Lucky for us, Bill Beach rose from the dead Benson Hotel’s basement and went to Brazil.
This spring the pianist released his energetic Brasil Beat (yes, Brazilians spell it that way) on his label, Axial Records. Six of the 12 tracks feature Beach’s breathy baritone-bass shaping original Portuguese lyrics. Cross-checked with Portuguese linguists, the lyrics are precisely articulated and beautifully phrased. Beach is a stickler for details and authenticity, as relaxed as his vocals sound.
The music, his originals as well, is painted with the bright colors and influences of mid-century Brazilians Antonia Carlos Jobim and Joao Gilberto. (Beach’s voice and soft singing style are quite similar to Gilberto’s.) Don’t forget Carlos Lyra, Edu Lobo, Luis Eca, Sergio Mendes, Joao Donato and Milton Nascimento: Beach learned from all of them.
Pieces range from the upbeat “Aceitacao e Gratidao,” (“Acceptance and Gratitude”), which Portland singer Becky Kilgore recently incorporated into her repertoire, to the playfully alliterative “Minha Maluquinha” (“My Little Lunatic”). And then there’s “Os Sonhos do Estio” (“The Dreams of Summer”) that will transport you to the beach, in the prone position. Find the lyrics in Portuguese and in English at billbeach.com.
The six pieces without lyrics, including “Mister Mersereau,” “Brasil Beat,” “Mary Louise,” “Hobbs,” “Samba das Velas” (“Samba of the Sails”) and “Tsuyo” are as high-energy as those cuts with Beach’s seductive, light-stepping singing.
You can play this CD thousands of times, clean the house with its tunes behind you, shove it into the car’s CD player and cross the country with it, sprawl on the couch with it, and never overdose. Each tune is melodic and captures the irresistibly danceable latin beat.
Speaking of the rhythm, Dave Captein plays bass, Reinhardt Meltz is on drums, and Vancouver’s Gary Hobbs performs magic on two cajons (common in flamenco music), a snare and a hi-hat. Beach’s piece, “Hobbs,” is designed for Hobbs to shine on, and that he does.
A longtime Oregon jazz pianist by way of small-town Corvallis, Beach has been recording Brazilian music for several years and singing forever (his mother was a piano teacher and thre is a piece for her called “Mary Louise”). His vocals took a vacation as his piano chops intensified in the mid-’80s. He started crooning again in 2002 and went public with his Brazilian bug in 2004 when he recorded several interpretations of Brazilian classics on his CD, Letting Go.
Beach captures the lyricism of influential pianists Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner, even under the bossa nova overlay. He and his Brazil-centric music are so easy to like.