Vocalist, Songwriter, Producer Moscow-born vocalist Masha Campagne
spent her formative years studying cello and piano at the famed Gnessin State Musical College. Her grandfather, Matthew Fayans, an accomplished multi-reed player introduced her to jazz and bossa nova music. Whether attending his shows with the 25-piece Metropole Big Band Orchestra or delving into his extensive LP collection Campagne had a host of early influences, among them Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and Tom Jobim.
“My grandfather was a true jazz musician and a bit of a rebel’ recalls Campagne. “He defied the communist system in the 1950s by playing the allegedly ‘bourgeois’ American music. His audacity fused with strong love of jazz embodied the very spirit of freedom that shaped me into the artist that I am today”.
Having crossed the tender threshold of her twenties, Campagne crossed another when, in 1991, she left post-Soviet Russia and arrived in San Francisco with hardly a dollar to her name. She immersed in local jazz scene studying, playing club dates and working as a voice teacher and jazz educator. Winning the 1st prize in the prestigious Downbeat Student Music Award competition for her work with jazz vocal group ‘Fanfares’ touched off a series of events that soon found this beautiful, multilingual talent gracing the stages of Yoshi’s, Kuumbwa, and Monterey Jazz Festival, to name but a few.
Most Importantly collaborating with Rio de Janeiro-born pianist/composer/arranger Weber Iago (pronounced: Ya-go) resulted in creation of genre-bending Caminhos Cruzados – Crossroads, the collection of jazz and Brazilian gems by the likes of Porter, Rodgers, Jobim and Guinga. The 2007 award-winning release gathered rave reviews in publications such as Cadence, Jazz Times, and AMG noting that “Campagne has forged a delicious Brazilian jazz sound” (Andrew Gilbert), is “musically superb, lyrically convincing” (Jim Santella) and “communicates a thoroughly-hip and venturous command of the Brazilian-jazz vernacular” (Glen Astarita)
With the long anticipated 2012 sophomore release Like Water, Like Air Campagne’s fresh and sincere voice is bound to reach new levels of recognition. Co-produced with her long-time musical partner Iago it indicates the arrival of a singular artist with unparalleled grace, vision and maturity. More importantly, it marks the recording debut of Campagne as a songwriter. Four impressive originals reflect a thoughtful attention to detail, both in the heartfelt lyrics and in smart, compelling arrangements. Adding to that are exciting collaborations with the prodigious Brazilian guitarist/composer Guinga and German harmonica and vibraphone virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens - the results are sensual, sparkling, and sure.
Like Water, Like Air - Featuring: Guinga
, Hendrik Meurkens
, Weber Iago
“He was the effortless choice for me as a co-producer,” says Masha Campagne about working with longtime friend and collaborator Weber Iago. And on Like Water, Like Air, her second full-length collaboration with Iago, the partnership could hardly feel more organic. Together, they leave an unmistakable stamp on the album’s 11 fabulous songs—some standards, some yet to be—which place the chanteuse fronting a roster of bold talents.
Standing out among these is guitarist/composer Guinga, a strong mentor and friend since 2005, whose skillful fingers wield both strings and pen in two songs of his own design. Of Guinga, Campagne remarks; “His eternally beautiful music that draws on a range of inspirations, from the European classical tradition to great American composers echoes deeply in the recesses of my Slavic soul.”
Adding liquid gold to the pot is German harmonica and vibraphone master Hendrik Meurkens, a musician Campagne had long admired from afar. “Harmonica is one of my favorite jazz instruments,” Campagne recalls. “Hendrik’s fiery, original solos and intense lyricism stayed with me since I first heard him in 2000.” Bassist Dan Robbins, drummer Jason Lewis, multi-reed player Harvey Wainapel, guitarist Jeff Buenz, and percussionists Michael Spiro and Guello round out the band.
An infectiously groovy “It Could Happen To You” ushers us into Iago’s luscious pianism and hip arranging, setting the tone for a session that is at once tasteful, permeable, and scintillating with desire. His left-hand hooks swing from a turn-on-a-dime rhythm section, providing uplifting contrast with Campagne’s ever-tasteful phrasing. Continuing our ride on the standards train, we find smoothness incarnate in Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Outra Vez.” Meurkens brings an especially golden sound to this, the album’s Bossa Nova heartbeat.
“Invitation” raises the bar. This light and airy confection of fated encounters breathes as it lives: deeply and joyfully. Again, Campagne enchants with her grace, turning the tried and true into a veritable welcome mat for the listener. “Se E Tarde Me Perdoa” (Carlos Lyra) finds the cast superbly arranged, with lively syncopations from percussionist Michael Spiro matching Campagne’s effortless sense of timing beat for beat alongside solid altoism from Harvey Wainapel.
Guinga proves himself a versatile artist of great tenderness and scope on two of his tunes. In lighthearted samba “No Fundo Do Rio,” Campagne’s buoyant lyric portrayals at once transport the listener to Rio de Janeiro, bringing the emotional level up a few notches. In a duet “Exasperada,” intimate voicings of Guinga’s guitar and Campagne’s intense delivery evoke an emotional watercolor portrait of love in a transient world.
Iago also gives us a taste of his compositional talents with “I Can See You Now,” thereby ending the album on a reflective note. Gentle yet affirming, it features Campagne’s deep, emotionally expansive vocals backed only by the composer at the keys.
But it is Campagne’s reverent, bold originals that are sure to stand out. Whether in the foot-tapping goodness of “Broke But Rich,” a bittersweet anthem for the fledgling in all of us, or the downtempo considerations of “Mystery Unwrapped,” that very self-confidence shines through like the sun through the clouds. Meurkens notably swaps comb for mallets in these two tunes, adding a fluid touch with his vibes that sits comfortably below a breathy vocal spread.
Evoking a giddy rush of a new found love “My Heart Was Lost And Found For You” paints yet another tender image, cinematic and sunlit. In it one can hear the smile in her voice, curled like a new moon against the urban sky. Last but far from least is the title cut, an intensely personal and optimistic journey through the topographies of desire. Its sentiments float somewhere between wonder and conviction, dipping its quill in the ink of joy and signing a love letter with a flourish and a kiss.
Of its many strengths, Like Water, Like Air’s greatest is its cohesiveness. Though styles change from song to song, their unity only grows stronger as they build in diversity. Each reaches out to us like a warm embrace, unrolling long stretches of beach, skyline, and experience. We could ask for no better guide than Campagne through these spaces, for on her lips the words and melodies find a life of their own.
The engineering, so well suited to the intimacy of the music at hand, is all the more impressive for having been recorded and mixed in a matter of weeks. It lifts as needed, winged and free but never losing sight of where it came from. Living large in spirit and rich at heart, this music arcs like a glinting coin into the outstretched cups of our souls.