Local band Desafinado defies definition, defines smooth jazz
URBANA — Desafinado means "off-key" in Portuguese, the native tongue of Brazil, which inspires the band Desafinado.
The band name is ironic because the sound is very tight; members of the band include native Brazilians with doctoral degrees in music.
In more than a decade, the band has gone through some lineup changes. Giraldo Rosales, an early member who still plays congas in Desafinado, said the nature of the University of Illinois community is transient.
Other members of the current lineup: flute, melodica (keyboard) and piano, Tom Paynter; mandolins, guitarra baiana and percussion, Luciano Tosta; guitar, Gabriel Motta; bass, David Cubberly; and drums, Nikos Vergis.
The lead singer is Elis Artz, who is from Brazil and started singing with Desafinado in 2006.
Though the band is collaborative in nature, as a native speaker Artz is a natural to write the Portuguese lyrics.
"I wrote some of the lyrics for our last CD ('dream')," she said via email. "It was a very important moment in my life; I was pregnant after a long period of time trying to get pregnant and I felt really inspired, especially for the song called 'Preparation.' It's all about getting ready to 'receive' my dream coming true!"
Paynter said his "Portuguese is terrible," but he gets the message of the Brazilian songs.
"I love the feel of it, the enthusiasm," he said. "The joy in it. When you understand the lyrics, you realize they are about serious things, like unrequited love."
He enjoys the melodies and harmonies in the work of composers like Antonio Carlos Jobim, one of the first creators of the bossa nova sound.
Artz said the band tries to have a little bit of a lot of Latin American styles.
"We are trying to explore and bring, lately, to our repertoire many kinds of Brazilian style and not only bossa nova," she said. "We are playing a combination of bossa nova, samba, MPB (Brazilian popular music), lambada, forro, axe, etc. We capture the many rhythms of Brazil."
Desafinado will next play Feb. 17 in a free performance at the Urbana Free Library, but Artz said the band does weddings, birthday parties, receptions and more.
"We've played in Chicago (Millennium Park, Chicago Cultural Center, UnCommon Ground), Springfield (Tennis and Jazz Festival), the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts or Taste of Champaign," she said. "And just got invited to play in Peoria again at the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria. "
Artz never sang in her native country and took singing lessons when she joined the band.
"It's amazing to know that people love music from my country. And music, in Brazil, is the language of our life!" she said.
She said "Desafinado" is a Portuguese word (usually rendered into English as "out of tune" or "off key"). It also is the title of a bossa nova song composed by Jobim with lyrics (in Portuguese) by Newton Mendona.
The version by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd (from the album "Jazz Samba") was a hit in this country in 1962.
Artz said the band's popularity is a nice surprise. She grew up loving the music. Her father brought home bossa nova and samba records when she was a little girl.
"When I was 10, I told my mom, 'Mom, I want to get married (to Jobim)," she said.
Desafinado has been featured on WILL 580-AM, Channel 12 TV, and community radio station WEFT 90.1-FM. The band was nominated "Best Jazz Artist" by WPGU 107.1-FM for the 2007, '08 and '09 local music awards, Rosales said.
For more information, visit the band's Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Desafinado/192235997269.
If you go
What: Desafinado, smooth Latin jazz
When: 2 p.m. Feb. 17
Where: Urbana Free Library, 210 W. Green St., U
Tickets: free admission