A Malian's Musings about Music and Mali…
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“Tanto Tempo” by Bebel Gilberto

“Tanto Tempo” is about living in the moment without the need to rationalize or question anything.  It’s about recklessly immersing yourself in the “now”, which is the ultimate acknowledgement that it is all there is.

Every day is good day.

Title: Tanto Tempo /Artist: Bebel Gilberto /Album: Tanto Tempo, 2000

“La Mer Opale” by Coralie Clement

“La Mer Opale” should come with a warning sticker.  The first time I came across this, I was under its spell for a week straight.  I’m talking non-stop playback….back to back to back….I still remember people walking in and out of my dorm room wondering what this “weird French song” was?!  

The interesting anecdote about Coralie Clement is that her career began pretty much accidentally.  Her beginnings as a vocalist came as a result of her producer/songwriter older brother (Benjamin Biolay) using her to test his songwriting skills.  Needless to say, he soon realized that “petite soeur” had something special.

Folksy guitars, a tambourine, sweeping pads and an incredible clarinet performance that totally catches you off-guard halfway through the song, make this a simple but really special composition.Coralie Clement (only 19 when this was recorded) delivers a classic performance over her brother’s production.  Her extremely breathy and sensual voice perfectly blends into the jazzy arrangement. 

Title: La Mer Opale – Artist: Coralie Clement – Album: Salles des Pas Perdus, 2001

“I’m a fool to want you” by Billie Holiday

I heard this song in a “Chanel N 5” commercial a little while ago.  Being a fan of Billie Holiday, I’m very surprised that this didn’t catch my attention a lot sooner. 

That being said, “Lady Day” has so many great songs in her catalogue, a few of them are bound to “go over your head”.  Another reason could be that the visuals from the commercial brought the song to life and made me appreciate the story being told.  The “Chanel” commercial was not the first time I listened to this song, it was the first time I truly “heard” it.

The “Lady in Satin” album was originally released in 1958 about a year before her death.  By that time she was suffering from poor health, mainly due to her heroin addiction, and the years of both physical and emotional scars had taken their toll on her voice.  She had lost a lot of that youthful spark in her vocals and all that was left was the pain.  Ironically, from strictly artistic point of view, the beauty of this record can be attributed to the fact that she was able to tap into the pain she was experiencing in her life.  Sadly, this is often the case with art in general, we indirectly benefit from the artist’s personal misfortunes, because let’s face it: no emotion inspires like pain, and therefore, we have to cherish anyone who’s willing to share theirs. 

Besides the heart-breaking vocal performance, I’m completely blown away by the string arrangements which are courtesy of the legendary Ray Ellis and the horn section provides that vintage feel to the overall composition.

Lady Day forever.

Title: I’m a fool to want you

Artist: Billie Holliday

Album: The Lady in Satin, 1958

“In a Sentimental Mood” by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane

Duke Ellington on the piano and John Coltrane on the saxophone: the outcome could not have been anything other than ‘classic’.

“In a sentimental mood” was originally an Ellington record from the 1940s. In the early 1960s, Ellington for the first time in his career began doing a lot of collaborations to get inspired and modernize some of his old records. This was recorded in 1962 and is the most famous of his collaborations with the premier sax player of that generation: John Coltrane.

Even the clear stylistic differences between these two artists could not cast a shadow over the brilliance this recording. Ellington’s cool, detached and understated piano seems happy to let Coltrane’s sax take center stage and play the leading role in this “movie”. The sax here is definitely telling a story. You can get a sense of the emotion behind the story, but the plot is left to your own imagination.

One of the greatest Jazz ballads of all time.


Title: In a sentimental mood
Artist: Duke Ellington, John Coltrane
Album: Duke Ellington & John Coltrane, 1962


“Samba Triste” by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd

My love affair with Bossa Nova began with “Samba Triste”.  The original version of this song was composed by Baden Powell, one of Brazil’s great guitarists.  Unfortunately it’s really hard to find originals of Baden’s recordings…trust me I tried.

Renditions of older music often fail to capture the essence of the original.  That being said, Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd, two legends in their own right, offer a performance that Powell would, without a doubt be proud of. 

The original Samba triste is driven by an acoustic guitar and vocals.  Getz and Byrd took a different route by incorporating drums and off course Getz’ saxophone to replace Baden’s vocals.  The brushes (drums) add another dimension to the song by providing that Samba swing.  Getz on the saxophone is the highlight of this performance.  His delivery just wraps the song in silk… Smooth doesn’t describe it.

Samba triste is one of those great “escape” songs.  We all go through moments which makes us wish we were “elsewhere”.  Next time you feel like that, just throw on some headphones and play this.

Special thanks to Mr Jean Louis for putting me on this one.

Title: Samba Triste

Artists: Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd

Album: Jazz Samba

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