IRENE AND HER LATIN JAZZ BAND
“A Song of You”
There are a lot of ways to enjoy Irene and Her Latin Jazz Band and the 14 love songs on their second album, A Song of You. You can pick a samba or a rumba to dance to; sit back holding hands and listen to the lyrics; or invite some friends over and let the music serve as a soundtrack to your fiesta.
“My theory is that the world can never have too many love songs. But what would be the point if we don’t do them differently than they have been done before? So each tune is in our own style featuring a Latin jazz arrangement with a Brazilian beat, but also filtered through a Southern California lifestyle,” says lead-singer and band-leader Irene Nachreiner.
“We call it SoCal-Brazilian music,” Irene explains, “because we all live in Southern California, which of course has its own Latin culture, but most of the band originally came from Brazil. The rhythms are primarily South American, but we blend in elements from the Caribbean, Polynesia, Spain, France and California. We have a wide range of influences, but the most obvious are Brazilian singers and songwriters, the music of Sergio Mendes, tunes from the Great American Songbook and all kinds of jazz.”
A Song of You features Irene’s voice backed by special guest Rique Pantoja (one of Brazil’s top pianists/keyboardists), Irene’s regular core Brazilian band members – acoustic guitarist Marco Tulio and drummer/percussionist Cristano Novelli – and other guest musicians. Pantoja, a Rio de Janeiro native, studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music before recording with Chet Baker, Milton Nascimento, Steps Ahead and Ricardo Silveira, among others. Pantoja, a recording artist in his own right, also has performed on-stage with Carlos Santana, Ernie Watts, Ricky Martin, Gilberto Gil, Luis Conte, Lee Ritenour, Kirk Whalum and numerous other luminaries. Tulio has played with Pat Metheny, Thalia, Paulo Russo, Richie “Gajate” Garcia; and Novelli’s background includes stints with Milton Nascimento, Antonio Adolfo, Kiko Furtado, Katia Morales, Diego Torres. Irene brings many experiences to her passionate musical performances. She has performed for audiences from Los Angeles to Paris to Martinique to Bora Bora. She has studied singing, piano (for ten years), acting (B.A. cum laude at UC Irvine), modern jazz dancing (for 15 years), screenwriting, and comedy troupe improvisation.
Irene has always enjoyed Latin jazz, but she began singing it fulltime after meeting Tulio and Novelli several years ago. The chemistry worked so well, they recorded their successful debut, Summer Samba, with a few guest musicians. Now the band returns with their second CD, A Song of You, featuring more piano improvisation. In addition, while the first album extensively utilized Brazilian percussion, A Song of You features that percussion layered with a full drum kit.
For the music on A Song of You, Irene chose Latin classics (Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Triste” and “Quite Nights of Quiet Stars,” and Joao Gilberto’s “Bim Bom”), as well as standards (George & Ira Gershwin’s “S’Wonderful” and Cole Porter’s “It’s Too Darn Hot”), and pop favorites (“Change The World” made famous by Eric Clapton, and Sting’s “Fragililidad”), all re-arranged in a Latin jazz style. In addition, Irene co-wrote three tunes – two with guest saxophonist and flutist Scott Martin, and one with guest keyboardist Alex Varden (both musicians also appeared on Irene’s first album). Known for her smooth, silky, sultry vocals, she primarily sings in English, but shows her versatility by occasionally singing in Portuguese, Spanish and French; and harmonizing with herself on a few tunes. The recording ends with “La Foule” which originally was a Russian folk tune that became a Spanish love song and then an Edith Piaf big band waltz before Irene combined all the various elements into a completely new arrangement in a new time signature.
Irene is hands-on with her recordings from start to finish. She selects the music and the musicians, produces the albums, does the initial arrangements herself and the final arrangements with the band, and even does all the mixing.
“All of the musicians I work with must be knowledgeable about Latin music as well as jazz improvisation,” states Irene. Daniel Groisman (bass), was born in Buenos Aires in Argentina, lived in Brazil, and has performed with Enrique Iglesias, Apollonia, Alejandro Sanz and Joan Sebastian. Saxophonist and flutist Scott Martin, who was a member of the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band for 13 years, has played with Tito Puente, Cela Cruz, Francisco Aguabella, Ray Charles, Chick Corea and Eddie Palmieri. Adding keyboards to two tunes is Latvian (Russian) native Alex Varden, a former member of top Soviet bands such as Vec-Riga, Folk Rock Ensemble, Spirditis and Sigulda. Frank Zottoli, who sings harmonies on two numbers, has played and recorded with Stan Getz, Johnny Mathis, Abraham Laboriel and Alex Acuna.
Irene’s heritage includes her mother coming to America from Ireland and her father from Russia, but Irene also comes from an extended family full of singers and musicians. Latin music entered Irene’s consciousness at an early age. She was born in East Los Angeles, California’s heartland of Latino culture, and growing up she listened to radio stations that played all kinds of Latin jazz, bossa-novas, sambas and rumbas. Irene started formal piano lessons when she was eight. Her early influences included classical music, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and The Beatles as well as the Latin sounds of Sergio Mendes & his Brasil Bands and Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass.
During college Irene, who is fluent in French, went to study in Paris for six months. She graduated with honors from the University of California, Irvine, with a Bachelors degree in Drama. She began taking dance lessons (ballet, modern jazz and tap), wrote scripts and got a literary agent, performed in Southern California theater productions, studied screenwriting at UCLA, and performed regularly with a comedy improv troupe. She became a video editor at CBS-TV for shows such as “The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.” Irene also was the associate producer on several television documentaries.
In the late Nineties, Irene began studying singing for fun. At first she sang classic standards from the Great American Songbook (Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, big band numbers), before turning full time to Latin jazz. On a 2003 trip to the Club Med resort in Tahiti, Irene was hired to sing in their theater for three weeks, thus starting a singing career. This led to an open invitation to perform there several times each year, and to sing at other Club Med locations. She also performs regularly in clubs throughout the Los Angeles area. Irene had two songs recently chosen to appear on the upcoming compilation CD Postcard From Paris to be released throughout Europe and Asia by Universal Music. As her love of Latin music has deepened, she has been inspired by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Elis Regina, Flora Purim, Gloria Estefan, Astrud Gilberto and Pancho Sanchez.
According to Irene, “The idea of vocal Latin jazz is that the rhythms affect your body while the lyrics give you something to think about. Close your eyes and you can be in another time and place. We want the music to take people away from the worries of the world and let them simply have a good time.”
All user-contributed text on this page is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.