ADI BRAUN, THE MODERNE FRAU

Sept 18, 2017

Schmopera Online Blog

Jenna Simeonov

 

Canadian jazz and cabaret singer Adi Braun has released her fifth album, Adi Braun - Moderne Frau, which pays impressive homage to the unmistakable music of Weimar Berlin. Between the two World Wars (1918-1933), Berlin was a buzzing place for the arts and sciences, for intellectuals and innovators; the cabaret scene was strong, and largely fuelled by women.

In Moderne Frau, Braun features the music of leading German composers Kurt Weill, Franz Grothe, and Mischa Spoliansky; also on the album are three original songs, all of which are catchy, touching, and uncannily stylish. Braun and her band have fun with this music, and it's hard to turn down a chance to hear a new voice bringing to life classics like "Mack the Knife", "Speak Low", and "Surabaya Johnny".

Ahead of her CD launch concert on October 22, 7:30pm at the RCM's Temerty Theatre, we spoke with Braun about the familiar political climate that inspired this music, and her fascination with the women of Weimar cabaret.

Why have you been so drawn to Weimar cabaret?

The Weimar era (1918 – 1933) was filled with great societal and artistic daring. For a relatively short period, Germans were freed from the constraints and censorship of the Wilhelmine Regime which had preceded this epoch. This freedom and emancipation of a people was felt in all sectors of life but most profoundly in the world of the arts. When I researched this era, I was astounded to find that women stood at the forefront of a unique movement and became trailblazers for the generations of female artists that would follow.

In German cabaret there was a push to offer songs that had strong social as well as artistic implications, often being very critical of the times. Composers, lyricists and performers worked closely together in order to create bold new works that were meant to elicit strong reactions from the public. There were many types of cabarets…socio-political ones, those that had more of a vaudevillian content, comedy cabarets and many others. Female vocalists were not only stars on cabaret stages but also had central roles behind the scenes as cabaret owners and managers, which was unthinkable before this time.

How do your original songs fit in with the musical and social aesthetic of the selections by Weill, Grothe & Spoliansky?

My title song Moderne Frau was inspired by the new advances that women experienced during the Weimar era and is laced with a good dose of humour. Josephine is dedicated to the great Josephine Baker who had become a big star in France and then Germany (Berlin) during the Weimar era as well. After being dismissed in her home country she found new footing and great admirers abroad. Her uninhibited performing style was a liberating experience for women who saw her on stage. Gestern is dedicated to forbidden love during Nazi Germany and tells of an imagined love story between a German non-Jewish woman and a German Jewish woman. In the advance of the Nazi regime during the early 1930's such a relationship would have been impossible to sustain.

Where do you think the unique sounds and materials of Weimar cabaret songs come from? How difficult is it to "recreate" that in a 21st-century environment?

Very good question. Any form of art is always influenced by the socio-political climate of its time. Certainly the freedom gained by the abolishing of the strict Wilhelmine regime was one part in creating a much more liberal and fertile ground for artistic expression. Yet with the rise of the Nazis artists saw and feared what was to come and expressed this in their works of art. The courage that performers had to give these often very risqué songs life is admirable.

I see quite a few parallels in our current political climate …extremism is on the rise and many people in this world still suffer from oppression. Sadly the struggle for freedom and equality is age-old and an ever repeating theme.

What are you most proud of in Moderne Frau?

So many things…top of the list would be the amazing creative collaboration I had with all of my musicians on the CD. Everyone had an open musical mind at all times and everyone brought the most wondrous musical gifts to this project. I am proud to have added three of my original songs to the mix and am planning on writing many more Weimar-inspired songs to perhaps one day create a musical.

Adi Braun brings to life former powerhouses

WhatsOn Aug 05, 2015 by Paige Phillips Parry Sound North Star

PARRY SOUND – On the eve of the civic long weekend, the Charles W. Stockey Centre was visited by three ghosts – or so it seemed.

On Friday evening, Adi Braun took to the Stockey stage to present “An Evening with Rosie, Judy, and Peggy!” as part of a performance for the Festival of the Sound’s 36th season. The performance paid tribute to three of the leading ladies of the 20th Century, Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland, and Peggy Lee.

“Throughout tonight you will hear songs that were signature songs for each of them and then some songs that a particular artist made famous,” said Braun.

Braun began the evening with her own rendition of Old Devil Moon, a song that was recorded by all three women – on Lee’s 1959 album Jump for Joy, Garland’s 1960 album That’s Entertainment!, and Clooney’s 1998 album accompanied by the Count Basie Orchestra At Long Last.

This hit was merely the first of many that were met with bobbing heads and tapping toes from the captivated audience, while others simply closed their eyes and felt the rhythm of the music.  

Braun requested some participation from the audience in a number of the pieces, including Lee’s You Gotta Have Heart and Fever, in which the audience snapped along to the melody.  

The Charles W. Stockey Centre has been described as an intimate venue by staff and audience members alike, a statement made obvious at Friday night’s performance, as Braun approached individuals seated in the orchestra along either side of the stage. Throughout various pieces, Braun danced her way over into close proximity of attendees, where they received their own personal performance.

Braun also dedicated one piece to her mother, who was in the audience, The Party’s Over, a song recorded by both Lee and Garland in 1959 and 1960 respectfully. Braun revealed to the audience that the song was a “big hit” of her mother’s, singing it while she was growing up in Germany, comments which were met with a glowing smile from her mother. Braun concluded the piece with, “I love you, mom,” while her mother, beaming, gently touched her chest and blew a kiss in Braun’s direction.

Stockey Centre

At least one member of the band had previously visited Parry Sound and performed at the Charles W. Stockey Centre. Daniel Barnes, who played the drums at Friday evening’s performance, revealed that he has a cottage in Muskoka and was somewhat familiar with the larger area. Barnes had also previously performed at the Stockey Centre earlier this year in June.

“I was here in June actually and performed Stand By Me: The Music of the Brill Building,” said Barnes. “We were pleasantly surprised when we showed up in June. It is a beautiful venue – a first class theatre.” Barnes is among the many performers who dub the Stockey Centre an “intimate” venue as he said that it feels like some audience members are right on the stage with him.

Braun echoed Barnes’ thoughts on the Stockey Centre, dubbing it “Ontario’s most beautiful theatre” with a “gorgeous stage” and “gorgeous sound” for which she thanked the sound crew in addition to thanking the audience for attending the evening’s performance.

Braun concluded the evening with a piece featuring some awe-inspiring whistling, which was met with some of the audience’s own whistling, cheers, and a standing ovation.

“It was a wonderful performance,” said attendee Sarah Glatt from Orillia. “I loved it – every minute.” Sarah’s husband, Ben, echoed his wife’s sentiments towards the evening’s performance.

“It was sensitive and most emotional,” said Ben. “And it was very intimate. We were basically on the stage looking out at the audience.”

The Glatts viewed the performance from one of the orchestra seats located directly to the right of the stage and were able to have an up-close view of Barnes playing the drums. Ben said that the two are supporters of many festivals and venues and are staunch supporters of the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto.

Paul Emond and his wife, who had traveled from Muskoka for the Friday performance, missed the first five minutes of the show due to a wrong turn but thoroughly enjoyed the show. Emond described the evening as “wonderful, inspiring, uplifting, and fabulous.”

The Festival’s 36th season comes to a wrap this weekend with the Opera Gala on Saturday evening and Rising Stars on Sunday afternoon.

For information on other Festival events, including ticket sales, visit: www.festivalofthesound.ca

 

 

Adi Braun's Defining Moment

Adi Braun @ The Cellar Restaurant and Jazz Club

Riveting Riffs
August 22, 2008
Joe Montagus

On the weekend of August 22 – 23rd jazz fans at the Cellar Restaurant / Jazz Club, discovered what audiences in Toronto and New York City, have known for a while now, and that is Canada has once again produced a world caliber jazz vocalist, arranger and composer, this time, in the person of Adi Braun. 

Although technically flawless in her vocal presentation, it is Braun's ability to reflect passion, sass and flirtatiousness in songs such as, "That Old Black Magic," Cy Coleman's, "Witchcraft," and "That Ole Devil Called Love," that endeared her to the Cellar crowd. All three songs appear on her current CD Live At The Metropolitan Room, recorded in the infamous New York City venue. She was accompanied by one of Canada's top and more emotive bassists Jodi Proznick and elegant pianist Tilden Webb. 

Prior to releasing Live At The Metropolitan Room, Braun introduced us to her music, through the albums, Delishious (2003) and Rules of the Game, released in 2005. 

More of Braun's repertoire leans toward standards, with a sprinkling of cabaret tunes such as Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose," in which she takes some poetic license with her adaptation of one line of the lyrics. Proznick served up another evocative bass solo and Braun gifted us with whistling the bridge.

Despite our earlier reference to Braun's penchant for standards, she demonstrated clearly that she can swing, while serving up a great rendition of Dorothy Fields' "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." The song also featured one of pianist Webb's finer moments as he delivered a spectacular solo. 

Braun opened her second set with the 1937 show tune, "The Lady Is A Tramp," composed by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the musical Babes In Arms, and followed it up with, "Five Will Get You Ten."

The most stirring and emotionally charged moment of Braun's concert came during her powerful performance of Consuelo Velásquez's, "Besame Mucho." The song's title has been translated to mean, "Kiss Me A Lot," or "Kiss Me Much," and Braun, with only a bass accompaniment, presented a stripped down, vulnerable interpretation of this romantic tune, which would prompt anyone in love, to turn to their significant other and share a tender kiss. More than any other song that she performed on this evening, Braun's deliverance of, "Besame Mucho," defined her as an intensely emotive artist, who evokes a strong emotional response from the listener. 

Throughout her concert, Braun paid tribute to some of America's greatest composers, Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington ("I Got It Bad and Bad Ain't Good") and Quincy Jones. 

Reviewed August 22nd, 2008

Riveting Riffs wishes to thank the management of The Cellar Restaurant / Jazz Club for making it possible for Riveting Riffs to review this concert

Magical Adi Braun charms Bistro crowd

Waterloo Record
May 26, 2008
Stephen Preece

While Halloween has long past, the witches were out at the Perimeter Institute on Friday night at the Black Hole Bistro. At least that's how the show started with jazz singer Adi Braun and sidekicks Joe Sealy (piano) and George Koller (bass).

The opener, Old Black Magic, cast an immediate spell. Sealy started soft and alluring, attracting full attention from the silent crowd with his spare, unrushed and subtle piano stylings. In comes Adi with a whisper and the band slowly builds the tune to a bright medium pitch -- warming up the crowd on their time and agenda.

On to Witchcraft, and the brew starts to thicken. Here Braun raised the temperature, punctuating her swinging sing with wild accents and letting loose with a full-fledged doo-wah scat solo. Koller just gets started with a wedged-in bass solo, struggling with a very short improvisational leash.

The sorcerers continued with two further contrasting musical statements. Old Devil Moon was a smooth and measured Latin with a cool and classy vibe, while Old Devil Called Love captured the bittersweet melancholy of helpless affection with a spare and haunting lament.

It was in the latter that Koller was finally let loose in a full-fledged bass solo, showcasing the full range and command of his instrument, followed by a spontaneous and enthusiastic burst of applause from the crowd. During his too-few developed solos throughout the evening, the bassist exuded fresh and innovative expressions -- strumming, stroking, bowing, plucking -- personality rare for his instrument.

By this time you are scratching your head trying to think of any other witchy tunes; then the spell is broken with a bouncy stride piano setting up Honey Suckle Rose. This tune showcased Sealy's superlative piano technique and instincts as he wove together a masterful combination of melodic lines and powerful block chords.

Braun then recaptured the limelight with an extended and unexpected whistle solo -- exhibiting an exceptional improvisatory technique and melodic development, in addition to a light sense of fun and play.

It was a bit of an accident, she explained, as a musical colleague encouraged her to develop a solo technique after hearing her whistle in the hall.

If there is one word that captures Braun's singing it would be control. It is clear she exhibits obvious care for every note she sings.

There is a precise development to her held notes in various ranges progressing from straight sound to vibrato with just the right timing, providing a satisfying arch and finish to individual notes and phrases. She also masterfully maintains tight emotional essence from song to song with impressive vocal range and expressive diversity.

With Besame Mucho it was the heart and soul of Spain captured in a deep, throaty flamenco. With Frim Fram Sauce it was a cheeky, sultry sensuality.

Braun likes a script and when Sealy set up a tune that deviated from what they had agreed he was snapped right back into line -- do it over.

It's a small complaint, given the beautiful artistry of the evening, but some of the best jazz starts with a script and then follows the fancy -- even magic -- of the moment.

Adi Braun ~ Live at the Metropolitan Room

Blue Rider Records, 2007

CODA
May/June - 50th Golden Anniversary Issue - 2008
Geoff Chapman

Classically-trained Adi Braun forsook opera to become a superior song-salesperson whose jazz outings are always must-hear occasions. In the past she's defined her singing niche as 'cabarazz,' which tells a listener to expect drama, confidence, a big range, stage presence and a whiff of frivolity. You get all this and more on her third album, a sparkling follow to the albums The Rules Of The Game and Delishious, in a show she dubbed 'Heart to Heart' recorded at a New York club in October.

Braun has that knack of quickly establishing intimacy and making the music personal, though most songs of the 14 here are Broadway or jazz standards. That three of the first four cuts have the word 'old' in the title will likely remain a mystery, but two get vigorous workouts, notably "That Old Devil Moon" with a scat solo, followed by a bewitching, powerful slow take on the rare "That Ole Devil Called Love." 

With seriously empathetic support from pianist Tedd Firth and bassist Steve Watson, she's not afraid to toy with time as demonstrated on a frisky "Love Me Or Leave Me" and an upbeat "Honeysuckle Rose." Add an off-planet onslaught on "Miss Celie's Blues," an art song examination of "Besame Mucho," an alteration of "You Do Something To Me" from a confessional into cheerful celebration and a pair of her own creations: the almost surreal "Grace" and "Ocean Eyes" (the latter taped with Toronto sidemen), and you get a release that will please fans of both jazz and cabaret. The sound is somewhat raw, but that may be due to stereo rather than multi-track recording.

Adi Braun at Metropolitan Room "Heart to Heart"

October 26, 2007 with Tedd Firth, piano, and Steve Watson, bass. 

Cabaret Exchange (New York)
October 31, 2007
Joe Regan Jr.

Canadian jazz singer Adi Braun, MAC nominee last year in the category of Major Jazz Artist, made a rare appearance in New York City this past Friday, October 27th, at the Metropolitan Room with a show entitled "Heart To Heart". Ably backed by superb musicians Tedd Firth on piano and Steve Watson on bass, Braun opened with a cool version of "That Old Black Magic" (Mercer-Arlen) which she sang slowly and emotionally, casting a hypnotic spell over the audience. Then, after Firth and Watson did a wonderful jazz break that made them sound like a full orchestra rather than only piano and bass, Braun, formerly a classical mezzo-soprano, opened up her voice and gave us a powerful finish to the second chorus.

Announcing that because it was almost Halloween she was going to do some "scary" "witchy" songs sometimes featuring the Devil or "Satan", Braun began with the little sung verse to "Witchcraft" (Leigh/Coleman), broke into the sexy parts of the familiar song, and then scatted to the high heavens up and down several octaves as Firth and Watson rode out the riffs with her scatting back and forth with their instruments. 

Announcing she was a Petula Clark fan, she next sang "Old Devil Moon" (Harburg/Lane) from Finian's Rainbow, also beginning slowly but built up to a fast jungle rhythm finish with Watson pounding on his bass as if he were a full percussion section! This was immediately followed by the verse to the rarely heard Billie Holiday/Jeri Southern song "That Ole Devil Called Love" (Doris Fisher/Allan Roberts), which Braun sung slowly and beautifully, demonstrating also what a great actress she is.

She introduced the next song as a new song that she felt was one of the finest new songs she had heard recently. She dedicated the song to a young married couple in the audience. It was a tender, lovely ballad entitled "Easy to Breathe" by Felix van Dijk who was also in the audience. It had a wonderful refrain that stated "When I'm with you/it's so easy to breathe".

The next song was a song that Braun herself wrote. She told the story behind the song: one hot humid day she was stuck in a traffic jam and saw a woman on the street and the song came to her. It was "Grace", a tender ballad about a homeless woman who once knew better days but scavenges to survive.

Braun changed pace with Cole Porter's "You Do Something To Me" which she sang at a very fast pace, soaring on her scats into the stratosphere, again with great work from Firth and Watson complementing her every high note.

Firth briefly left the stage and with Watson becoming a classical virtuoso on the bass, Braun sang "Besame Mucho" in Spanish, standing still and slowly singing those Spanish lyrics, followed by wailing as the Portuguese fado singers and Spanish flamenco singers do. Braun's strong mezzo traveled up and down the octaves as Watson rhythmically worked his bass, his flying hands making backup sounds like the persistent drums that back the great fado singer Amalia Rodriguez' "Barco Negro". I have seen Braun many times in the past two years and she has a marvelous vocal instrument, but this particular rainy night she was singing better than ever and the emotional dimension of each song's lyrics was clear and communicative! 

Braun then launched into her signature "Honeysuckle Rose", with the line that her mother hated, "honey, suck my toes" on the last chorus. She sang it rhythmically, with lots of fun and the boys rocked behind her! Quincy Jones' "C.D. Blues (Sister)" from the film Color Purple followed. This is a rocking blues that is a staple of Braun's and I never tire of hearing her sing it.

She went back to Cole Porter for "Night and Day" which she sang with a Latin beat, again giving the musicians full opportunity on the break to demonstrate their great jazz chops, scatting a little bit before another full voiced finished.

The encore was a quiet and simple "Some Other Time" (Betty Comden & Adolph Green/Leonard Bernstein) which summed up the evening lyrically and melodically. All in all, it was a well programmed act with Braun in better voice than ever!

Braun does not return to New York until next April 7th when she does a gala benefit for St. Francis Xavier Church on 16th Street with Ann Hampton Callaway and Laurel Masse.

© 2007 Cabaret Exchange