthusiastic critical accolades from Moscow to Los Angeles. In 2019 an expanded, remastered edition of Alma Mía appeared from Fina Flor. Andrade was born in Rio De Janeiro in 1943. At the insistence of her mother, a classical piano teacher, she began piano studies at age five, pursuing formal study for a decade; she received a scholarship to Rio's Conservatório Brasileiro de Música. That discipline intimately informed her future vocal style. At nine, she started to sing on radio shows such as Clube do Guri (Rádio Tupi, Rio de Janeiro). Six years later, she became lead vocalist for the Permínio Gonçalves Orchestra (led by her brother, a reed player). In 1958, Andrade heard the early sounds of bossa nova. Completely taken with the sound, she informed her shocked mother she was abandoning classical piano and vocal studies to pursue a career in pop. The following year she heard the Ella Fitzgerald-inspired scat singing of Dolores Duran, an early songwriting partner of Antônio Carlos Jobim's. Guided by her reed playing brother Dudu, she began to immerse herself in the recordings of Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Anita O'Day. The underage teen began singing at Beco das Garrafas (Bottles Bar), Copacabana's popular nightclub and laboratory for bossa and samba innovation, fronting a trio led by pianist Sergio Mendes. Andrade was signed to RCA and released A Sensação, her acclaimed debut album in 1961. In her early catalog it stands as something of an outlier, as it was almost exclusively composed of slow, romantic sambas from a nearly forgotten era. She moved over to Polydor for 1963's sophomore effort, A Arte Maior De Leny Andrade, backed by a trio that included ace drummer Milton Banana. Its songs showcased her hard-swinging improvisational jazz style. After signing to EMI Odeon in 1965, she and baritone crooner Pery Ribeiro formed Gemini V, a quintet with famed world-traveling trio Bossa Três. They played gigs across North and South America and Mexico, where they recorded the bossa and samba collection Gemini V, followed a year later by the live Gemini V En Mexico. Andrade was so taken with the country that she emigrated there and remained for nearly seven years. She met and got to know Fitzgerald, Vaughan, and another idol, Carmen McCrae. Her 1966 landmark self-titled LP placed her in the company of bassist Erneo Eger, vibraphonist Breno Sauer, pianist Adan Pinheiro, and drummer Adao Pinheiro. The set list offers a more nuanced, even vanguard approach to her jazz-samba fusion: Freed from the standard piano trio trappings of most Brazilian singers, it stood apart from the flood of bossa nova vocal recordings. Sauer's vibes add texture, atmosphere, and improvisational weight while Andrade's husky voice juxtaposes challenging, swinging, fiercely delivered Brazilian jazz that is equal parts samba and hard bop. Andrade toured but didn't record again until 1972 when she and Ribeiro released their final collaboration, the acclaimed Gemini Cinco Anos Depois. In 1973 she experienced another critical breakthrough with Alvoroço, offering songs by famous Brazilian composers like Ivan Lins with contributions from younger artists including Milton Nascimento, Robertinho Silva, and Maria Thereza Guinle. Arthur Verocai is listed as one of the album's many arrangers. Following European and Brazilian tours, she issued an eponymous album as her final Odeon offering. Registro, directed by Joao Donato, appeared from CBS in 1979. Andrade recorded two important albums during the '80s. After an engagement at the Blue Note in New York City, she released an eponymous album on Pointer in 1985 that framed samba in jazz as an actual genre. She released the tribute Leny Andrade Interpreta Cartola in 1987. In 1989, she signed with Estudio Eldorao and released Luz Neon, a jazz set she self-produced. During the early '90s, the singer issued the acclaimed Eu Quero Ver and Bossa Nova for the label. In 1993, she emigrated to New York City. In the U.S., she performed regularly at jazz festivals -- 40 nationally and internationally that first year alone. She also released Nós in collaboration with producer/arranger César Camargo Mariano In 1994, she played the Hollywood Bowl and at Lincoln Center. She also released the widely praised acoustic album Coisa Fina in duet with Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo and Maiden Voyage with American pianist Fred Hersch. 1995 saw the release of two more tribute albums: Letra & Música: Antonio Carlos Jobim in collaboration with Cristóvão Bastos and Luz Negra: Nelson Cavaquinho por Leny Andrade. She signed with Albatroz and issued Bossa Novas in 1998. Following an extended world tour, she took a break. She returned with two tribute offerings for the label, 1994's Interpreta Ronaldo Bôscoli: E Quero Que a Canção... Seja Você and 1995's Canta Altay Veloso. In 1995, she was nominated for the Sharp prize as Best MPB Female Singer. In 1998, she participated in a televised Tim Maia tribute. In 1998 Ao Vivo, an audio-video package, sold well from Tokyo to Rio to Mexico City. She toured the globe incessantly for a year. In 2005, Andrade collaborated with Marcos Valle, Miéle, Os Cariocas, Roberto Menescal, Wanda Sá, and Zimbo Trio on the ecstatic concert offering Bossa Nova, Ao Vivo. Lua Do Arpoador, a best-selling 2006 studio collaboration with guitarist Romero Lubambo, resulted in a Latin Grammy the following year, when she released another collaborative live offering with pianist, composer, and arranger César Camargo Mariano. She closed the decade with the globally celebrated Alma Mia on Fina Flor, her first collection of boleros. She spent decades researching the project and collecting songs. Her subsequent concert appearance at Birdland in New York resulted in fans crying at the beauty of her torrid ballad singing. 2013's As Canções Do Rei was a stellar collection of songs composed by Roberto Carlos. The following year, she signed with the New York-based Motema Music for Alegria De Viver, with acclaimed Israeli guitarist Roni Ben-Hur. Andrade chose to focus solely on classic compositions she'd not yet recorded. The 14-track assortment included Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Estrada Branca" and "Dindi," Dori Caymmi and Nelson Motta's "Cantador" (remade as "Like a Lover" by Sergio Mendes), and choro legend Pixinguinha's "Carinhoso." That same year she self-released Iluminados: Leny Andrade, Canta Ivan Lins & Vítor Martins. In 2018 she issued Canta Fred Falcão: Bossa Nova for Biscoito Fino. In 2019, Andrade, in collaboration with contemporary MPB pianist/composer Gilson Peranzzetta, issued the live Canções De Cartola E Nelson Cavaquinho. In 2019, Fina Flor remastered and reissued Alma Mia. Given better distribution, it reached a large number of listeners. Her health failing, Andrade was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. She passed away on July 24, 2023, at the age of 80.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo
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