Catina DeLuna and her group Lado B recently released their first CD, Brazilian Project. Featuring Brazilian music from several periods, the performances put the spotlight on Ms. DeLuna’s beautiful voice, the brilliant piano and inventive arrangements of Otmaro Ruiz, and the superb playing of some of Los Angeles’ finest musicians who have come together to form an ensemble with its own group sound.
Lado B (Portuguese for “Side B,” the second side of an Lp which often included surprising treasures) consists of Catina DeLuna, Otmaro Ruiz, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer Aaron Serfaty. They are joined on various selections by several percussionists including the great Alex Acuna, Bob Sheppard on flute, Nick Mancini on marimba, and a tastefully utilized choir of voices.
While the stereotype of Brazilian music evokes Carnaval, sambas and bossa-novas, the music of LADO B Brazilian Project covers a much wider area. Its 11 selections range from the early styles of the 20th century to the present with fresh renditions of classic themes by the likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Milton Nascimento, Pixinguinha, Egberto Gismonti and others. Catina DeLuna and Otmaro Ruiz reinvented the repertoire, keeping an eye on its tradition while creating more modern statements. The result is a set of music that is elegant, contemporary, melodic and often moving.
The opening performance combines together “Lavadeira do Rio” with “Maracatu.” It features Catina’s alluring voice on top of her piano and quiet percussion before the piece becomes energetic with fine interplay between Koonse’s guitar and Ruiz’s piano. The fascinating performance concludes with Catina’s voice being answered by the choir. “Garota De Ipanema (The Girl From Ipanema)” is reborn in a modernized version that retains the essence of Jobim’s famous piece. “Cavalo Marinho,” a poetic tribute to the ocean, has some exquisite flute by Bob Sheppard. “Contrato de Separacao” is a quietly emotional performance highlighted by the unique blend between voice, flute and Ruiz’s piano.
“Chovendo Na Roseira,” an extended exploration of Jobim’s “Double Rainbow,” has inspired use of the choir behind Catina. The singer’s voice sounds particularly lovely on “Estrela Azul,” a new love song receiving its recorded debut. The brief “O Canto Da Ema” has Catina’s powerful singing accompanied only by her body percussion. Nascimento’s “Encontros e Despedidas” is reinvented and given an atmospheric performance. The traditional “Lamentos,” while retaining its joyful melodic simplicity, benefits from being outfitted with complex rhythms and Catina’s infectious vocals. An exciting “Quase Frevo” and a haunting and heartfelt rendition of “Fotografia” (which includes a lyrical Koonse guitar solo) conclude the memorable program.
Considering her masterful singing throughout Brazilian Project, it is not surprising that Catina DeLuna has had a very productive and accomplished career. Born and raised in Brazil, she began playing piano and singing while quite young. She earned a B.A. in Brazilian Popular Music from the UNICAMP University in São Paulo. After graduation, Catina founded two major bands: Arirê, a vocal group in which she not only sang but was the pianist and arranger, and Serenata Brasileira. With the latter ensemble, she performed Brazilian classics from the 1920s and 30s, singing the music authentically while dressed in period costumes. She also worked as a voiceover artist, recording many commercials for radio and television.
Since her move to the United States, Catina DeLuna has earned a Master’s degree from Northern Illinois University, served as a visiting scholar at the University Of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, moved to Los Angeles where she teaches privately and at Silver Lake Conservatory and the Los Angeles Music Academy, and has spent time performing in Japan and Singapore, Catina, who performs regularly in Southern California’s top jazz venues with Lado B, recorded Na Era de Ouro with Serenata Brasileira and her solo debut Brazilian Accent prior to the new CD.
A powerful pianist, inventive arranger, and an influential educator, Otmaro Ruiz was born in Venezuela and has been based in Los Angeles since 1989. Ruiz has worked with such notables as Arturo Sandoval, John McLaughlin, Tito Puente, Billy Cobham’s Spectrum 40 Band, Frank Gambale, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, Frank Morgan and Robben Ford, and was Dianne Reeves’ pianist and musical director for five years. Otmaro Ruiz has frequently led his own exciting and adventurous Crossover Latin Jazz groups along with a series of stimulating CDs.
Throughout Brazilian Project Catina DeLuna, along with the arrangements and piano of Otmaro Ruiz and the playing of Lado B, revitalizes Brazilian jazz.