WBGO Radar

Laura Dreyer: Vida. Arte. Amor

saxophonist laura dreyer

Saxophonist Laura Dreyer is in love. The sounds of Brazil have filled her heart and ears for more than twenty years.

Dreyer's latest release - Vida. Arte Amor, on Mayimba Music - tells the story of a love that sounds forever new.

Dreyer discovered Brazil in her hometown of San Francisco, where as a young Berklee grad she entered the city’s active Latin music scene. She was immediately drawn to the lyricism and open-heartedness she heard in songs by Milton Nascimento, Toninho Horta and Gilberto Gil.

Her interest in Brazil deepened over the five years she studied composition with pianist Lyle Mays. The more she listened, the more she discovered Brazil's nuances of harmony and melody.

“There’s something about the range of emotions that resonate with how I feel – I connected,” Laura recalls. “I made a decision – I have to be true to myself, so I really went for Brazilian music.”

That journey of discovery led her to record three Brazilian albums, but Vida. Arte. Amor is her first recorded in Brazil, with Brazilian musicians, in the country’s musical mecca – Rio de Janeiro.

“It was kind of like how a young jazz musician feels when they first come to New York,” she says. “’Wow, this is it! That’s how it’s supposed to sound!”

Dreyer’s many original compositions on the album explore a full range of Brazilian styles - samba, bossa nova, maracatú, baião, samba-funk, and bolero, combining them with jazz and a few rock touches.

Throughout, she demonstrates her deep understanding of the subtleties of Brazilian phrasing, as well as her own virtuosity on both the alto saxophone and flute.

“O Outro Lado Do Amor,” for instance, starts out with the marchlike baião rhythms of Northeastern Brazil, then transitions into Rio’s more fluid samba feel, as it captures the rise and fall of emotions in a love affair.

“I like songs where I can see a picture in my mind,” she says.

The theme from the Broadway show “Beauty & The Beast” is Dreyer’s nod to guitarist Dori Caymmi’s 1999 album Cinema: A Romantic Vision, which brought Caymmi's renowned Brazilian flavor to well-known film themes.

“Spring St.” is her homage to Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Samba do Soho,” which evokes the many years the Brazilian composer spent living in New York.

“Tom Jobim is one of the great composers of the twentieth century,” she says. “It’s so emotional, it’s descriptive – so many different things without ever being heavy.”

The album also features two tracks with lyrics in both Spanish and Portuguese, a nod to Mayimba’s loyal following of Spanish-speaking listeners. The Sony-distributed label features a strong stable of Dominican bachata artists, including Romeo Santos, who penned this album’s “Vale La Pena El Placer.”

“Beijo Do Sol” captures a kind of Earth Wind and Fire, summer beach party vibe, which is also an important element of Brazil’s active electro-funk scene.

“I think music can be sophisticated and clever, without ever alienating the listener,” says Dreyer.

Indeed, Vida. Arte. Amor. draws you in, and keeps you there. Laura Dreyer finds the heart of Brazil and invites us to come along. Get on board, non-stop.

  - Tim Wilkins, WBGO digital content producer

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