On Friday, September 18th, Jazz Arts Initiative closes out Season 6 of The JAZZ ROOM with a special performance by Sasha Masakowski, her tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim and the music of Brazil. I recently spoke with Sasha about Brazilian Jazz and her personal connections to the music.
A childhood introduction to Brazilian music:
As a young girl my parents…they used to play all these Brazilian composers in the house when I was very very young, I mean that was kind of the music of my childhood. One of my first childhood dreams was to be one of the singers…like you know how [Jobim] has like six female singers singing in unison or, you know, Sergio Mendes in Brasil 66. That was music that was really really influential to me as a little girl.
Of course I didn’t know Portuguese but i have vivid memories of jumping up and down on the bed and singing up made up sounds that sound phonetically like Portuguese. I just seemed so drawn to that music…It kind of came very naturally when i started singing jazz more professionally, it’s like, oh, this is music that feel like it’s just a part of me, you know….in some ways it’s an extension of me because I grew up so heavily influenced by that.
Sasha studied Portuguese in college and has a basic understanding of the language. Her process involves learning the songs phonetically, while also translating the lyrics to understand their meaning. She notes that there are some meanings that simply get lost in translation:
I’ve got a really good ear for languages…especially Portuguese. I think it’s because I’ve literally listened to so much Brazilian music in my life…Sometimes it’s really hard because the lyrics are so poetic…..I have plenty of Brazilian friends that even they have a hard time translating some of these songs. One in particular is Canto De Ossahna which is by the great Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes wrote the lyrics to that…I mean I’ve had three or four Brazilian friends try to really get inside of those lyrics and translate them for me and fail miserably.
As influences and inspirations besides Jobim, Sasha mentions Gal Costa, Hermeto Pascoal, and Milton Nascimento among others. She spoke of the breadth of Jobim’s recordings and would encourage an audience to dig deeper into his discography, specifically mentioning the 1987 album, Passarim.
Brazilian Jazz is so broad…theres so many different elements, different sub genres. When you take Brazilian cultural music and you fuse it with jazz you have something that’s like incredibly romantic, incredibly groovy, and then really really sophisticated as well.
I think my voice…sonically it works with this type of music…There’s something so pure about Brazilian singers….that kind of pure tone is something that I have naturally in my singing voice. I think if i was born with pipes that sounded like Aretha Franklin I wouldn’t be singing bossa nova as much…It’s like a perfect match.
Sasha Masakowski’s tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim is the last show of the current season of The JAZZ ROOM @ The Stage Door Theater, Jazz Arts Initiative’s monthly showcase of local and regional talent. There are two shows: 6:00pm and 8:15pm.
Connect with Sasha through her website, here.