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An interview with Paula Morelenbaum

May 13, 2011 – Singer Paula Morelenbaum will perform June 14 and 15, 2011 at Yoshi's Jazz Club in Oakland, California, so we thought this would be a good time to reach into our archives and run the interview Randy Morse did with Paula in December 2004 for The Best of Brazil radio program. Randy asked Paula about her new release, Berimbaum. They also talked about Vinícius de Moraes, Tom Jobim, Celso Fonseca, and Paula's husband – cellist, composer and maestro Jaques Morelenbaum. Paula's most recent albums are Telecoteco (2008), Bossarenova (2009) and, with João Donato, Água (2010).

Randy: Berimbaum is a wonderful CD. I'm surprised I like it so much because I usually don't like electronica. But on Berimbaum the layered electronic sounds and samples are tasteful and imaginative. And your voice is so beautiful, better than ever. I have followed your career from Céu da Boca to Banda Nova to Quarteto Jobim Morelenbaum to Morelenbaum2/Sakamoto. The sound of this CD is so different from your previous work. What inspired you to go in a new direction on Berimbaum?

Paula Morelenbaum. Paula Morelenbaum Paula: Thank you Randy! I really wanted to make something different than I'd been doing in the latest albums I did. I don't know if you know, but in 1993 I released my first solo album, Paula Morelenbaum – very pop with songs by Gilberto Gil, Rita Lee and other pop brazilian composers, including The man I love by Gershwin in a bossa nova groove. Very cool! Berimbaum is my second solo album, and for the second time when I was alone, I wanted to invest in pop music, something modern, this time, mixing acoustic music with electronic.

Randy: Five great arrangers contributed to Berimbaum. Why did you decide to work with so many different arrangers rather than just one or two?

Paula: I began the concept of Berimbaum with Antonio Pinto. I talked to him about mixing acoustic and electronic in these works by Vinícius de Moraes, and he began doing an arrangement for Berimbau (the song). At the end of this arrangement, I was very happy, but I decided to invite more arrangers to amplify the possibilities that these amazing guys could create.

Berimbaum CD cover. Berimbaum Randy: I like every song on Berimbaum, so it's hard for me to choose my favorite track. I'm crazy about the beginning of Consolação and I love Jaques' string arrangement on Medo de Amar. What's your favorite track and what do you especially like about it?

Paula: For me, it's difficult too. I love Tomara, especially because of the beginning with that sample of an old recording of a bossa nova beat. I love also Insensatez, because this is – in my opinion – the most beautiful song of the partnership of A.C. Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes. And the cello also is so beautiful. I love also Medo de Amar, Consolação, Canto de Ossanha – very danceable. It's impossible to me to tell you one favorite track. I think every one has a special, particular relevance.

Randy: You and Celso Fonseca sound so beautiful singing together on Primavera. I'd like to hear you sing more duets with him. Is there any chance you will make an album together?

Paula: It's funny, but I never thought about it, although I also love that duet. Celso is a terrific singer, very charming. Another curiosity is that he released Slow Motion Bossa Nova at the same time I was releasing Casa with Jaques and Ryuichi Sakamoto. On one occasion, we met and he told me that he was crazy about Casa and was listening to it all day long, every day. And I told him the same about Slow Motion – that I was listening to his album every day. And in Berimbaum I could put our voices together.

Jaques and Paula Morelenbaum & João Donato. Jaques & Paula with João Donato Randy: I think Vinícius would have loved this album. What do you especially like about his song lyrics?

Paula: Thanks! One day somebody asked me if I thought that A.C.Jobim would have liked Berimbaum, and my answer was that I didn't do this album thinking about Jobim. I did Berimbaum thinking about Vinícius, and I'm sure that he would have loved it! Vinícius' poems and lyrics are full of passion, elegance, very unique. Many times they are political, and synthesize a style of being Brazilian, especially carioca. Also, it's amazing that his words – most of which he wrote in the '60s – are contemporary, eternal.

Randy: Who thought of the wonderful title, Berimbaum?

Paula: This pun was my idea. Berimbau was the first song I recorded in this album. So, one day I woke up with this idea.

Randy: We are remembering our beloved Tom Jobim this month on the tenth anniversary of his death. You worked with Tom for many years. What's your favorite memory of him?

Paula Morelenbaum. Paula Paula: Everything with Jobim was very impressive!!!! To arrive in his house for the first time, for the first rehearsal and to be in front of him in an incredible, intimate atmosphere was unforgettable! Ten years of joy to be alive with Jobim so close!!! He was an incredible person, very generous, a gentleman, very funny, and very sensitive. I didn't know Vinícius de Moraes personally. I just know him through Antonio Carlos Jobim's eyes who was his close friend. Jobim used to tell us many funny stories about Vinícius' Bohemian way of life. And also he told it with respect for the artist and creator that was Vinícius, and showed us how it had a big influence for his art.

Randy: May I have your permission to ask a personal question? Throughout your career, you and Jaques have worked together as a musical team so often, which I think is unusual for a husband and wife. How did you and Jaques meet?

Paula: Before I sang in the vocal group Céu da Boca, I was part of a chorus in a school of music. The conductor of the chorus was Jaques Morelenbaum. And it was in this chorus that I met him for the first time. I was very young, somewhere around 14 years old, and of course we didn't date at that time. This happened many years later.

Randy: Finally, have you been thinking about your next project? What will it be?

Paula: Yes, I have two very cool projects. One is to record a DVD of my concert Berimbaum with more songs than in the album, inviting the producers/musicians to play. And the other... well, the other – it's a surprise. You'll have to wait.


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