From the first recording with Stan Getz to the present, the rhythms and music of Brazil have infused new tonal colors and energy into the music that enlivens my spirit. Stan and Eddie Duran introduced me to those rhythms and prompted deeper exploration into the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ivan Lins, Maria Bethania, Simone, Dori and Nana Caymmi, Joyce, Toninho Horta, Chico Buarque, Djavan, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Elis Regina to mention a few. Maria Marquez, a contemporary of mine also living and performing in San Francisco in the 80s, generously made a tape for me of these artists and several others that further inspired. Bless you Maria! This music has sustained my spirit through the last thirty years of life’s crushing waves and lean times.
The first two Concord recordings Let There Be Love" and One by One" were successfully acclaimed, then the waves began to hit. By the time the third recording, Sagacious Grace" was finally revived by recording engineers Bud Spangler and Dan Fizzle, the heart of the recording and my musical director, Al Plank, had, to quote James Gavin in Silva • Bell • Elation’s liner notes, “moved on to the next world.” The dilemma of how to present a CD release show without the master musician left me stymied. And then I met Marcos Silva.
Twenty-two years after making Sagacious Grace, it became clear that I was free to recreate this collection of songs. Then came the thought that fusing the Dee Bell white, laid-back, swing-singing way of floating over time signatures, could be a complete Yin and Yang expression if these songs and others were sung over the perfectly executed rhythms that had always brought joy to my heart; additionally enhanced with electric bass played like a guitar in the style of Jaco Pastorius. And yes, I have recorded in Portuguese, but there are so many terrific singers from Brazil, who was I to continue to compete in that arena beyond what I little I had already offered to the public ear? Why not “do it my way” in English, cushioned and embraced by the rhythms and tonal colors I loved, with the luxury of the lyric poetry of my native language. Marcos Silva’s skills as instructor of Brazilian music at Berkeley’s jazz school, as a composer, arranger, and producer, along with his experience as former musical director for Flora Purim and Toninho Horta, collectively make Marcos the perfect musician to fulfill this brainchild.
It was an auspicious day in May 2012 when Marcos said yes to the investigation of this idea. Our first meeting was like a musical speed date. In one hour, we moved quickly through about twenty-five songs selected by one or the other of us from my huge book. We were in complete synchronized agreement about which music would and would not work with every single tune. This was quite surprising given that he had to adjust to my “lazy” vocals and I to his precision with the rhythm. I left that meeting floating on air and with the mellifluous cushion of sound Marcos had achieved still delighting my brain. At last, I had met someone whose music and piano voicings touched my heart as deeply as had Al Plank’s.
A month and a half later, with only two formal rehearsals, Marcos’ trio and I performed a spectacular Sagacious Grace CD release show, with a handful of new Silva arrangements of some songs from the album, along with those that included a broad range of beloved songs from the full stretch of my life, and complete with a visual backdrop of images of grace. The joy in the room was a transforming experience for the band and the audience. So much so, that I felt compelled to record it for others. It was and is my “happy thought” to share this joy with a world that is quite in need of “getting back to the garden” before it is too late. The garden of living simply, aligned with nature, and in support of one another as equals in partnering for a healthy, happy world.
Much later, we laid down the first seven tracks at Fantasy Studios with the extraordinary Alberto Hernandez running the board and Marcos’ producing expertise. From that day forward, the Silva • Bell • Elation took on its own life and timeline.
From the onset of becoming a professional, music has for me forever been about healing the soul. Music is the mystical extension of experimentation with obstetrics, midwifery, nutrition, and massage that have each contributed to the variety of experiences that have blessed my life. When the band and vocal operate as one, in sync with the audience, it attunes everyone’s vibration.
The intention of this CD is to provide music to lift spirits, to heal from loss, and in doing so, provide a financial foundation for a series of teaching recordings so that all K-2 classrooms can begin their day with music. If good fortune smiles, perhaps Marcos and I will also follow it with another recording. This one is indeed a musical partnership full of Silva • Bell • Elation.