Monday, February 09, 2009

Mystifying Mamas - From Chicago to Paris

Just the other day I was revisiting this CD, Saravah by Cafe Apres-Midi, a Japanese compilation of music from the small, independent French record label from the late 1960s - 1980s. The range of music on here is just great with some French styles, lots of Brazilian influence, some Jazz, some soul and funk as well as some African styles.

The story goes that the label was started by singer and songwriter, Pierre Barouh (read more here if you can understand French). Barouh "discovered" Brazilian music while traveling in Portugal and was soon smitten. In 1966 he played a major musical role in the Claude Lelouch fim, Un Homme et Une Femme, otherwise known as "A Man and A Woman". Barouh sang on the soundtrack and even managed to insert his love for Brazilian music with the inclusion of the Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell tune "Samba da Bancao" recorded in French with Baden Powell on guitar as "Samba Saravah." The movie and soundtrack were huge hits and the money Barouh received for his performance, he directly invested into his new record label, Saravah.

In 1969 he traveled to Brazil and captured some of the country's best musicians in an extremely casual setting. The documentary was only officially released recently. Here's a clip of Paulinho da Viola jamming with Maria Bethania at a beach cafe.

The label was home to some excellent musicians and some great albums, such as Pierre Akendengue's two early 70s albums, Barney Wilen's "Moshi" and as well as Nana Vasconcelos and Bridgette Fontaine. While, I'm getting a little sidetracked here, the first song today was included in this Saravah comp even though it was originally issued on the obscure French label, Horse.

The Art Ensemble of Chicago Featuring Marva Broome - Mystifying Mama
Though I have found little evidence to definitively prove that the Art Ensemble of Chicago played on this recording, comparing it to the next track you can understand why its assumed it was them backing Ms. Broome. What a killer combination of Jazz and Soul, not quite soul-jazz but something close to that. Too bad she didn't put out more than this one single. Evidently she sings back-up vocals on Barney Wilen's superb Saravah album, "Moshi".

The Art Ensemble of Chicago Featuring Fontella Bass - Theme de Yo-Yo
So, this track isn't a product of Pierre Barouh's Saravah label, but that whole story was a nice excuse for letting me post this slamming jazz-inflected funk explosion. This song can get a little bit crazy, but I just love how the band bobs and weaves around Fontella's vocals and comes crashing down in a cacophony of horns and drums every now and then. I first heard this cut in Maine being played on public radio and I immediately had to track it down. Fontella was married to one of the Art Ensemble of Chicago players, Lester Bowie, at the time of this recording. Here's a bit of a bio on her.

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