The Cliff Korman Ensemble
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The Cliff Korman Ensemble


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The best kept secret in music


"Cliff Korman and the Brazilian Tinge: Migrations"

Pianist, arranger, composer, producer and educator, Cliff Korman is unstoppable when it comes to Brazilian music. As a pianist, he has been featured in a number of recordings with artists both north and south of the Equator. In 1999, together with Paulo Moura, Korman released Mood Ingênuo: Pixinguinha Meets Duke Ellington. That live album treated us to a make-believe world showcasing what it would have been like if Pixinguinha and Duke Ellington had ever met. Then in Carlos Malta's 2000 Pimenta, Korman left listeners wanting more of his duet with Malta. Together they "reinvented" Jobim's classic "Garota de Ipanema," and it is still one of my favorite instrumental renditions of that song. In 2001, back together with Paulo Moura, Korman released Gafieira Dance Brasil, an album that relived the golden era of gafieira, another of Brazil's traditional and sensual dances. As an arranger and producer, Korman is responsible for Chuck Mangione's The Feeling Is Back and Ana Caram's Blue Bossa, for example. He was also a guest performer in Gerry Mulligan's Paraíso, Toninho Horta's Foot on the Road and Ana Caram's Maracanã and Bossa Nova albums, just to name a few. In the middle of all of this, he still finds time to teach at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, the School of Music of Brasília as well as the City College of New York and Drummers Collective in New York City.

Migrations is Korman's new album and another example of his long involvement with Brazilian music and, in particular, with choro. Working with Korman in Migrations we have the Brazilian Tinge, a dream team of musicians. Featured in this album are Billy Drewes (clarinet, sax), Luis Bonilla (trombone), Rob Curto (accordion), Andy Eulau (bass), Henrique Cazes (cavaquinho), Marcello Gonçalves (7-string acoustic guitar), Vanderlei Pereira (drums), Café (percussion), Beto Cazes (percussion), Cida Moreira (voice) and a chorus comprised of Murí Costa, Jane Balzana, Eduardo Ferrer, Malu von Krüger, Eliza Lacerda and Juliana Rubim. Arranging all music and on piano we have Cliff Korman, the force behind Migrations.

The album concept, according to Korman, was "inspired by Sebastião Salgado's photographic exhibition of the same name" in New York. Korman expressed in music the various themes associated with that exhibit. The way Korman blended his personal experiences with those of Salgado's exhibit and also Chiquinha Gonzaga's music creates the recording we are given here. About the entire experience of composing, improvising and using returning citations, Korman said the following:

"From the initial recorded tracks I created a sonic palette to which I limited myself as I layered secondary parts and improvisations. This process was not completely predetermined but shaped itself as I delved into the work. The underlying motion between cultures, identities, times, and the motion within a linguistic expression (in this case musical) does not run just linearly but also on vertical, simultaneous channels."

The idea of using Chiquinha Gonzaga's anthem "Abre Alas" as a returning citation in different arrangements serves as a common thread to a variety of themes Korman explores musically: choro, ciranda and dance. What is most remarkable about this creation is how smoothly Korman travels from one number to the next. From the overture, "Entrance: Abre Alas," Korman suddenly switches to "Chorondo," a soft, swinging choro in which Korman's fast piano solo plays along with Pereira's delightful drums and (Beto) Cazes' solid percussion. After a climatic piano solo, half way through the melody, the danceable choro is back with the reeds taking the solo lines. The interlude "Cavaquinho" serves as a preamble to another Gonzaga piece featured in Migrations, "Corta Jaca." Before playing that number, Korman and (Henrique) Cazes softly set the tone to a magnificent entrance by Curto's accordion in the first part of "Corta Jaca." Accordion and piano then share the rest of the melody. This is a powerful, bold arrangement. Without wasting a single moment of precision, "Abre Alas 6/8" is outstanding. In less than a minute, Korman takes your breath away in that daring and effective arrangement. The title track starts off with Drewes's clarinet solo highlighted by sparse piano notes and chords. Soon after this brief introduction, the choro ensemble comes together and sweeps you away with a melody that evokes the best of traditional choro in some of Rio de Janeiro's old dance halls in the early 20th century. Drewes reigns throughout this track. Once again Drewes will be featured in the children's song "Pobre Cega." Here, however, in addition to Drewes and Korman "crying" solos, the haunting voice of Cida Moreira recites these powerful verses:
Pobre Cega, por que chora ela
Assim tanto estes seus olhos?
Não, meus olhos não choram...
São as lágrimas que choram
Com saudades dos meus olhos. Poor blind woman, why do
Your eyes cry so?
No, my eyes are no crying...
It is - Egidio Leitão

"Migrations-Cliff Korman"

Cliff Korman

(Planet Arts)*** 1/2

New York-based pianist, composer and arranger Korman, co-author of "Inside the Brazilian Rhythm Section," here creates a fascinating alternate world where choro ("to cry" in Portuguese) -- melancholy Portuguese melodies underpinned by African rhythms -- and other Brazilian dance forms blend with jazz improvisation. The expert Brazilian-tinged band boasts saxophonist and clarinetist Billy Drewes, trombonist Luis Bonilla, accordionist Rob Curto, percussionists Beto Cazes and Café, Henrique Cazes on cavaquinho (Portuguese guitar), a vocal chorus of six, and several more.

Floating on samba, bossa-nova-like or occasionally march rhythms, Korman's melodies often connected by brief repetitions of a haunting theme by choro pioneer Chiquinha Gonzaga -- convey a deep nostalgia. Drewes' clarinet gets to the heart of that sound on the choro "Migrations." Jazzier moments are a terrific Korman solo on "Chorondo"; the bouncy interlude "Pandeiro/Caixeta"; free-floating Drewes sax on "Pobre Cega"; and the playful "Domingo a Noite com Café. A must-hear for Brazilian-jazz aficionados.

- Newark Star Ledger, Jill McManus

"Cliff Korman and the Brazilian Tinge: Migrations"

Cliff Korman, an American jazz pianist who has spent a great deal of time in Brazil over the last 20 years, has composed and recorded a long-form suite, "Migrations" (Planet Arts). One of Mr. Korman's areas of expertise is choro, a complex, jazzlike music that started in Brazil in the late 19th century and that features a lot of counterpoint and improvisation. At this point, choro is part of the past, and a vehicle for a modern jazz composer's imagination: a way to go backward and forward at the same time. Mr. Korman has used bits of a piece written in 1899 by the composer Francisca Gonzaga and woven them into his original music the way dreams mix the real and the invented; with groups that expand and contract in size, the mood shifts from carnival to classical to jazz. - Ben Ratliff, New York Times

"Cliff Korman and the Brazilian Tinge: Migrations"

JazzTimes 35th Anniversary Issue
July/August 2005

Migrations (Planet Arts)

“The group assembled here...produce more than a tinge of Brazilian…it is a canvas of thick Portuguese pigmentations thanks to Korman's arrangements and some exotic percussion… variations on Chiquinha Gonzaga’s haunting theme “Abre Alas” show up in short introspective interludes for Korman's solo piano as well as marchlike accompaniments to carnival parades, the latter with obbligatos by clarinetist Billy Drewes and trombonist Luis Bonilla. The delightful choro called "Chorondo" literally floats, bossalike, over Korman's best straightahead jazz playing.
Migrations is a very colorful album”

- Harvey Siders, Jazz Times

"Cliff Korman and the Brazilian Tinge: Migrations"

September 2005

“...Using familiar folk themes and children’s songs, Korman moves through a collage of musical images. Sambas celebrate Rio’s outdoor gatherings, while Tangoesque portraits with accordion celebrate the country’s earlier heritage. Billy Drewes, Luis Bonilla, and Andy Eulau turn in fascinating solo work, while Korman’s piano serves as the glue that holds everything together. “Migrations” spotlights clarinet and piano in a romantic affair that ignores the hardships encountered in uprooting one’s home, and emphasizes instead all of the positive feelings that grow stronger every day.”

- Jim Santella, Cadence


Migrations (Planet Arts 2004)
Gafieira Dance Brasil (independent 2000)
Bossa Jazz (independent, Brasil, 2001)


As Leader
“Migrations” (Planet Arts, 2004)
Cliff Korman and the Brazilian Tinge
“Bossa Jazz” vol 1, 2 (independent, 2003, 2001)
“Gafieira Dance Brasil” (independent, 2000)
Brazilian Ballroom dance w/ Paulo Moura

"Mood Ingênuo: Pixinguinha Meets Duke Ellington” (Jazzheads, 1999)
duo w/ Grammy Award winner Paulo Moura

As Arranger/Producer

“Entre Amigos” (Chesky 2003)
Pairs Brazilian vocalist Rosa Passos with American bassist Ron Carter

“The Feeling’s Back” (Chesky 1999)
Chuck Mangione with Brazilian/Latin grooves

“Blue Bossa” (Chesky 2001)
Brazilian vocalist Ana Caram

“I Thought About You” (Chesky 1997)
Jazz vocalist Christy Baron

As Sideman

Jon Lucien
“By Request” (Shanachie, 1999)
Astrud Gilberto
“Jungle” (2002)
Temperance” (Pony Canyon, 1997)

Toninho Horta
“Foot On The Road” (Verve Forecast, 1995)
Gerry Mulligan
“Paraiso” (Telarc, 1993)


Feeling a bit camera shy


THE CLIFF KORMAN ENSEMBLE is a multi-faceted project that spans from performance and recording to developing academic curricula on Improvisation, Ensemble Performance Techniques, and Brazilian Jazz, The group has appeared in various incarnations since 1996, in the United States, Portugal, and Brazil. Current personnel includes Billy Drewes (tenor and soprano sax, clarinet); Luis Bonilla (trombone); Uri Sharlin (accordion); Rob Moose (violin, mandolin) Andy Eulau (bass); Vanderlei Pereira (drums); Edson da Silva (percussion); Cliff Korman (piano, composer, arranger). Recent performances include The Vila Celimontan Jazz and Image Festival (Rome, Italy: August, 2005), The Jazz Gallery (New York City: March 2005), Trumpets (Montclair, NJ: October 2004), Cornelia Street Café (New York City: March, 2004), Berklee College of Music (Boston: October 2003), Manhattan School of Music (New York City: November 2003), Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia: July 2002). The group has appeared under the guise of “The Brazilian Tinge” for a number of performances and on the 2004 release Migrations.
The ensemble considers the sound and inclinations of each member of the group, and uses the resultant colors and interplay as inspiration to germinate and develop ideas. We've recently begun to work with open structures; we begin with arranged themes and interludes, and allow the improvisations to evolve over an undetermined time frame and harmonic sequence. We seek to provide “soundscapes” that will provide an environment in which each individual in the group can explore and develop his personal language and participate in creating a collective voice.

Pianist, Arranger, Composer, Producer, Educator

An accomplished jazz pianist and highly regarded educator, Cliff Korman likes to say that twenty years of immersion in the musical universe of Brasil sheds a different light on the way he looks at American jazz. He has developed numerous jazz projects featuring Brazilian and American musicians and presenting a variety of original compositions and arrangements. His understanding of the diversity of sound, instrumentation and harmonic patterns of Brazilian music of the twentieth century enables him to continuously explore the complex interconnections that link the music of the Americas.

Korman has performed as a soloist and co-leader in New York venues such as Birdland, The Knickerbocker Bar and Grill, and Lincoln Center, and in Italy at the Cantar da Costa Festival of Brazilian Music and Culture. He toured with vocalist Astrud Gilberto from 1989-94, and for many years has participated in important Brazilian projects such as the “Tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim” at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Cesar Camargo Mariano and a two-piano production with Wagner Tiso and Milton Nascimento at the International Festival of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira) in São Paulo. He has produced and arranged a number of Brazilian Jazz CD’s including Chuck Mangione’s “The Feeling’s Back” and “Entre Amigos”, a project featuring vocalist Rosa Passos and bassist Ron Carter.

His newest release is the recording “Migrations” (Planet Arts, 2004), an aural representation of the mark Brazilian music and culture have made on his compositions and improvisational language. His duo record “Mood Ingênuo: The Dream of Pixinguinha and Duke Ellington”(Jazzheads 1999) with Grammy Award winner Paulo Moura represents one of the first cross-cultural explorations of jazz and choro. Their 2000 recording “Gafieira Dance Brasil” pays homage to the dance roots of the instrumental and improvisational tradition of Brazilian music.

Cliff holds a Master of Arts in Jazz Performance from the City College of New York, where he trained with Roland Hanna, Ron Carter and Kenny Barron. He regularly teaches courses and seminars on Jazz Piano, Jazz Theory, Improvisation, Rhythm Section Skills, and Brazilian Instrumental Music at institutions including City College, the Escola de Música of Brasilia, The Collective and the New School. He is currently a candidate for the Doctorate of Musical Arts in Jazz Studies at the Manhattan School of Music.

Korman’s research in the fields of Jazz and Brazilian music has received prestigious recognition, including a Fulbright Lecture/Research grant in Brasil, the invitation by the Society for American Music to deliver a paper on the music of Thelonious Monk, the publication of an article on the same topic in the Annual Review of Jazz Studies, and the invitation to present his lecture Jazz & Brazilian Instrumental Music: Common Roots, Divergent Paths at the Jazz Research Roundtable at Rutgers University. He is co-author of the instructional book “Inside the Brazilian Rhythm Section” (Sher Music 2002).