Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 5, No. 6, 2006

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Phil Nixon
Robert Rotondo
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Montreal Jazz Festival 2006







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: BADI ASSAD

I’m not exactly sure how she manages to sing so effortlessly, that is independently from guitar accompaniment – a feat that would ordinarily require two people for its execution – except to say the complex chording, trilling and contrapuntal melody lines both complement and compliment her vocals. As to what genre the Badi Assad playlist belongs, that’s also a call-it-as-you-hear-it judgment. But what is beyond dispute is that there are no more than a handful of people in the world who can carry it off as well as she right now.

Badi hails from Brazil, from a family steeped in music: her father plays the bandolim while her celebrated older brothers, Sérgio and Odair (Duo Assad), have been composing and recording music for more than 20 years.

Nonetheless, for the occasion of her solo concert at the 2006 Montreal Jazz Festival, I didn’t know what to expect. I only knew what I saw of her two years earlier when she was invited to tour with guitar luminaries Larry Coryell and John Abercrombie. On that stage, this relatively unknown more than held her own, on top of which she exuded so much natural sylph and charm that every closet male groupie in the audience was outed on that hot and funky Montréal soir

As a singer/soloist, and always on top of rhythmically intricate strumming and guitar picking, Badi emerges from her music like a an exotic glade creature, often sprinkling into her melodies the naturally occurring sounds and commotion of the jungle, or percussive effects that recall the tabla and mridang. Her music is an acoustic adventure that undulates straight into the mystery of things, where surface is merely the entry point to worlds only music can reveal. She is so irrepressibly expressive and spontaneous that we accommodate her bending, grimacing, brooding and eruptions of joy as simply the natural outcomes of music that radiate from deep within. Badi doesn’t just perform her solo symphony, she is her symphony, generating moods and spaces that are signature breezy and organic.

Her guitar work deserves as much attention as her singing and interpretation, where from one song to the next, you don’t encounter a common chord or predictable sequence of notes, all of which she makes familiar through her deep commitment to and uncompromising love of song and composition. And if it all initially sounds so “strange and strong” there isn’t a trace note of affectation in her writing. Unlike far too many ambitious, self-conscious song writers who reject the common chord for an obtuse one (when the former works better), Badi’s inspiration, like J. S. Bach’s fugue writing, takes its cue from the introductory theme which foretells the piece’s development; and like an instrument at the bidding of higher forces, she serves the creative process no matter where it takes her until the song is brought to completion. When after repeated listening the novelty has worn off, the music still stands tall because the architecture upon which all lasting music depends combines in equal parts both form and heartbeat. If from time to time, the flavour of the music harkens back to her native Jobim-Brazil sound, there is never any doubt that we are in new territory. Here, there and everywhere the ear is treated to interlocking chains of enticing, enigmatic chords that are so convincing in their lyricism and narrative flow that we cannot help but delight before the possibility that a previously unsuspected well-spring of music has been unveiled.

If Bach were alive today, he would approve of Badi’s contrapuntal achievement, where autonomous voice and instrument conjoin to serve music’s most precious category – song. I have always maintained that if accompaniment diminishes interpretation by only 1%, the singer should drop the instrument. Rather than naming names who could benefit from a reduced mandate, I’ll positively mention John Pizarelli, who along with Badi, like runners for whom legs and lungs operate as one, are examples of performers whose singing and playing merge to demonstrate the musical equivalent of sing-ularity.

Listen to the incomparable Badi Assad sing "O Mundo É Um Moinho" from her latest album Wonderland.

Click HERE to see Badi perform.



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Charlie Parker
Dizzy Gillespie
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