Elvis Bossa Nova
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Elvis Bossa Nova

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Band Jazz Avant-garde


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"An Elvis cover band like none other"

An Elvis cover band like none other

The band releases its first disc on Friday, Elvis's 75th birthday

J.D. Considine

From Thursday's Globe and Mail Published on Wednesday, Jan. 06, 2010 4:23PM EST Last updated on Thursday, Jan. 07, 2010 2:28AM EST

On a certain level, Elvis Bossa Nova is the perfect band name. As guitarist James Robertson puts it, “It embodies everything that we're trying to do, and the simplicity of it is great. In terms of explaining ourselves to anybody, it's exactly what it is. And it has a nice ring to it.”

At the same time, the glibness of the name undercuts the music a bit, because there's more to Elvis Bossa Nova than just Elvis Presley tunes played in a bossa nova style.

Strictly speaking, there's only one actual bossa nova on the band's debut disc, Hi, I'm Elvis Bossa Nova , which is released on Friday and is the band's version of Blue Moon . “There are only so many bossa novas you can play in a night,” says Robertson, over brunch with bassist Brian Kobayakawa in Toronto's Little Portugal.

“Especially if you're a bunch of guys who don't play a lot of bossa nova.”

Instead of setting everything to the same sinuous Brazilian pulse, the band draws from a broader palette of Latin rhythms. Not only does that add rhythmic variety to the music, it keeps the album from sounding like the product of a one-joke band.

That's important, given that Elvis Bossa Nova started off as a goof. Three years ago, Robertson and Kobayakawa were playing the Dakota Tavern with a now-defunct band called Palomino.

On the jukebox was the original Sun recording of Elvis Presley covering the bluegrass ballad Blue Moon , a recording Robertson considers “the greatest thing” in recorded music.

“I'd put it up there with Beethoven, the second movement of his Third Symphony , and What a Wonderful World , the Louis Armstrong version,” he says. “I think it's that good.”

They decided to take a crack at the tune themselves, but rather than merely try to imitate Elvis, they asked themselves what could they do to have fun with the tune? “Bossa nova seemed like a good idea to put to that particular song,” he says, and the idea for the band was born.

In addition to Kobayakawa, who is also part of the Creaking Tree String Quartet, Robertson corralled three others from the city's vibrant jazz and folk scenes. There's vibraphonist Michael Davidson from the band Hobson's Choice; drummer Jake Oelrichs, who like Robertson is in Run with the Kittens; and percussionist Roman Tomé, who has recorded with jazz singer/pianist Elizabeth Shepherd.

As de facto leader, it was up to Robertson to pick the tunes and forge the arrangements, a task for which he had an unexpected advantage: near-complete ignorance of Elvis and bossa nova.

“I didn't know the first thing about Latin music,” he says, laughing. “Or, really, about Elvis music. So I had no idea what I was doing.”

Because they arrived at the music with limited preconceptions, the five avoided the trap of sticking too close to their sources, which in turn allowed Elvis Bossa Nova to flower into something strikingly original. “In the initial stages, we were worried about it sounding like proper Latin music,” says Kobayakawa. “Since then, it has just become about trying to make good music, whether that influence is in there or not.”

Of course, given the enduring potency of Elvis Presley's music and mythos, the EBN crew have encountered more than a few folks who don't quite get the concept. “When we first started, at least once a week someone would call up and ask, ‘Well, do they ever have a singer?' Thinking that we might be a karaoke band,” says Robertson.

“I don't worry about it,” he adds. “I get excited by the way people instinctively respond to this band. It's fun seeing people react.”

Elvis Bossa Nova performs in Toronto on Friday at the Lula Lounge and every Sunday at The Local Pub.
- The Globe & Mail

"Cha-cha-cha that breaks the rules - 4 Stars"

Brad Wheeler

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail Published on Tuesday, Jan. 05, 2010 11:10AM EST Last updated on Thursday, Jan. 07, 2010 2:27AM EST

Hi, I'm Elvis Bossa Nova!

* Elvis Bossa Nova!
* Independent

Elvis Presley is all shook up, and more. On a dynamic new album by a high-flying Toronto garage-jazz troupe, Elvis is celebrated,smartly investigated and, at times, rendered almost unrecognizable. “My boy, my boy!” the King's sad-eyed mama might despair, “what have they done with my boy?”

What Elvis Bossa Nova! has done is transform material made famous by rock ‘n' roll's greatest hero into something daring again. Presley hasn't been this fresh since he romanced the 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu in 1959. The Memphis leg-shaker would have been 75 on Friday, the non-coincidental release date of Hi, I'm Elvis Bossa Nova! The group's name and album title notwithstanding, this colourful eight-song interpretation isn't strictly based in bossa nova. Sure, there are cha-cha-cha rhythms, but there are no rules: What happens in oft-covered Viva Las Vegas does not stay at all in Las Vegas, and neither does it simply keep to Buenos Aires. The track starts in a relaxed manner, with choppy jazz chords from the resourceful guitarist James Robertson and the accenting vibraphone of Michael Davidson – these guys are this album's co-stars. Davidson then ripples across his instrument, before slowing down to strike round notes that plunk like ice cubes in a highball. The tempo accelerates; here comes a brief drum workout; wait for the surf guitar; and dig those burping six-string riffs, in the style of another inquiring guitarist Kevin Breit.

Speaking of Breit, this project should draw comparison to his Sisters Euclid's Run, Neil Run , a Neil Young cover album similar to Hi, I'm Elvis Bossa Nova! in that it employs no singing and uses well-known material as departure points for follow-us-if-you-dare flights. The melodic romantic croon of Are You Lonesome Tonight , for example, is replaced by the vibraphone, accompanied by smooth slide guitar and a slow dance between Brian Kobayakawa's stand-up bass and the drum toms of Jake Oelrichs.

To be clear: If you're a snarled-lip Presley traditionalist or a vibraphone-hater, this album isn't for you.

And another thing: This is a fun listen, but not a novelty. Let me tell you, Ito Eats , with its tasty calypso grooves and a spacey middle-part jam, is decidedly not the overly carefree 1961 Blue Hawaii original.

Things close exquisitely with the Rodgers and Hart ballad Blue Moon , done as a polyrhythmic lullaby.

On the 1954 recording of Milkcow Blue Boogie , Presley told his band mates that the too-smooth version wasn't working. “Let's get real, real gone for a change,” he instructs, before striking up a livelier pace. Now, he gets real gone again. Thank you, Elvis Boss Nova, thank you very much.

Elvis Bossa Nova! says Hi, I'm Elvis Bossa Nova! at Toronto's Lula Lounge on Friday (416-588-0307).
- Globe & Mail

"Q on CBC Radio One and Bolt TV"

You can download the show at http://www.cbc.ca/q/pastepisodes.html - CBC


"Elvis Bossa Nova is way too good. It should not be humanly possible. Just letting you know."

- Stacey McLeod, Nighlife Editor, Toronto.com - Toronto.com


Elvis Bossa Nova - November 2009

It is illegal to mow your lawn if you are dressed like Elvis in Switzerland.



"What Elvis Bossa Nova! has done is transform material made famous by rock ‘n' roll's greatest hero into something daring again. 4 (out of 4) Stars" - The Globe & Mail

Elvis Bossa Nova! began as an experiment. The idea was to re-imagine classic Elvis tunes with an eclectic instrumentation, and an interesting mix of musical personalities. They blend the rock, jazz, latin, bluegrass, country, classical and improv musical traditions. Did anyone mention it's all Elvis?

Some of the songs are instantly recognizable, while others have the king hiding out somewhere around the corner with the rest of the surprises. On the tour of Graceland they don't let you see the upstairs of the house. This band knows what's up there.

The result of this experiment has been a fluid, dynamic mish-mash of various musical styles. It's new life breathed into some classic music, and above all else an exciting live show.

The unique instrumentation of vibraphone, electric guitar, percussion, drums and bass provides a rich palette of places for the group to navigate. Their ability to embrace the moment, and constantly search for new sounds always creates a palpable energy keeping audiences on the edge of their seat or the tips of their toes.

Over the past two years the band has played every Sunday night at The Local Pub in Toronto. This regular performance has helped the group develop an extremely tight sound with an almost telepathic musical sensitivity amongst them.

It's evident nowhere more than on their debut album, Hi, I’m Elvis Bossa Nova! recorded in February 2009, and released August 28th, 2009.

Guitarist James Robertson is not only responsible for the face-melting guitar playing, but also the astounding arrangements. James is best known as a founding member of Run With The Kittens, and plays guitar with many different bands.

Vibraphonist Michael Davidson does things you didn't know a vibraphone could do. You still don't know it can do some of them, even after he does them. Michael also composes for and co-leads the group Hobson's Choice, and is busy in Toronto's jazz scene.

Percussionist Roman Tomé brings an astounding assortment of instruments and sounds to EBN. He rocked arenas and stadiums with Grindig, and currently plays with Juno winner Elizabeth Shepherd, and many others.

Drummer Jake Oelrichs is the engine that drives the myriad rhythmic ideas of an EBN set. Also a member of Run With The Kittens, Jake is busy in the improv and jazz scenes of Toronto, including paying his tuition at St. Dirt Elementary School.

Bassist Brian Kobayakawa holds it down and sometimes ramps it up. Brian is a member of chamber-grass award winners The Creaking Tree String Quartet, among others.