By Joe Lopes
Here is Part 3, the final part of Joe&rsquot;s article, about the jazz musician Michael Franks. This continues from Joe’s previous part 2 article, to view click on the link: “Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2

Yet what are we to make of the Franks brand of music making? Is it less-than-mainstream jazz, or plain old middle-of-the-road pop styling?

“Michael’s music actually exists in that ideal space between pop music and jazz that’s so difficult for people to locate and be comfortable in,” comments Becker.

“Part of the problem has been that traditionally, in jazz, you have a different kind of lyrical mentality than you have with pop. A lot of people associate jazz-vocal with the less ambitious lyrical things. Michael doesn’t do that. He just writes what he writes, undaunted by the ‘moon-June-spoon,’ Tin Pan Alley tradition of jazz. Again, it’s just hard for people to function comfortably to make that transition.”

In light of this estimation, and Franks’ positive working relationship with Brazil’s native-born artists, his unabated love for the country’s marvelous music conveniently spilled over into his subsequent long-play output, significantly in the 1978 Burchfield Nines release, with arrangements by Eumir Deodato; in Tiger in the Rain (1979), with the cut “Jardim Botnico” (“Botanical Garden”), featuring Flora Purim and Claudio Roditi; in Passionfruit (1983), with Astrud Gilberto and Nan Vasconcelos, on “Amazon”; and in Dragonfly Summer (1993), with key contributions by Paulinho da Costa and Toninho Horta.

But the work to end all works, his pice de rsistance-the sine qua non of tribute albums-was the career-defining Abandoned Garden project from 1995, recorded in loving memory of the late Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Described as the “jazziest” of Michael’s subtropical forays, the CD features rhythm tracks laid-down for him by Paulistana pianist Eliane Elias-a current, and past, Jobim acolyte-along with a contemporary all-star lineup of acknowledged light-jazz favorites, among them Michael and Randy Brecker (Eliane’s husband), Mark Egan, Art Farmer, Russell Ferrante, Bob James, Bashiri Johnson, Chuck Loeb, Bob Mintzer, Joshua Redman, and David Sanborn.

Two of the disc’s many highlights, “Cinema” (co-written with Jobim) and “Bird of Paradise” (music by Alagoan singer Djavan/English lyrics by Michael Franks), reveal a thoroughly evolved mastery of the lyrical style, as infectiously and flavorfully literate as anything in the de Moraes-Jobim canon.

Some of the other songs on the set, including “This Must Be Paradise,” “Like Water, Like Wind,” “A Fool’s Errand,” “Hourglass,” “Eighteen Aprils,” “Without Your Love,” and “Somehow Our Love Survives”-originally on ex-Jazz Crusader Joe Sample’s 1989 album Spellbound (Warner), where it was performed by Al Jarreau-revolved around the major themes of love-found, love-lost, and love-regained.

Interestingly, the main title-tune, “Abandoned Garden,” came at the tail end of the nearly hour-long endeavor. With its slow, dirge-like musings, this mildly morose homage to Tom more than compensated for any rhythmic shortcomings by becoming a fitting formal close to the famed Jobim-Franks joint venture:

Though the samba has ended,
I know in the sound
Of your voice, your piano, your flute, you are found,
And the music within you continues to flow
Sadly, lost Antonio.
You were my inspiration, my hero, my friend;
On the highway of time will I meet you again?
If the heart ever heals, does the scar always show
For the lost Antonio?
For the lost Antonio?

High hopes tinged with sadness: that was the message Michael tried to convey in all his best work.

And along those same lines, everyone from Shirley Bassey, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ana Caram, Natalie Cole and Laura Fygi to Diana Krall, Patti Labelle, Peggy Lee, Carmen McRae, Melissa Manchester, The Yellowjackets and Ringo Starr (!) has happily complied in covering his highly sought-after song output.

Shut out of FM-radio due to rapidly diminished airplay, Michael’s only other completely original release thereafter, the 2003 Christmas-themed Watching the Snow-with seasoned talents Romero Lubambo and Edson (Caf) da Silva among the artists present-was sold privately to fans on his website via the Sleeping Gypsy label, an obvious (and sentimental) allusion to the first of his many Brazilian-inspired productions.

If, as they say, you can never quite go home again, Michael can at last rest assured of having earned the love and respect of his infinitely loyal audience-base-not the least of which can be counted one deeply devoted admirer: Brazil’s dearly-departed and best-loved composer, a certain Mr. Jobim.

Take that, jazz purists, if you can!

SONGS WRITTEN BY MICHAEL FRANKS

“Antonio&rsquot;s Song (The Rainbow)”

Antonio lives life&rsquot;s frevo
Antonio prays for truth
Antonio says our friendship
Is a hundred-proof
The vulture that circles Rio
Hangs in this L.A. sky
The blankets they give the Indians
Only make them die
But sing the Song
Forgotten for so long
And let the Music flow
Like Light into the Rainbow
We know the Dance, we have
We still have the chance
To break these chains and flow
Like Light into the Rainbow
Antonio loves the desert
Antonio prays for rain
Antonio knows that Pleasure
Is the child of Pain
And lost in La Califusa
When most of my hope was gone
Antonio&rsquot;s samba led me
To the Amazon
We sing the Song
Forgotten for so long
And let the music flow
Like Light into the Rainbow
We know the Dance, we have
We still have the chance
To break these chains and flow
Like Light into the Rainbow.

“Down in Brazil”

Down in Brazil
It takes a day to walk a mile
Time just stands still
And when the people you meet
Look at you, they smile
They still believe in style
They sooth you with their sambas
Till you really know you&rsquot;re
Down in old Brazil
You can tell you&rsquot;re down in old Brazil
Down in Brazil
They never heard of win or lose
If you can&rsquot;t feel
That all those caf ol girls
In high-heel shoes
Will really cure your blues
It seems they all just aim to please
Those women sway like wind
In the banana trees
Then you know you&rsquot;re
Down in old Brazil
Down in Brazil
They know a million ways to play
You start to feel
And when you&rsquot;re happy
It&rsquot;s the same as when you pray
You think you&rsquot;ll get away
Then you know you never will
Not when you&rsquot;ve been
Down in old Brazil
Not when you are down in old Brazil
Down in old Brazil
Down in old Brazil
Down in old Brazil
Down in old Brazil

“Abandoned Garden”

In your abandoned garden, sunlight still prevails:
The jasmine climbs the trellis fragrantly, the
jacaranda ultravioletly sways.
The blossom each of them by your hand planted,
Will, even if I tell them of your sudden
Disappearance from us,
Not believe the tale.
Though the samba has ended, I know in the sound
Of your voice, your piano, your flute, you are found,
And the music within you continues to flow
Sadly, lost Antonio.
You were my inspiration, my hero, my friend;
On the highway of time will I meet you again?
If the heart ever heals, does the scar always show
For the lost Antonio?
For the lost Antonio?
In your abandoned garden, beauty is unchanged:
The hummingbird still hovers for the scent the
frangipane so seductively displays.
Camellias, each of them by your hand planted,
The sadness of your sudden disappearance still
unknown to them,
Await the kiss of rain.
Though the samba has ended, I know in the sound
Of your voice, your piano, your flute, you are found,
And the music within you continues to flow
Sadly, lost Antonio.
You were my inspiration, my hero, my friend;
On the highway of time will I meet you again?
If the heart ever heals, does the scar always show
For the lost Antonio?
For the lost Antonio?

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. He is a lover of all types of music, especially opera and jazz, as well as an incurable fan of classic and contemporary films. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.

To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil&rsquot;s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil’s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil&rsquot;s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

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