“The Bossa Lounge Experience” is the new album by GAZZARA. A familiar title for long time followers of the act led by keyboardist and producer Francesco Gazzara, as it recalls the group’s past collaborations with some brazilian music stars (jazz singer Ithamara Koorax, poet, lyric writer Paulo Sergio Valle) and also the band’s old infatuation for the repertoire of Eumir Deodato.
Their sixth album to date - released by Irma Records after GAZZARA returned to this label following 2 CD’s “Brother And Sister“ (2006) and “My Cup Of Tea“ (2009) produced by Silence/Ritmica - fully reveals the band’s musical preferences through a number of cover versions - some totally unexpected - produced and arranged with the recognizable GAZZARA style. The album sound is rooted in the traditional bossa trio formula ( Azymuth), with Rhodes electric piano and Hammond organ perfectly suited to an extremely tight rhythmic session (Massimo Sanna on bass, Mauro “Mirtao” Mirti on drum and percussion, both founder members of GAZZARA) which balances vintage soundtrack moods with samba/funk dance grooves.
Here we go then with some classic tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Marcos Valle covered and arranged orchestrally, while - speaking of bossa nova - Donald Fagen‘s “New Frontier“ and Modjo‘s “Lady (Hear Me Tonight)“ surprisingly get a loungy ele- gant treatment. A detailed mix between samba and disco/funk updates “Blow Your Mind“, absolute gem from Jamiroquai. GAZZARA’s instrumental version follows the “hammond funk” style of Booker T. & The MG’s, suggesting a tight link between acid jazz and lounge music, something unthinkable of in the early ‘90’s.
Another example of the album’s “Experience” - a warm mix of acoustics and electronics for the dancefloor - is the peculiar and innovative cover of Katy Perry’s “California Girls“. Sounding like Snoop Dogg sharing a cocktail with Daft Punk, Zero 7 and Astrud Gilberto, the modern lounge impact of this GAZZARA version - featuring dutch vocalist Lily Latuheru - offers a different interpretation of the song’s party hedonism. Similarly “Shock The Monkey“ by Peter Gabriel features here in an unexpected Motown soul arrangement, respectful of the original version but deeply coloured by a vintage groove and big band horns.
Also highly recommended is the bossa style version of “You’re The Best Thing“ by The Style Council, a name already covered by GAZZARA in 2001 when they included “Homebreakers“ in “The Spirit Of Summer” tracklist.
Another surprise - suggesting quite a wide panorama in the band’s musical preferences - is to find out where the album’s best disco/house track comes from: “Please Don’t Ask“ was written by Phil Collins and released in the Genesis album “Duke“ (1980). Both harmonies and melody recall the original, but new rhythmic arrangement underlines a hidden dance attitude in the song. Despite coming from the same musical family tree, “Hoping Love Will Last“ by Steve Hackett (1979) is another story. A great Genesis fan, Francesco Gazzara’s cover choice was influenced by the original track’s lead vocals - a very young Randy Crawford - and by the “noir” mood of the arrangement. GAZZARA’s version features a strong vocal interpretation by Lily Latuheru plus live orchestrated string and winds.
“The Bossa Lounge Experience“ is not just an album of covers: amongst the eight original tracks “Bahia Moon Reprise“ stands out, where the brazilian Olodum rhythm begins interacting with latin/funk harmonies to eventually explode with an irresistible orchestral march - echoing the italian ‘60’s soundtracks by Piero Piccioni and Piero Umiliani - played by a mighty brass band led by saxophonist Dario Cecchini (Funk Off, Italian Secret Service). This is a well-known name on the italian jazz scene and long time GAZZARA collaborator as arranger and co-writer.