Sandy Cressman explores other side of Brazilian music

Bay Area vocalist Sandy Cressman dives into lesser-known styles of Brazilian music on her upcoming album, Entre Amigos — a community affair, including her trombonist husband Jeff (Santana), Seattle-based pianist Jovino Santos Neto, bossa-nova veteran Antonio Adolfo, and a host of other well-known musicians of the genre.

Most of the 10 tunes breeze along as any Brazilian-jazz record might. For the average listener, it’s hard to pick out differences in the various styles and genres available, from samba jazz to frevo and maracatu, São Paulo to Northeast.

That is, until the ballad of “Nossa História (Our Story).” The sad song rises and falls on Cressman’s plaintive voice, heightened and accompanied only by guitar. The song is a collaborative, Nascimentian duet with guitarist Ian Faquini, a musician originally born in Brazil and raised in Berkeley.

“Deixa O Amor Florescer (Let Love Flourish)” also contains the sad, mournful stringed accompaniment underneath Cressman’s brighter vocals on a medium-fast tempo and the sharp shake of horns with the stab of percussion. Cressman’s eldest daughter Natalie, a New York trombonist and vocalist, wrote the horn arrangements, with tenor saxophonist Harvey Wainapel pumping wistful melodies.

“Não Me Acorde Não (Don’t Wake Me)” jumps quick, charming with clever, limerick-y, lyrical turns and shot with a boss big band of horns straddling the fire. Cressman’s easy chemistry with Brazilian big band leader Spok is evident here. A few horn players from the saxophonist’s fun, fantasmic Spok Frevo Orquestra participated in this romp. Spok arranged the piece, which was recorded with his band in Recife, the capital of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco.

A longtime fan of post-bossa, Rio-centric Brazilian music from artists such as Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento, and Hermeto Pascoal, Cressman investigated other styles of this culturally rich country for this new record.

The 20-plus-year veteran and founder of the popular band Homenagem Brasileira put her own lyrical spin in both English and Portuguese on 10 of the original compositions.

“For a long while I concentrated on mining the treasures in the existing Brazilian music repertoire,” Cressman explained in a press release from Terri Hinte. “But at a certain point, I started writing and asking people to collaborate, and 'Entre Amigos' collects many of these amazing connections.”

Scheduled for a Feb. 3 release date on her Cressman Music label, the album marks her first return to the recording studio since Brasil—Sempre no Coração, a 2005 release of popular Brazilian covers (Música popular brasileira).

Cressman makes her Brazilian songwriting debut, lyricizing every instrumental on the album, plus contributing two tracks of her own, “Ela É” and “Não Me Acorde Não.”

“Ela É” enjoyed a distinctive Santana connection. Cressman’s husband and Santana’s rhythm section from 2010, along with 2001 Modern Drummer Hall of Famer Dennis Chambers, recorded the tune in Germany.

“I’m thrilled that my musical horizons are widening,” she added. “For many years I was very Rio-centric, focused on bossa nova, samba, and Brazilian jazz. This record has São Paulo samba jazz, Northeastern rhythms frevo and maracatu. I keep meeting these people who have different areas of expertise and knowledge, and it’s so inspiring and invigorating to be involved in the creation of these songs.”

The people she’s met and collaborated with for this new album represent the cream of the crop of Brazilian music: hot, new Brazilian-American guitarist Ian Faquini (“Nossa História,” “Deixa a Amor Florescer”), pianist/composer Jovino Santos Neto (“Para Hermeto”), Latin Grammy-winning pianist Antonio Adolfo (“Eu Vou Lembrar”), and Dani and Debora Gurgel (“Como Eu Quero Cantar”) from São Paulo’s samba-jazz community.

Sandy Cressman will go on a mini-West Coast tour for Entre Amigos. Dates include Armando’s in Martinez, Calif. March 25, Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3, N.Y. April 12, the Blue Note in Napa, Calif. May 7, and Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland July 2.