September 2011 issue of the Image Magazine presented by the Palo Alto Daily News published feature article about Masha Campagne and her acclaimed Caminhos Cruzados Brazilian project.
Entertainment writer Paul Freeman sits down with Masha for an interview about her musical journey, her plans for the future.
"For Campagne, music equals fulfillment. "Music has a meditational, spiritual quality for me. Hopefully, through the music, I can enhance the lives of the people... that makes me really happy."
Image Magazine presented by Palo Alto Daily News
September 2011 issue of the Image Magazine presented by the Palo Alto Daily News published feature article about Masha Campagne and her acclaimed Caminhos Cruzados Brazilian project.
There’s an intoxicating wind from the East sweeping across the Peninsula in February, and it’s blowing fantastically hot and pleasingly cool.
The disparate currents emanate from the same source, as a pair of exceptional musicians born in the Soviet Union make their debuts at the Jazz & Blues Company on successive weekends. The blazing young pianist Eldar Djangirov performs with his trio on Saturday, and the gifted vocalist Masha Campagne holds forth on Feb. 9 with a superlative Brazilian jazz combo featuring Peninsula piano maestro Weber Iago, reed expert Harvey Wainapel, bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Phil Thompson.
While jazz is a quintessentially American art form, the music has circulated around the world, and these two musicians are fascinating examples of how inspiration knows no borders. The Moscow-reared Campagne, for instance, absorbed swing from her grandfather, a saxophonist who bucked the communist system in the 1950s by playing the allegedly bourgeois American music.
Since moving from Russia to San Francisco in 1991, Campagne has forged relationships with some of the region’s finest musicians, and she makes the most out of those ties on her debut album, Caminhos Cruzados. Most importantly, she’s collaborated widely with Iago, the brilliant Rio-raised pianist/arranger who has so enriched the Northern California music scene. Exploring a program of American Songbook standards and Brazilian gems by the likes of Dorival Caymmi, Jobim and Guinga, Champagne has forged a delicious Brazilian jazz sound that she traces back to her early infatuation with Astrud Gilberto.
“I think it was the vulnerability of her voice that caught me, and the energy, passionate yet subtle,” Campagne says. “Later I realized that Brazilian songs had all the components for great music. The lyrics are poetic and beautiful, the melodies are gorgeous, the rhythms swaying and bouncy, and the harmonies are very sophisticated.”
If Campagne’s creative journey from Moscow to Rio seems unlikely, the 20-year-old phenomenon Eldar Djangirov boasts a far more improbable story, with good intentions and great jazz paving the way from Central Asia to Southern California.
Since the release of his 2004 self-named debut on Sony Classical, the San Diego-based pianist has been traveling at hyperspeed, carried along by a combination of awe-inspiring technique, improvisational flair and brilliant marketing. Growing by leaps and bounds, he is both a dauntingly accomplished player and a self-possessed student, eager to soak up whatever experiences come his way.
In a few short years, he’s won admirers among jazz’s elite, impressing veteran stars such as pianists Billy Taylor and Marian McPartland, and the late Benny Carter, not a man known for gushing, who wrote that the pianist is “one of the most astounding artists I’ve heard in a long, long time.” Eager to make his way in the world, Eldar concurred with his label’s decision to record and present him solely under his first name, a canny move that saves people the trouble of pronouncing Djangirov, while heightening the already thick drama surrounding his emergence. “There are not too many Eldars in general,” he notes, “so the last name wouldn’t really serve a purpose.”
Born in Kyrgyzstan, Eldar started studying piano at age 3 with his mother, who was a professor of music history at a college in Bishkek, then the capital of the obscure Soviet republic in Central Asia. His father, an engineer and avid jazz fan, noticed that Eldar had an amazingly acute ear as early as 5, and was capable of playing back phrases from jazz recordings note for note.
“My dad had a lot of albums by horn players and big bands, but especially piano players: Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock,” Eldar says. “Peterson was the very first piano player I consciously remember listening to and that just kind of knocked me out, because that cat is a genius. From the very first time I heard him, I thought, ‘Wow! I really want to do that.’ ”
Eldar’s odds of making an impact on the U.S. jazz scene would have been infinitesimal without a chance encounter with the lawyer and arts supporter Charles McWhorter, who heard the 9-year-old pianist performing at a jazz festival in the Russian city of Novosibirsk. He helped arrange a scholarship for the pianist at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, and made sure that Eldar understood that with opportunity came responsibility.
“I was late for a lesson one time at Interlochen, and a few days later he sends me a watch as a present,” Eldar says with a laugh. “ ‘Yo, Eldar! Here, don’t be late.’ ”
In 1998, McWhorter helped the family relocate to Kansas City, where Eldar quickly started making waves in the local jazz scene. The drummer Todd Strait, best known as a longtime member of singer Karrin Allyson’s band, started to hear stories about a brilliant, impossibly young musician from Kyrgyzstan.
“I was like yeah, sure, maybe I’ll just invite him over to the house, play blues, see what he can do,” says Strait, who plays on Eldar’s Sony Classical debut. “So he came over and we played the first tune and I remember thinking, ‘Who is this kid? What planet did he arrive from?’ He was amazing then, and every time I play with him he’s continued to grow. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with that much of a natural gift.”
LA Jazz Scene
Singing in Portuguese and English, Masha Campagne interprets ten lovely songs with a marked Brazilian flavor while supported by some of San Francisco's first-call jazzmen. Her sensual lyric portrayals and animated wordless vocals make you feel as though you're in Rio on vacation, parading through city streets while samba bands crank up the emotional level a few notches. But Campagne isn’t Brazilian. She was born in Moscow, Russia and grew up there, studying classical music and getting hooked on Brazilian jazz while still in high school. Moving to the Bay Area in 1991, she continued to study vocal jazz and began to network with local artists who feel the same way she does about bossa nova, samba, and similar forms that lend themselves so well to jazz.
This is her debut album. While the recording quality remains uneven, Campagne's voice stands apart as one that we'll remember. The instrumentalists around her, including pianist Weber Iago, guitarist Carlos Oliveira, saxophonist Harvey Wainapel, bassist David Belove, drummer Paul Van Wageningen and percussionist Michael Spiro, contribute authenticity, swing and a groove. However, portions of the program, especially those with strings, turn out tinny and shallow. Nevertheless, Campagne's voice goes a long way in proving that it's what's inside of us that makes the difference. She's musically superb, lyrically convincing, and leaves us with a memorable debut.
Happiness is a richly seasoned Brazilian singer hugging the delicate curves of Dorival Caymmi’s “Doralice” and then meandering through a superbly constructed Jobim medley. The surprise here is that Masha Campagne is Brazilian only by association (to the music itself, and to her closest colleague, the musical yang to her yin, Rio-nurtured arranger/producer/pianist Weber Iago). Campagne is Russian or, more accurately, Russian-American, born and raised in Moscow but residing in the Bay Area since 1991. On this, her debut recording, she reveals a deep, luxuriant voice that suggests the richest, darkest chocolate and the ripest, tartest blackberries.
But to assess Campagne without Iago is like judging Ipanema beach without considering the Atlantic. For, whether layering strings beneath the plaintive “Pra Quem Quiser Me Visitar,” urging percussionist Michael Spiro to set the playful pace on “O Côco Do Côco (The Coconut Beat),” accenting both “So In Love” and “It Might As Well Be Spring” with just the right measure of Harvey Wainapel’s tenor sax or wisely opting to let his solo piano lead Campagne through the heartrending grandeur of “Faltando Um Pedaço (Missing a Piece),” it is Iago’s arrangements that elevate her to heady heights.
On first listen I would never guess that this Brazilian jazz disc is by a Russian ex-pat who now lives in the Bay Area. Campagne sings in both Portuguese and English with flawless accents in both. She utilizes her sweet, breathy vocals to bring her love of the Brazilian traditions to life, even on Cole Porter (“So In Love”) and Rodgers & Hammerstein (“It Might as Well Be Spring”). When she sings in Portuguese she has only the slightest Russian tinge, but her phrasing is flawless. She floats over melodies like “Doralice,” and a medley of Jobim tunes. The album, which features some fine players, including guitarist Carlos Oliveira and saxophonist Harvey Wainapel, is a testament to the strength of Brazilian jazz to move through pointed melodies and breezy beats, and Campagne does an admirable job singing in two languages, neither her native tongue.
2007, Impetus Records, 44:30.
Almost all jazz artists have an interesting back story, and vocalist Masha Campagne is no exception. Originally from Russia, she began her formal musical education in the classical European tradition with studies in cello and piano at Moscow's Gnessin State Musical College. She was introduced to American jazz via her grandfather's record collection that included albums by Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald and Carmen McRae.
Campagne moved to San Francisco in 1991 and jumped into the jazz scene by joining the Foothill College vocal group, Fanfares, which won first place in the Down Beat's vocal jazz competition. A love of Brazilian music, which she discovered while still in high school via the records of Joao Gilberto, Tom Jobim and Elis Regina, inspired her to create her debut, Caminhos Cruzados = Crossroads.
The appeal of the classic recordings of the Brazilian sound lies in its floating rhythms, intricate and gorgeously understated arrangements, and straightforward vocals. Campagne and company traverse that territory with a spring in their steps combined with a true love of the tradition.
The centerpiece, “Jobim Medley,” combines three classics—”So Tinha Ser Com Voce,” “Camnihos Cruzados,” and “Samba Do Aviao.” The trio of tunes, seductively arranged by Rio de Janeiro-raised pianist Weber Iago, brings the rich sound of the cello into the mix to accompany Campagne's zestfully seductive vocals.
Iago deserves special mention here. His deft and lively arrangements of the Brazilian tunes, along with the bossa tints he gives to Cole Porter's “So In Love” and Rodgers and Harts “It Might As Well Be Spring” are superb. His use of the string quartet on “Pra Quem Quiser Me Visitar” and “O Coco Do Coco” are the set’s highlights.
The Campagne/Iago up-tempo take on “It Might as Well Be Spring” is juiced up, jazz style, by Harvey Wainapel's tenor sax and Campagne's saucy vocal, leading into the spare—just Iago's piano and the rich tones of Campagne's voice—”Faltando Um Pendaco.” It's a wistful, contemplative closer, to a beautiful set of Brazilian sounds from start-to-finish.
“Brazilian jazz has its own flair for the dramatic romantic for with every note, the sound captures a heated response. The passion of the Brazilian flair is an international feel. Strong and vibrate are the sounds performed by both the vocalist and the musician which in the case of Masha Campagne debut project “Caminhos Cruzados = Crossroads” is true to form. With the 2007 release by Impetus Records comes a wonderful groove filled exhibition of the Brazilian attitude sung by one who embraces such a mood.
With the team of Ms. Campagne and arranger Weber Iago comes several intriguing exhibits in solid Brazilian flavor. “Caminhos Cruzados = Crossroads” in total offers the talent of Iago to lay the foundation and vocal sensuality of Campagne building an atmosphere for the listener.
During most spins the strings and keyboards are wonderfully bonded to create a specific mood. The melodies are sharp yet warm. The sculptor Iago sets the stage so precisely for Campagne that her talents flow like a gentle mountain spring along the arrangements.
One moment during the play is when they both capture the mood of the project in total, the sensitive exit cut “Faltando Um Pedaco/Missing a Piece”, Campagne talents have their finest moment at this point. So gentle and subtle are her expressions in voice. Iago’s ivories place the two on a different plane than anywhere else in their performance thus allowing the Djaven experience to encounter an incredibly angelic jazz moment.
“Caminhos Cruzados = Crossroads” showcase two different facets of jazz, the technical and the emotional both succeed in articulating the art of Brazilian romance. Campagne and Iago are a special duo with a special talent to read each other. I can only hope their next project reaches a level above. What a moment it would be!
Moscow-born jazz vocalist Masha Campagne moved to the Bay Area in 1991 and by the year 2000 pursued her passion for Brazilian music by immersing herself in San Francisco’s music industry becoming a fixture in the local Brazilian music scene. With the help and collaboration of Rio de Janeiro-raised pianist/arranger, Weber Iago, who arranged and served as co-producer, Masha Campagne releases her long-awaited debut album with Crossroads.
Besides the singer and pianist Iago, the album features an impressive cadre of musicians among them, Bay Area saxophonist Harvey Wainapel, acoustic guitarist Carlos Oliveira,
bassist Dan Robbins and the percussion tandem of Paul van Wageningen and Michael Spiro. Campagne also employs a string quartet on two tracks, “Pro Quem Quiser Me Visitar,” and “O Coco Do Coco.”
Crossroads is a unique album blending Brazilian bossa nova with a couple of standards from the great American Songbook. Campagne sings in English on Cole Porter’s
“So In Love,” and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “It Might As Well Be Spring,” which enjoys a particularly fine tenor solo from Wainapel.
Completely fluent in Portuguese, Campagne delivers an outstanding vocal performance on a host of Brazilian compositions including a beautiful and sensitive interpretation of several Antonio Carlos Jobim tunes in a nine minute “Jobim Medley.” The finale, “Faltando Un Pedaco,” finds the lady voicing an inspiring slow love ballad by Djavan in a captivating duet with pianist Iago.
One of the best debut albums that I’ve had the pleasure of appraising this year. Masha Campagne crafts a cleaver project with a selective repertoire that transcends two genres with the help of some master musicians. The result is a very warm session of beautiful Brazilian grooves certain to please the most discerning and sophisticated jazz audience.
"There seems to be a tidal wave of jazz piano trios and female vocalists these days. And of course, whether the market can bear such an influx remains to be seen. Interestingly, Russia-reared vocalist Masha Campagne communicates a thoroughly-hip and venturous command of the Brazilian-jazz vernacular. A resident of San Francisco since 1991, Ms Campagne has been an active performer within the City’s jazz scene. On this recent release, comprised of Weber Lago’s tastefully enacted arrangements, the diva’s softly expressive vocals convey a sense of ownership with pieces by Jobim, Cole Porter and others.
Campagne is apt to harmonize with the soloists while combining panache and a straightforward approach to the material. But Iago’s shrewd arrangements combine elements of Chamber, jazz and of course the Brazilian element. On the “Jobim Medley,” Campagne’s feathery verse translates into a windswept ballad that touches the soul. And during some tunes, she toggles between Portuguese and English, where strings, accordions, horns and ethnocentric percussion attain a meaningful coexistence. Short, sweet and not over-baked, this album should conceivably enjoy some quality time over the airwaves."
Moscow-born, Brazilian vocalist...wait a minute.
Yeah, you heard it correctly. And Ms. Campagne gets it right. This is a surprisingly smart set of tunes, fashioned around a centerpiece of a Jobim medley of three songs - "So Tinha Ser Com Voce," "Camnihos Cruzados," and "Samba Do Aviao." Ms. Campagne is ably served by pianist/arranger Weber Iago, who keeps things moving along at the kind of pace only a Brazilian veteran could muster.
And he's fashioned lush strings to back up a pair of the tunes - adding even more pretty gilt to frame Ms. Campagne's pleasant voice.
Ms. Campagne has been working the San Francisco area for more than fifteen years - and it's clear that she's made some very good musical friends, who helped her on this outing.
My favorites are the two standards gussied-up with a Brazilian beat - Cole Porter's "So In Love," and the Rodgers-Hart classic, "It Might As Well Be Spring." Ms. Campagne swings nicely to Mr. Iago's tempo, and Harvey Wainapel on tenor sax has a very nice solo. Very good stuff. Complex, layered.
"Doralice" is another showcase for Ms. Campaigne's very light, beguiling touch.
One gets to like Brazilian with a Russian accent surprisingly quickly.
This is highly recommended.
Three microphones (out of four)
A Russian jazzbo with a love for all things Brazilian, she did the only thing a singer could do, move to San Francisco to chase her dream. Hooking up with some like minded cats, the multi culti express train turns in a sincere Brazilian effort that comes together in jazz, whether mixing US standards or Brazilian standards. It’s a certain bet for this set to samba into your heart with little effort at all.
Campagne’s “Caminhos Cruzados = Crossroads” has compassionate undertones, sultry instruments, and strapping rhythms that command the attention of all listeners.
“Romance/Além das Nuvens (Romance/Beyond the Clouds)” has a groovy pace that is accomplished by beguiling percussion and drum work. The rhythm is so soothing that listeners can turn this song on after an incredibly long day at work and listen to an immensely relaxing song. It is also great to put on when you want to set that tenderhearted mood.
“So In Love” takes the smoothness to the next stage as Campagne emotes about the expanse of her desire for her beloved. The percussion, drum, guitar and especially the saxophone play make this song something that could be played on one of the many ballroom dancing reality shows that are bombarding television screens nowadays. The swaying measure of the song makes it easy to rumba to with the one you love. Campagne utters such loving words as, “Strange dear but true dear. When I’m close to you dear. The stars fill the sky so in love with you am I.”
On “Doralice” there is a much different intro than on the other tracks. It opens with breakneck keyboard work and the percussion play lightens the flow even more. Although it is sung in Portuguese, the song’s catchiness will entice listeners.
“Pra Quem Quiser Me Visitar (For Those Who Want to Visit Me)” has somber yet sweet violin play throughout. The flow of the music is so scintillating and powerful that listeners might break out into a weep fest at the absolute beauty of the music.
“Caminhos Cruzados = Crossroads” is a fitting title for this album, which some might say is at a critical juncture in its musical beat. Yet, each song has a lilting to it that will undeniably draw listeners in to its overall romantic vibe.
"Campagne’s smooth mix of jazz and breezy swing is an easy sell for lovers of the instrumental and vocal styles of jazz. Part of what makes Masha’s album fare so well is the wonderful playing and arrangement by collaborator Weber Iago. On opening track “Romance”, Masha introduces herself as a sultry diva with a twist of Latin flare, made all the better by the fact that Masha Campagne is Russian. This cultural mishmash makes her voice and style a unique blend all her own, separating it from her contemporaries. Something else that makes her so special is that Masha sings in her native language, leaving interpretation up to the listener. This puts more emphasis on the emotion and delivery in Campagne’s approach and forces her to create a personality out of the absence of understanding.
Choosing to dim the lights for the first time on track “For All Those Who Want Me To Visit”, Campagne stretches her legs out and takes a break from the fast pace of the rest of the album. While her beauty and charm remain, it is apparent that the more up tempo tracks suit her style and personality much better than the torch song quality of “For All Those Who Want Me To Visit”. The energy returns in a big way on the Euro-friendly “The Coconut Beat”. Here the music is light, yet jumpy. The vocals are well delivered while still maintaining a carefree stance. Throughout the entire album, Campagne’s voice is complimented by the remarkable work of Weber Iago and his band of studio musicians. Falling somewhere between samba and the undiscovered soundtrack to City Of Lost Children, Caminhos Cruzados = Crossroads is an unique experience to be had by all."