Singer, lover, gypsy, Jezebel, warrior, wanderer, mother… These are the women I portray for you. Though their language varies, they all share three things I can't live without: Strength, rhythm and voice. I wrote my first song on a green hill in South Texas after escaping a tiny Mexican town with one too many dangerous men. While atop Wayna Picchu, lungs bursting as I gazed at the Incan ruins below, eerie harmonies echoed in my mind. Alone on a jungle path somewhere in Quintana Roo, I hummed a little song of courage. Hearing a berimbau played in a market in Belo Horizonte, I couldn't resist its insistent twang. I've worn so many costumes, discarding some and cherishing others. Vagabundeo captures just a few of my worldly explorations. Come, these bright colors will lift you up. Dance with me…
Cantante, amante, gitana, sirena, guerrera, vagabunda, madre… Esas son las mujeres que les presento. Aunque varíen sus lenguas, todas comparten tres cosas sin las cuales no puedo existir: La fuerza, el ritmo y la voz. Escribí mi primera canción encima de una colina verde en el sur de Texas después de salir de un peligroso pueblito mexicano. Subiendo al Wayna Picchu, ví las ruinas incas e imaginé el eco de armonías exóticas. Andando solita en una senda en alguna parte de Quintana Roo, tarareaba una melodía de valentía. Escuchando un berimbau en un mercado in Belo Horizonte, no podía resistir su tañido. En el viaje de mi vida, me he vestido de muchos disfraces, tirando algunos y abrigando otros. Vagabundeo abarca esta aventura mundial. Vengan, estos sonidos coloridos les levantarán el ánimo. Bailen conmigo…
Habanera is Georges Bizet's most celebrated aria. He died just after Carmen's 1875 premier. The habanera rhythm (heard in the traditional bass line—we switched it to a pilón) is Cuban; it reached Bizet via Spanish composer Sebastián Yradier. The spoken intro is from the opera's recitative: “When will I love you? My goodness, I don't know. Could be never, could be tomorrow. But not today, that's for certain.”
Ave Rara pairs the inventive lyrics of Aldir Blanc with the harmonic prowess of Edu Lobo. The words are enthralling: “My life is a pilgrimage in search of you… I hear your song, rare bird of Islam… This thirst is my destiny… Your bed is an oasis, but at the end of the trek, all I ever find is a mirage, sand and sun.”
Calling You is an Oscar-nominated song by Bob Telson, written for the movie Bagdad Café. Here, it takes the emphasis on vocal harmonies throughout this record to its most elaborate expression. This was my theme song when I left college to pursue music and lived in my VW van while driving across Highway 10 for several months.
El Cantante is Ruben Blades' portrait of a salsa singer, best embodied by Hector Lavoe: “I am the singer you've all paid to hear… no one asks me if I suffer, if I cry, if I have wounds that throb deep inside.” This acoustic arrangement pays homage to the Fania production, but adds new twists (and lyrics) with a baritone sax ostinato in the bridge.
Agua de Beber/Aguas de Março is a medley of two essential Antonio Carlos Jobim tunes. Agua de Beber (“water to drink”) reveals how fear can kill your heart. Aguas de Março refers to the March rains at summer's end in the Southern Hemisphere. The lyrics, written in both English and Portuguese by Jobim, list evocative images of life and nature.
Her Ways Wander (by Alexa Weber Morales, Vince Mansel and Wayne Wallace) was inspired by a phrase in the Bible: “Her ways wander, and she does not know it.” The bridge has another mystical reference.
The Goddess of War (by Alexa Weber Morales) epitomizes how, in songwriting, a single idea sparks a sonic drama that unfolds in just five minutes. I'm always seeking unusual settings. Here, the narrator is disenchanted with destruction carried out in the name of progress—but she's complicit as one of its architects.
Así Es El Amor (by Alexa Weber Morales) is a love story about miraculously finding a soulmate, only to be separated by insurmountable obstacles—and the realization that this pain is the true meaning of love, that all the beliefs that preceded it were just the ramblings of a novelist (“asi es el amor… ya no es invento del fabulador”).
Angelitos Negros is adapted from a poem by Andrés Eloy Blanco (1896-1955) of Venezuela. In 1946, Mexican actor Manuel Alvarez Maciste composed the song, and the haunting question was made famous by Pedro Infante: Why has the cathedral painter forgotten the little black angels?
Tu Amor (by Alexa Weber Morales) is about love in its first bloom: the sensations of falling, floating, yearning, aching and everything else that goes with passion's promise: “…and we break free of Earth's gravity.”
You Cry, I Dry Your Tears (by Alexa Weber Morales) has a simple piano setting with an introduction inspired by Bethena, a waltz by Scott Joplin
Thanks to Jesse “Chuy” Varela, Mark Ruffin, Avotcja, David McBurnie, Leon Reyes, David Flores, Jeff Chambers, Herman Bosset, Edgardo Cambón, Christopher Putnam, Jay Strickwerda, Wes Worth, Yvonne Chang, Emily Hayes, Christy, Laurie, Mike Marshall, KPFA, KCSM, KPOO, California Brazil Camp, the Jazzschool, Jazzcamp West, La Peña Cultural Center, Grace Cathedral, Jazz at Pearl's and Yoshi's.
Executive producer: Alexa Weber Morales
Producer, arranger: Wayne Wallace
Engineer: Gary Mankin
Assistant Engineer: Ryan Drury
Photography: Eliot Kuhner
Hair: Laneesha Graham
Makeup, styling: Lisa Zomer
Design: Dwight Been
Recording: Bay Records, Berkeley, Calif.
Project West Studio, Berkeley, Calif.
Knob and Tube, San Francisco, Calif.
Mastering: Ken Lee
All printed lyrics © 2007 by Alexandra L. Weber Morales (BMI). © 2007 Crazy Monkey Productions. All rights reserved.
PRAISE FOR VAGABUNDEO
"With a voice sweet, pure and strong, Alexa Weber Morales is poised to ride the Bay Area Latin jazz scene to national recognition. On her new CD, Vagabundeo/Wanderings, she spans a wide spectrum of the music, getting help from ace producer, arranger and trombonist Wayne Wallace."
--San Francisco Chronicle, June 17, 2007
"Morales is a mix of jazzy sweetness (you could imagine her turning out an attractive album of standards) and Latin brightness."
--Mary Kunz Goldman, The Buffalo News, June 22, 2007
"Multilingual, multi-culti jazz vocalist kicks it out a little farther and a little harder on her second outing. Very much the kind of singer you want to hear more of, more often, Morales is on the money throughout with a jazz/world date that open-eared adults will pass the word on quite easily and quickly."
--Midwest Records, June 26, 2007
"Alexa Weber Morales is a San Francisco Bay-area singer whose star is rapidly rising. She sings in French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English, and her lush, rangey, sensuous voice reminds me of Basia, another boundary-busting, powerhouse singer who made a huge splash in the early 1990s and has only recently returned. ... Is this jazz with a pop/Latin sensibility, or Latin with a jazz/pop sensibility? In purist circles, 'pop' is a four-letter word, but how crucial is that when music is so high-spirited and rendered with such care, talent, and heart?
Vagabundeo/Wanderings is a good name for this wide-ranging, engaging journey. If Weber Morales ever decides to tackle some jazz standards, she could blow away half the current crop of vocalists. At least."
--Dr. Judith Schlesinger, All About Jazz, July 04, 2007
"Alexa Weber Morales, who has a beautiful voice, certainly shows off her versatility on Vagabundeo. She switches effortlessly between Spanish, Portuguese, French and English and shows plenty of feeling in each language. Since she improvises in spots and has a spontaneous spirit in even the most tightly arranged setting, she is a jazz singer but one very open to many other influences� There is a unity to this set with Morales' vocals being consistently rewarding and enthusiastic. She is a talent who will certainly be heard from often in the future."
--Scott Yanow, All Music Guide, June 2007
"The music is stunning and polished with some great arrangements and dynamic vocals by Alexa. The quad-lingual components will make this CD appealing to a wider audience and will hold their attention from start to finish. Her musical training and experience is well evident in her vocals and the compositions that were selected to grace this work of art."
--Leon Reyes, KVMR 89.5 FM Sacramento/Nevada City, CA
"It's mighty all the way through and airing lots on KMFB. I'm also spinning it on the KZYX world music show. Kudos and wild applause!"
--Liz Helenchild, DJ, KZYX and KMFB, Mendocino/Fort Bragg, CA
"I find her command of Latin idioms completely convincing, entrancing even."
--Tom Hull, former contributor, The Village Voice