Katchie & Le Monde Caché | Tales & Tongues

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Tales & Tongues

by Katchie & Le Monde Caché

Bossa nova, swing, tango, bolero, jazz waltz, samba--in Yiddish, French, Portuguese, Ladino, Spanish, and Italian. Katchie Cartwright, Richard Oppenheim, Mark Lomanno, Billy Satterwhite, Kevin Hess. Label: Harriton Carved Wax. Genre: jazz-world
Genre: Jazz: Jazz Vocals
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Alta Va La Luna
6:13 $0.99
2. Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn
5:38 $0.99
3. Sous Le Ciel De Paris
5:13 $0.99
4. Ikh Hob Dikh Tsufil Lib (Verse)
1:35 $0.99
5. Ikh Hob Dikh Tsufil Lib
4:06 $0.99
6. Triste
4:13 $0.99
7. Estate
8:28 $0.99
8. El Día Que Me Quieras
6:43 $0.99
9. Chega De Saudade
6:11 $0.99
10. Que Reste-T-Il De Nos Amours
5:41 $0.99
11. Delilah
7:18 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Standing apart, making music of distinction and lasting value, isn’t easy in any field. But as my
colleague Francis Davis argued in a 2006 essay for The Atlantic: “We expect more from singers …
because words speak to us in a way no trumpet or saxophone can — and because their instrument is
also ours.” For Katchie Cartwright, standing apart isn’t a problem. A longtime New Yorker with a
Ph.D. in ethnomusicology, she relocated to San Antonio, Texas in 2006 and has a tenured appointment
at Northwest Vista College. Her previous efforts include treatments of works by John Cage and poet
Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Now, with Tales and Tongues, she shifts her attention to what she terms the
“global songbook.”

If we’re convinced by Davis’s take on the immediacy of words, just think of the possibilities and
poetic richness of a collection sung in Ladino, Yiddish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French.
Leading her group Le Monde Caché (“the hidden world”), Cartwright brings out the ardor and melodic
refinement in this material, singing with great poise and also playing flute, her first instrument,
which to her constitutes a language in itself. “My specialization is cross-cultural theories and
practices of improvisation,” Cartwright explains, drawing a line from her academic to her artistic
work. “When I got to San Antonio I also started a radio show, ‘Planet Jazz,’ on the Trinity
University station, and a lot of that was the global songbook — playing music that has gone into
the jazz ‘stream,’ things that have gone back and forth from African diaspora cultures and can be
considered a part of jazz, in one way or another.”

From all these various corners came the songs of Tales and Tongues. Cartwright enlisted a group of
musicians who would do them justice, beginning with her husband and frequent collaborator, alto
saxophonist Richard Oppenheim. “A friend calls him the flamethrower,” says Cartwright. “He’s a
great musician, with a lot of depth and breadth and great ears. We talk a lot about what it is that
we’re going for: the sound, the timbres, the arrangements and so on.”

Cartwright met pianist and fellow ethnomusicologist Mark Lomanno “while we were founding the
Southern Plains chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology. I was really fortunate to have him to
work with.” Of Billy Satterwhite, the bassist, Cartwright
says: “He’s one of the younger generation, working on a Masters in Ann Arbor, Michigan with some
colleagues of mine. ‘Billy the Kid’ we call him, very eager and wonderful.” Drummer Kevin Hess, she
adds, “is from a piano-tuning and musician dynasty here in San Antonio.” Together, they all “get”
Cartwright’s intention on Tales and Tongues, coming to grips with music from vastly different
traditions and vocabularies and giving it life in a new context.

While readying these songs for performance, Cartwright wrestles with subtleties of pronunciation
and phrasing, of meaning and syntax. In the end she connects not just to the poignant texts, but
also to the doleful minor-key melodies that make up this set. That subtle Old World tonality,
Cartwright notes, can be found in certain corners of American pop — she cites Irving Berlin’s “Blue
Skies” or Cole Porter’s “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” as examples. From the Benny Goodman-associated
classic “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn” (sung in the original Yiddish) to Victor Young’s “Delilah” (a flute
feature that closes out the album), Cartwright hits on that undefined yet universal feeling that
goes by different names, from blues to saudade. She quotes the old club joke: “D minor — to you
it’s a key, to me it’s living.” The themes can be outright sad: young women scorned, for instance,
in the Ladino “Alta Va La Luna” (“high goes the moon”) and the Yiddish tango “Ikh Hob Dikh Tsufil
Lib” (“I have too much love for you”). Yet redemptive hope can always peek through the clouds.

“The two parts of ‘Ikh Hob’ are really different,” Cartwright observes. “The verse tells the story
of being left at the altar, and then in the tango part, she’s happy despite it all in her dreams,
saying, ‘I can’t hate you, the love I have for you gives me pleasure rather than pain.’ I think
that’s great.” Yes, there are Jewish tangos, and hand it to Cartwright for digging them up. She
also highlights the tango tradition with “El Día Que Me Quieras” by Carlos Gardel, the Argentine
legend lost in a plane crash in 1935. “For my doctorate I did research on how the new tango came
out of the old, so I’ve been interested in Gardel for 10 or 15 years,” Cartwright says. “This is a
standard that jazz musicians in Argentina would do. It’s a tremendously romantic song — a curious
little glowworm nests in her lover’s hair…. Here in San Antonio we’re a majority Latino city, so
the audience loves it.”

Of course, no South American jazz journey would be complete without Brazil. Cartwright includes the
Jobim staples “Triste” and “Chega de Saudade” and pointedly steers clear of the English lyrics that
are often used. “The lyrics by Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes capture something much more,” she
argues. “That’s a beef I have — in English they’re fourth- rate lyrics, but they’re first-rate in
Portuguese. So why not sing them that way?” Another famous bossa, “Estate,” comes to us from Italy:
“Think Nino Rota,” Cartwright says of the general vibe. “Italian bossas are more surreal, they’re
once more removed.” French is Cartwright’s strongest language besides English — she lived in
Lebanon for a year as a teen — and so “Sous Le Ciel de Paris” and “Que Reste-t-il De Nos Amours”
have a natural, homey quality. “Kevin and Rich tore it up,” Cartwright enthuses, referring to the
sax-drum breakdown (her idea) on the former. Who knows if this bright waltz was on Kenny Dorham’s
mind when he wrote “Blue Bossa,” but the passing melodic resemblance is there. Like the Brazilian
tunes, the Charles Trenet number, better known to Americans as “I Wish You Love,” has a far greater
impact in its original language. “In French,” Cartwright notes, “it’s about what happened to our
youth, what happened to those stolen kisses and trysts in little villages, and your hair blowing in
the wind, what happened? It’s all part of our past now. That’s totally different than ‘I Wish You
Love,’ which is sappy by comparison.”

Ultimately, Tales and Tongues is about musical openness, about jazz’s particular way of drawing in
the world and still remaining unmistakably itself. Jazz history is rife with artists who’ve
embodied that ideal in their work, and this musician/scholar, from her haven down in Texas, is
doing that history proud. As the saying (sort of) goes, you can take Cartwright out of New York,
but you can’t take New York and its restless global mindset out of Cartwright.

David R. Adler January 2011



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