Las Muchachas is a dynamic, versatile three-woman band performing a wide range of material, both originals and covers, with a distinctive Afro-Cuban style. We are like a blend of Debussy, Tito Puente, and Joni Mitchell. We have performed for appreciative audiences at public and private functions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for the past five years. We are currently making our second cd of another eleven original songs. Our compositions reflect our classical training and eclectic musical experiences.
Vicki Trent on vocals, flute, sax, and bass. Vicki studied flute as a child in Los Angeles with studio musicians and in jazz workshops and took classical voice lessons for several years. She has performed extensively with opera groups and various jazz bands, including Tiger Lily, The Ritual Band with John Grundfest, and Heroines, with whom she recorded an album. Courses at the University of California in Santa Cruz in ethnomusicology had her playing in a gamelan, a Chinese ensemble, a Mexican Norteno group, and singing in a gospel choir. She is a Realtor, a judo instructor, and a Life Success Coach in San Francisco.
Sandy Brassard on guitars. Sandy trained at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, then traveled in Europe and Latin America for several years, learning from, and performing with musicians of diverse styles. She has significant experience performing and recording both here and abroad. She teaches guitar privately and at Capp Music Center in San Francisco.
Karin Heller on congas and other percussion. Karin has studied and performed Afro/Cuban, Brazilian, Middle Eastern, and contemporary rhythms with local, legendary teachers and in workshops for several years. She works as a psychotherapist and has used music for healing with a cancer support group.
About the ten songs:
1. Sunrise Songo
A mellow, medium tempo, improvised number with recurring melody lines, starting with the latin songo rhythm laid down by Karin on the congas. We like the idea of naming songs after natural phenomena, thus the sunrise, plus it's an optimistic, happy sounding number that reflects the potential and dreams of a brand new day dawning. A nice showcase for Sandy's complex acoustic guitar work, with Vicki on flute and then sax.
Vicki first composed this melody in 1985 as a little ditty for her telephone answering machine. Patagonia Birch is a nickname of an old friend of Vicki's, and Sandy chose the chords to go with the melody. Molly Higbie of "Pele Juju" fame had some important input on this song: she devised the "Pata pata pata…" for the chorus. Karin's sticks on the congas add a tribal feel to the otherwise hard to categorize style. The lyrics reflect a philosophical musing not only on the meaning of our existence, but also on the more everyday reality of our presence here in North America as foreigners from many other lands. Even the native Americans are said to have come from some other continent long ago before settling here. Vicki borrowed the final notes from an old folk song from her childhood called "Drill Ye Tarriers, Drill" which is probably not known to many people, really. Vicki is on bass with Sandy on the acoustic guitar.
3. La Colline
Sandy and Vicki wrote this one in the Santa Cruz mountains, and it is a true story of walking up and down very steep hills over the course of several days. It is a song about the struggles of life, the symbolic climbing up and coasting down hills, and the satisfying feeling of sharing one's struggles with an understanding and loving person. The 5/4 time signature during the verse is unusual, then at the chorus we go into the more typical 4/4 and then a ¾, covering a lot of rhythmic ground. Vicki initially made up the lyrics in French, and later got many corrections and suggestions on them from her mom, who is an expert in French and also in translation. The bongo beat suggests the movement of the feet on the pathways, with acoustic guitar and flute adding to the almost medieval feeling of this song.
"Nous marchons ensemble, montant la colline.
Les arbres regardent, touchant notre mine.
On respire tres fort, les jambes bougent lentement,
Les pensees et les coeurs se parlent franchement.
La vie est pleine de collines
On monte, on descend, on reve.
Allons un court ou long distance,
Avec force ou nonchalance."
"We're walking together, going up the hill.
The trees look at us, touching our faces.
We're breathing hard, our legs are moving slowly.
We speak frankly of our thoughts and our hearts' feelings.
Life is full of hills, we go up and down, we dream.
Travelling a short or long distance,
Both seriously and nonchalantly."
4. Bark Up A Tree
Another story that came out of a visit to Camp Double Bear in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where we were abruptly awakened by a barking dog in the middle of the night. It had chased a cat up a tree and they were both making all kinds of noises out there. Sandy's chord changes on the classical guitar on this one are always refreshing and unexpected, even after hearing them for years. Karin's bongo line sets up the reggae feel nicely, and this one is very popular with the younger set, who join in on the barking and meowing sing-along parts.
This one is based on the Latin mozambique rhythm that Karin lays down on the congas, then we join in with an ostenato pattern, first on bass, then echoed by flute and then the alto sax. Sandy is featured on bass. She spent years playing bass with the jazz band in her high school in Tucson, and she shows her talents off in her brilliant solo on this number. This song tends to get wild and raucous at our gigs, in contrast to some of our other, more "easy listening" style songs.
Originally created in the mountains of Sonoma by Vicki with old friends Gayle and Wanda in honor of our judo teacher and played at numerous parties, we changed it to use the name of Karin's mom, who lives in Ohio. The real Marushka is a very sweet and supportive person, rather unlike the character in this song; we just took some poetic license here and it has been fully explained to, and approved by, her. A slow jazzy sound, with Vicki on bass and vocals, Karin on bongo, and Sandy on classical guitar providing an interesting counterpoint. There is a moral to this story, as we all have an "inner Marushka," the critical voice within which we must learn to embrace and use for our own good.
7. Bad Hair Day
Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Vicki had a challenging time as a youngster with curly hair: definitely not in style in those days and very unique. So, this is a true story, with a happy ending. A blues number featuring Vicki on vocals and bass, Karin on congas and Sandy on electric guitar.
8. Folks Song
In 6/8 time, with a flamenco feel, this is a fast and furious number with a strong cowbell part and a wild flute line to go along with the rushing strummed guitar. Check out the surprise ending.
Sandy wrote this one for her cat, who always seemed to know the song was for him. He would look up when it was sung in his presence and if he didn't approve of the particular performance, would leave the room soundlessly. He finally passed away recently at age seventeen after a long, sunny, musical life. Sung in Spanish and based on South American songs, with Karin on maracas.
10. Hades Cha Cha
This is an improvised piece that has evolved into a more set number as time has gone on. Sandy shows her prowess on the electric guitar, bending the strings. We each take a solo: Vicki on bass, Karin on congas. We have a fond memory of the time we played this at a party in Napa County at a vineyard/estate. One of the highlights of the party was a cha cha dance lesson, and we played a twenty-minute version of this song while the guests, in various degrees of inebriation, struggled to learn the many variations on the steps to the cha cha. We named it Hades Cha Cha because it is unusual to find a song named after that place.. something different and memorable.