An exploration of Portuguese sounds, from fado to the contemporary universe of indie rock, pop & jazz
Portuguese DIY indie band The Gift is truly a generous offering, as they bestow a bountifully rich medley of pop, rock, electronica, ambient, alternative, trip hop, neo-classical and soulful Lisboa folk to the world. With a crop of #1 hits in their native land of Portugal, this impassioned ensemble is beloved all over the world, with singles sung in Portuguese and English (with hints and echoes of their initial inspiration from British trip hop threaded throughout). Lead vocalist Sonia Tavares’ sultry tone can take you to uplifting highs, down to dark cavernous places, and back again in a single phrase (as heard on the smirking, satisfyingly deep “Fácil De Entender” and the peppy dance floor gem “Clinic Hope”). Known for their heartfelt stage shows, The Gift has been taking live audiences on breathtaking emotional rollercoasters since they formed in 1994. With six full-length studio albums, a multitude of honors (their initial output Vinyl received Album of the Year by Diário de Notícias, 2004’s AM/FM went gold, MTV Europe declared them Best Portuguese Act), and tours all over the globe (South By South West in the USA, and the biggest stages in Brazil and Spain, where they have a fervent fan base), The Gift is true to their name. Their 2016 single “Love Without Violins” is a matchless confluence of their sundry forms and sonically engaging style.
The passing of famed Portuguese guitarist Carlos Paredes prompted a sizable group of musicians to coalesce and produce the tribute album Movimentos Perpétuos. It was for this noble event that Dead Combo was formed, as they contributed the track “Paredes Ambience.” The two individuals that comprised this makeshift unit, Tó Trips and Pedro V. Gonçalves, soon realized that they had an instant knack for fashioning ambient folk-rock (the Portugal-specific “fado”) and preterit film scores together. Dead Combo has subsequently been quite prodigious, releasing six studio albums since they formed in 2003. The first record they put out, Vol. 1, introduced the world to their phenomenally distinct sound, a concoction of fado, jazz, alternative, world music and spaghetti western-themed soundtrack motifs. Their music is oft described as “visual,” as it vividly, lyrically depicts the underground art scene of Lisbon in days gone by, and that too of classic cinema. Their latest album,A Bunch of Meninos, reached #1 on the Portuguese charts, and the tracks “Rumbero” and “Lisboa Mulata” found their way onto the soundtrack of the major motion picture Focus; a clear indication that Dead Combo’s dynamic, vibrant sound is rapidly spreading all over the world.
The tender tones of Sofia Ribeiro’s pristinely lucid voice recall the classic, true talents of days gone by. With a vocal range that is nothing shy of astounding, this effervescent Portuguese singer/composer prodigy fuses classical with contemporary jazz, sprinkled with traditional ear-pleasing fado. A testament to her pleasantly striking sound, Sofia (a New York transplant) has taken home sundry international vocal awards, such as “Voicingers” (Poland, 2008), “Crest Jazz Vocal” (France, 2010) and “Young Jazz Singers” (Belgium, 2005). Over her career, she has put out eight albums, including 2012’s Ar, which received the aptly-named “Révélation” prize from one of the industry’s premier publications, Jazzman/Jazz Magazine (Paris). Her latest, 2016’s Mar Sonoro, features a title track that is both formidable and subtle, a poignant and crisp proliferation of modern jazz. The album showcases instrumental performances by other leading artists living in New York. Currently an artist in residence at Carnegie Hall, she teaches workshops all over the world, edifying others on the art of the voice and the enthralling, amorous nature of Portuguese, Brazilian and international jazz music.