Information about Sambeleza!
“… sveltely swinging Brazilian jazz … bosses of bossa nova …”
Owen McNally, Hartford Courant
Isabella Mendes, piano & vocals • Jeff Fuller, bass & vocals • Joe Carter, guitar
Sambeleza derives its name from two words: samba, the national dance of Brasil, and beleza, Portuguese for 'beauty'. The group came into being in 2009 as the combined brainchild of vocalist and São Paulo native Isabella Mendes, Brazilian guitar specialist Joe Carter and jazz bassist Jeff Fuller. Together they had the idea to perform and pay homage to the great songs by Brazilian composers - from past to the present - with their own originals added to the mix. The group has performed widely in Connecticut at festivals - including New Haven's International Festival of Arts & Ideas, Middletown Summer Sounds, the New Haven Jazz Festival, and Neighborhood Music School Twilight Tuesdays - nightclubs, restaurants, and public libraries.
The country of Brasil (spelled with 's' in Portuguese) is well known for its rich heritage - a blend of indigenous, African and European cultures - from which the music has risen with fascinating rhythms, soaring melodies and colorful harmonies. Sambeleza creates tapestries of guitars, percussion and vocals in both Portuguese and English to interweave the rhythms, harmonies and melodies of bossa nova and samba with exciting jazz improvisation. A typical concert may feature Tom Jobim’s “Girl From Ipanema” but will also include lesser-known songs, like “Discussão” or “Fotografía.” A ballad from Ivan Lins, like “Começar de Novo,” will be juxtaposed with his first hit song, “Madalena.”
Brazilian jazz is represented in the group’s repertoire by such composers as João Donato (“A Rã,” “Amazonas”), and Mauricio Einhorn (“Batida Diferente,” “Influencia do Jazz”). Music from MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira) artists may include “Num Corpo Só” from Maria Rita, “Da Licença” from Dani & Debora Gurgel, or “Flor de Lis” from Djavan. For good measure, the group adds some touches of more exotic rhythms such as baião, afoxe, samba-canção and a hint of choro.
The musicians of Sambeleza are outstanding U. S. and Brazilian interpreters of the great songs of these traditions, as well as outstanding jazz artists in their own right. Joe Carter on guitar and Jeff Fuller on bass have been creatively exploring the two worlds for many years, and the relatively younger Isabella Mendes, on keyboards and vocals, lends her soulful voice and fiery piano skills to the group’s appeal. Sambeleza frequently enjoys performing with guest artists of the highest caliber. Rounding out the groups sound from time to time have been Ali Ryerson (flute), Paul Lieberman (flute, sax), Adriano Santos or Ben Bilello (drums), Zé Mauricio or Nanny Assis (percussion). The group also did a memorable series of concerts with the Haven String Quartet.