Cinema City – Jazz Scenes from Italian Film
Release date: October 1, 2021
Renowned vocalist Mafalda Minnozzi is thrilled to announce the release of Cinema City – Jazz Scenes from Italian Film. On her new album, which is due out on October 1, 2021, the inimitable Minnozzi uncovers a new side as she explores the Italian cinematic songbook in the company of her first-rate band and special invited guests. Joining Minnozzi on this delightful musical journey is Musical Director and guitarist Paul Ricci and Brazilian musicians Tiago Costa on piano, Sidiel Vieira on bass, and Ricardo Mosca on drums. Special guests include Grammy-nominated saxophonist Dave Liebman, Graham Haynes and Luca Aquino on flugelhorn, Art Hirahara on organ, and Brazilian trombonist Jorginho Neto.
Jazz music has long taken cues from the silver screen. Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” and Johnny Mandel’s “The Shadow of Your Smile” are hallmarks in the jazz repertoire, and “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music remains one of John Coltrane’s most enduring performances. On Cinema City, Mafalda Minnozzi sets out to embrace a different songbook than the usual American fare – one from her native Italy with a distinctive flavor that only Morricone, Mancini, Cipriani, Nino Rota and their compatriots could offer to the jazz language.
It may seem like a daring artist shift from Minnozzi’s critically acclaimed and chart-topping 2020 release Sensorial – Portraits in Bossa and Jazz, which was recorded in New York City and dedicated to the great composers of Brazil. But Cinema City is indeed a continuation of this work, as she once again displays her virtuosic style and sensibility informed by her travels and experiences in Italy, Brazil and New York City.
On this zestful musical exploration, Musical Director and guitarist Paul Ricci (who has worked with a who’s-who of musical greats including singers Astrud and Bebel Gilberto) has employed a first-call Brazilian trio to augment Minnozzi’s vocal colors and adventurous improvisations over the particularly lush harmonies and trademark sonic innovation that Italian soundtracks have provided the world. This carefully curated collection of music offers something new to Cinema City’s stellar special guests as they explore creative arrangements that at times blend the iconic Italian use of baritone electric guitar and organ with a classic quartet, and at other times, recall the work of Miles Davis and Gil Evans, who famously reframed Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and Spanish classical music in a moody jazz improvisational setting.
Cinema City was conceived and recorded in Brazil during the COVID-19 lockdown. The forced hiatus gave Minnozzi plenty of time to reflect, and acted as a catalyst for this deeply personal and creative project. “It occurred to me that just as the character Totò, from Cinema Paradiso, revisited his life via the clips from the films he grew up with, I too sang these songs as if they were scenes from life. They reconnected me with what they meant to me from my childhood all throughout my artistic evolution,” shares Minnozzi. With the exception of the English lyric on the little known Henry Mancini composition “Loss of Love”, all the music on Cinema City accompanied the singer throughout various peaks and valleys of her life.
Cinema City starts off with “La Dolce Vita”, the iconic Nino Rota tune from Federico Fellini’s 1960 film of the same name. Combining a touch of New Orleans, this joyous opener features the great Graham Haynes on flugelhorn and prominently features Minnozzi’s expert scat singing. “This track had me flashing back to the many lunches I had sitting across from Fellini at a tiny Roman cafe we both frequented, and the quick conversation and courteous nods we would exchange with a smile,” Minnozzi reflects. Haynes is also featured on “Amici Miei” which comes from the cult film of the same name and elicits Minnozzi’s childhood memories of growing up in the back of her father’s restaurant in Italy.
Another highlight is “Cinema Paradiso”, which features special guest NEA Jazz Master Dave Liebman. For those familiar with the film, it is impossible to hear Morricone’s title track without being transported to its emotional beauty and power. Augmented by drummer Ricardo Mosca’s tasteful Afro-Latin percussion, Liebman and Minnozzi create a positively hypnotic atmosphere together that is at once meditative and explosive. In addition to the title track, Minnozzi takes on two other songs from Cinema Paradiso including “Se” and the album closer “Maturity”. The film holds special significance for Minnozzi. In 1996, she was invited to perform at Paradiso, a club in Rio de Janeiro modeled after the film. This short engagement (which resulted in her 1996 album Uma Noite no Paradiso II) began the singer’s 25+ year relationship with Brazil, which became her second home.
Pianist Art Hirahara joins on organ for five tunes. The first feature is “Anonimo Veneziano”, which comes from the 1970 film about romantic reconciliation of a past love at the end of a life. The richness of the story gives Minnozzi all the dramatic inspiration she needs to soar as this tune perfectly exemplifies her ability to turn heads with her remarkably dynamic and melodic range. Prolific composer Stelvio Cipriani, who would often listen to the singer perform at famous club La Cabala, displays a distinctly Italian sensibility in his writing as the song undergoes multiple key changes but still preserves an organic, natural mood. The second feature for Hirahara is “E La Chiamano Estate”, which was one of the first songs to pull Minnozzi toward jazz. Its composer, Bruno Martino, is best known in jazz circles for his classic “Estate” but this lesser known selection is every bit as iconic in Italian jazz culture. Ricci’s jazz guitar imparts a tinge of Wes Montgomery that, combined up with Hirahara’s classic organ ballad sonic, align this tune with the great American jazz club standards.
Trombonist Jorginho Neto joins on “Arrivederci Roma”, which recalls Minnozzi’s time at the aforementioned La Cabala club. Made famous by Dean Martin in 1962, Minnozzi updates this classic gem with both a Brazilian Gafieira and a Latin jazz accent. Once again, an unlikely film theme serves as a perfect vehicle for improvisation and her time spent as a shining star in the Roman nightclub allows her to deliver this lyric with a penetrating touch of irony and soul. Another standout moment is “Nella Fantasia”, which features the incredible Luca Aquino on flugelhorn. Inspired by Sketches of Spain, this quintet version captures the orchestra’s timbral nuances in a small group with rapturous interplay. This too is a personal selection for Minnozzi, as “Nella Fantasia” was her wedding song.
Each track on Cinema City imparts its own mood on the listener and the adept arrangements act as a creative springboard for brilliant improvisation. Breaking free from the more obvious classical or popular approach these songs are known for, Minnozzi takes full advantage of her dramatic interpretive power, her sublime vocal range, and cosmopolitan perspective to present her singular take on these timeless compositions. “This album is a tribute to how the poetic power of music can change a life. The songs on Cinema City connected me to my memories. Combined with the band’s brilliant playing, I was able to find a freedom that I had never felt before,” she says. “In discovering that internal voice, I drew from a deep emotional well and experienced a newfound peace looking back at my life.”
Sensorial – Portraits in Bossa & Jazz
Release date: July 20, 2020
Celebrated vocalist Mafalda Minnozzi weaves jazz improvisation and Italian romanticism with timeless Bossa roots on Sensorial – Portraits in Bossa & Jazz
Under the musical direction of guitarist Paul Ricci and with the help of heavyweights like pianist Art Hirahara, bassists Essiet Okon Essiet and Harvie S, drummer Victor Jones and percussionists Will Calhoun and Rogério Boccato, Sensorial revisits and reimagines the Brazilian songbook, while consciously interlacing the dynamism of New York City in an imaginative blend of Bossa and Jazz. With its track selection inspired by the aesthetics of Gil Evans, João Gilberto and Roberto Murolo, Sensorial not only showcases internationally acclaimed vocalist Mafalda Minnozzi’s unmistakable technique and spirit, but presents a collection of emotionally charged arrangements drawing from her multicultural career in South America, Italy and New York City. Known for her explosively energetic live performances, this recorded project aims to deliver that same fiery appeal – with the accompaniment of live video performances of each track this release succeeds in doing just that.
In particular, “Sensorial – Portraits in Bossa & Jazz“ brings deserved recognition and light to some Brazilian composers less present in the jazz world alongside the ubiquitous compositional prowess of Antonio Carlos Jobim – seven of Jobim’s originally-penned tracks are featured (including his often recorded Dindi, Desafinado and Triste) while the influence of his work with Joao Gilberto is also evident across the album’s remaining six tracks in both arrangement and swing – it’s no surprise that musical director Paul Ricci has lent his talents to the works of singers Astrud and Bebel Gilberto – wife and daughter of João.
From track one’s introductory phrase on Jobim’s “A Felicidade” it is clear that this is not a typical Bossa nova project as the band turns up both the tempo and the heat with the spontaneity and interplay of a jazz quintet and Mafalda is clearly the horn.
Another standout track from the album is “Vivo Sonhando”. This modern interpretation of the Jobim classic makes the most of the lyric’s meaning with a hypnotic beat from Victor Jones and a dreamlike guitar backdrop leaving singer Mafalda Minnozzi and pianist Art Hirahara to improvise and explore the timeless melody with unique colors and jazzy possibilities.
Chico Buarque’s majestic “Morro Dois Irmaos“ captures the composer’s poetry in a mystical ensemble dialogue that melds the jazz element into a song rarely exported beyond the Brazilian border in an arrangement that exploits Mafalda’s gift for exuberant flight in the heat of the final moments.
After listening to the mix of “Samba da Benção”, special guest percussionist Will Calhoun reflected, “that track is magic.” This Baden Powell composition can be regarded as one of the album’s epitomic tracks – it strives to rearrange a classic from Mafalda’s individualistic perspective, to the point of pleasantly surprising those who know – or think they know – the original composition. Here, Mafalda truly makes the most of the mesmerizing African influenced pulse provided by Calhoun’s udu drum to in a musical dance with pianist Art Hirahara.
“Once I Loved” is one of the two tracks on the album sung in English. On this tune, Mafalda’s vocal captures the fragility and innocence of the lyrics and sets the tone for the band’s introspective mood. Essiet Okon Essiet’s atypical funky approach to the bass with Rogério Boccato’s tamborim propels the spirited melodic solos by Art Hirahara and Paul Ricci. Drummer Victor Jones turns up the intensity to prepare Mafalda’s final phrases that further lift the energy to a determined closing statement.
The album changes mood with a Getz/Gilberto classic and perhaps one of Jobim’s most famous tunes, “Chega de Saudade”. Mafalda puts to rest the question if this is a happy or sad song. Although it is about “saudade”, or a great longing and desire to stay at a loved one’s side, this joyful interpretation assures us that a happy ending is in sight. Harvie S steps out for a masterful solo as the interplay and suspense of what will happen next becomes the spark for Mafalda’s creative scat singing that is not only melodic but also percussive.
Sensorial – Portraits in Bossa & Jazz also visits the more visceral sound of the Samba in both an almost “Blue Note” reading of Toninho Horta’s “Mocidade” and in the standout “Jogral” (a track which has been regularly performed by popular composer Djavan) Filó Machado and José Neto’s roller coaster melody is taken to a full out grooving Samba in the masterful hands of percussionist Rogério Boccato while the band pushes the envelope with collective improvisation behind Mafalda’s spirited scatting to a wild ending that liberates the listener from the intensity of the driving beat.
Completing the list of great Brazilian composers, Mafalda includes an Italian version of “Un Altro Addio” by Toquinho/Vinicius de Moraes and “É Preciso Perdoar” by Alcevando Luz/Carlos Coqueijo which is kicked off with John Coltrane’s “Lonnie’s Lament” as both themes seem to be woven from the same soulful fabric of jazz and afro Brazilian colors.
In the words of Mafalda “the process and selection of the songs represent the feelings that flow through me from the energy that Brazilian music creates in both a physical and sensorial manner that goes beyond singing … it’s like a vocal dance involving all the senses, maybe 5 aren’t enough. I’m certain that in the horizons, in the animals and fruits, in the colors and smells that are Brazil, there is a language here, both in me and in these great songs. The great act of liberty for me was to run free through these songs and with the help of these great musicians …I closed my eyes in the studio and saw it all again in a life’s story across cultures.”
More about Mafalda Minnozzi
Born in Pavia, Italy, Mafalda Minnozzi is a charismatic singer and composer who over her career has melded her vocal virtuosity with jazz in an individual sound that evokes standing ovations from audiences and impresses critics on an ever expanding international level. Her trajectory from clubs and TV in Rome to Rio De Janeiro launched an over 20 year career in Brazil that includes prestigious collaborations with Milton Nascimento, Leny Andrade, André Mehmari, Guinga, Hugo Fattoruso, Filó Machado, Martinho da Vila, Toquinho and so many others. Her resume includes TV shows, 15 CDs, 2 DVDs, film and TV soundtracks as both singer and composer, S. American jazz festivals and shows throughout Brazil in its most prestigious venues. At the same time, she has performed in major Italian jazz festivals often with her “eMPathia Jazz Duo” project with Paul Ricci, and has recently brought her NY band on an Italian jazz festival tour previewing the release of Sensorial, garnering her acclaim in JAZZIT magazine’s top 10 vocalists two years in a row in 2018 and 2019.
In NY, she has been making her name at Birdland, Mezzrow’s and Zinc bar among other venues over these last 3 years. A growing fan base and buzz from NY’s great players have made each of her appearances an event as the scene integrates with and embraces Mafalda Minnozzi’s style.
for Cinema City – Jazz Scenes from Italian Film
The acclaimed vocalist Mafalda Minnozzi's latest record Cinema City - Jazz Scenes from Italian Film intimately unveils a new side of the artist as she explores the Italian cinematic songbook. Jazz music has long taken cues from the silver screen. Read this review here.
"Perhaps launching a new direction for cabaret music, this set of sophisticated adult pop with jazz under pinning is a real ear opener for anyone looking for travel well beyond the ordinary." Read the review here.
NEW YORK MUSIC DAILY
"Count this as one of the most strikingly original releases of 2021." Read the full review here.
"Her creations are romantic, as these cinematic flavours so often are.." Read the complete review here.
RAUL DA GAMA
LATIN JAZZ NET
"..this is warmly compassionate music, which positively glows with its soaring, beautifully arched melodic lines, sung with seductive ingenuity by Miss Minnozzi.." Read the review here.
for Sensorial – Portraits in Bossa & Jazz
RAUL DA GAMA
LATIN JAZZ NETWORK
Somehow it seemed appropriate to want to know more about how this came to be so we talked at some length about her music, the music of Sensorial and of her love for Brasil… and for life in general. Read this interview here.
GEORGE W. HARRIS
"While making it sound easy with the Samba Songbook, she could probably make a guy sweat reading the phone book!" Read this full review here.
"Loaded with enough freedom of spirit not to be held back at any twists and turns, enjoy it as forward thinking world beat that refuses to let you down. Sounds like Jobim left enough white space to take his stuff well into the future." Read this full review here.
MAKING A SCENE
"This rich, sensual, relaxing music is a treat for the senses, made that much more appealing by the videos that accompany the selections – as they say, “for your viewing and listening pleasure.” Read the full article here.
The always expressive vocalist Mafalda Minnozzi has released a new album! Aptly titled Sensorial - Portraits in Bossa & Jazz, this dynamic new album showcases the charismatic Italian singer at her best as she explores the Bossa Nova songbook through her individualistic lens. Read the full article here.
TRAVIS RODGERS JR
THE JAZZ OWL
"Mafalda Minnozzi has brought forward everything she learned and enjoyed in her sojourn in Brazil. Under the musical direction of Paul Ricci and the talent of Art Hirahara and the others, Sensorial: Portraits in Bossa & Jazz breathes fresh life into music we have loved for so long." Read the full review here.
RAUL DA GAMA
LATIN JAZZ NETWORK
"Anyone who thinks that this hyperbole is itself unwarranted and over-the-top has only to listen to Miss Minnozzi interpret the aforementioned song and then follow that up with a wordless and breathy, version of Djavan’s “Jogral” to listen to just how Miss Minnozzi can perform the most incredible vocalastics… And to follow that up with the most evocative version of Jobim’s “Dindi” from an inspired, exceptionally bluesy arrangement certainly makes all of this music to absolutely die for." Read the full review here.
LA HABITACIÓN DEL JAZZ
"Domina el scat y el vocalese y nos traslada a los mejores momentos de la música brasileña un tanto olvidada en Europa desde hace muchos años. Se echaba de menos un disco de estas características." Lea esta reseña aquí.
CANCIÓN A QUEMARROPA
"Con su selección de pistas inspirada en la estética de Gil Evans, João Gilberto y Roberto Murolo, Sensorial no solo muestra la técnica y el espíritu inconfundibles de Mafalda Minnozzi, sino que presenta una colección de arreglos cargados de emociones que parten de su carrera multicultural en Sudamérica, Italia y Nueva York Ciudad." Lea esta reseña aquí.
"La brillante producción del guitarrista neoyorquino Paul Ricci (colaborador de Astrud y Bebel Gilberto, y de Hugo Fattoruso, entre otros) permite en Sensorial: Portraits in Bossa & Jazz un asombroso despliegue de la voz de Minnozzi y le da libre albedrío a la inventiva del resto de la banda, sobre esta serie de composiciones, algunas clásicas y otras menos transitadas, de Jobim y Vinicius de Moraes, de Baden Powell y de Chico Buarque." Lea esta reseña aquí.
Italian vocalist Mafalda Minnozzi will release Sensorial – Portraits in Bossa & Jazz, on July 20. Here, she revisits and reimagines classics and lesser-known works of the Brazilians songbook, blending bossa with the dynamism of jazz and a pinch of Italian romanticism. Read the full article here.
ROOTS MUSIC REPORT
"This album truly is a sensory experience with Mafalda’s incandescent vocals evoking tranquil feelings, pleasant sights and comforting sounds." Read this full review here.