My mission? To find a redheaded Latina to tie in with my featured artist. Since nearly every famous Latina has sported red tresses at one time or another, this really wasn’t that difficult, but I’m striving for authenticity. I’m not sure if Gloria Estefan is a natural redhead, but she looks fair and freckled, and there sure are a lot of photos of her with read hair. Besides, the color suits her well, especially in this picture of Gloria with the flaming curls.

estefan

Before there was Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, before there was Christina Aguilera, J-Lo, or Selena Gomez, or even her tragically slain namesake, there was Angela Bofill. Angie’s music–I’ll forgo the formality of the traditional jazz critics’ use of Miss Bofill–necessarily contains Latin elements; she is of Cuban/Puerto Rican heritage, and grew up in the Bronx, but is also strongly influenced by her love of jazz and R&B. Her crossover appeal caught the attention of fledgling jazz label GRP Records, which was also the producer for her longtime friend, flutist Dave Valentin.

Her first two albums on GRP, Angie in 1978 and Angel of the Night in 1979, were marketed to a predominately jazz audience, getting extensive airplay on WRVR in New York and other urban markets. Her early success caught the attention of Clive Davis at Arista Records. Since Arista had a distribution deal with GRP, Angie switched labels for her 1981 album Something About You, produced by Narada Michael Walden. This collaboration with Walden led to Bofill’s greatest commercial success, with the 1983 release of Too Tough.

Her earlier recordings have a rawness, both emotionally and in the unique phrasing, virtually devoid of vibrato, resulting in a plaintive call. It is at once tough, with a husky, signature cry that emanates from, then is drawn back to, her chest. The Walden produced recordings display more polish and maturity, and Too Tough showcases Bofill’s virtuosity without sacrificing her emotional strength.

To be honest, when this album was released, it slipped right by me. The post-disco title tune garnered most of the air play and caused me to overlook the strengths of this collection, including many of my now favorite ballads, Tonight I Give In, Song for a Rainy Day, and Accept Me. The coming of age song Accept Me appeals to the reason of her lover, “I’m a woman now, I’m not just a girl.” The lyrics are spare, but the message becomes more pleading and insistent until you can almost envision the singer stopping her feet and waving her hands as she desperately seeks understanding.

“I’m not a girl any-more,

not your girl an-y-more,

not your lit-tle girl an-y-more,

I’m all grown up now!”

Song for a Rainy Day is a textured torch song that also questions until it builds to a climax.

“Love, you cast me aside
Threw me away
Are you saving me up for a rainy day?
First, you make me feel fine
Now, you make me feel blue
What did I do to you?”

The cover of the classic Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell hit Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing is well represented in a duet with Boz Scaggs. Angie displays a true affinity for the music she grew up with and makes you wish she recorded more like it. Unlike Bofill’s earlier albums, there is not a lot of Latin influenced music, but I Can See It In Your Eyes has a Brazilian feel and Angie closes with some melodic Portuguese. Here’s the full playlist:

  1. “Too Tough” 5:36
  2. “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” 3:04
  3. “Tonight I Give In” 3:21
  4. “You Could Come Take Me Home” 3:51
  5. “Love You Too Much” 3:56
  6. “Is This a Dream” 5:11
  7. “Song for a Rainy Day” 3:37
  8. “I Can See It In Your Eyes” 3:31
  9. “Accept Me (I’m Not a Girl Anymore)” 3:34
  10. “Rainbow Inside My Heart” 3:44

A bit of trivia about a couple of the musicians accompanying Bofill on this album; Randy Jackson of American Idol fame is the bassist and Sheila Escovedo the percussionist featured on these sessions.

Finally, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Dave Valentin on March 8th due to complications from a stroke and Parkinson’s disease. His great spirit and musical voice, a sound that complimented Angela’s on many recordings, will be greatly missed.

valentin

My hope is that you are reading my short story following these reviews. Your comments, good or bad, are encouraged. Here is the 3rd installment of Pops

Third_Avenue_from_the_59th_Street_8d22163v

My first day on the job was uneventful, except for my introduction to Pops. He was busy at the register when I entered the store. I remember being pleased that his appearance matched my expectations of him; he really did look like somebody’s father. He was stout and a little heavy around the middle, his round belly separated into two soft rolls by his white apron strings. His brown hands were large and strong and moved smoothly behind the counter as he exchanged money with his customers. A yellow baseball cap, Pops’ lucky cap, was perched on top of his large head, and appeared to be about a half size too small. Smoke from his pipe hovered about his full, dark brown face.

I, on the other hand, didn’t make a good first impression on Pops. Ignorant of his tight budget and his pride as an independent businessman, I made the blunder of asking out loud the usual amount of his daily purchase. Checking me with a frown and excusing himself from his customers at the register, Pops grasped me firmly by the wrist and led me to the back of the store where he pulled a pencil and a small slip of paper from his apron pocket. Silently writing the figure $20 he pressed the slip into the palm of my hand. Avoiding his eyes to conceal my embarrassment, I hustled out to my truck to select his modest order.

When I returned, Pops was smiling, having completely forgotten the awkwardness of the moment before.

“Thanks son,” he said, his eyes communicating forgiveness for having caught him off guard. “You have a nice day now.”

Relieved, I smiled and mumbled, “You too — I’ll see you tomorrow.”

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