Global A Go-Go
Richmond’s Quatro Na Bossa specialize in bossa nova, the cool Brazilian style that brings a jazzy, poetic sensibility to samba rhythms. The band was founded by vocalist Laura Ann Singh and guitarist Kevin Harding in 2003, and they’ve stayed busy for 10 years with gigs local and national, teaching and private events. Bossa nova was all the rage back in the 1960’s; now it’s just one of the many influential musical styles Brazil has exported, and frankly it’s due for a revivial. On their second album, Quatro Na Bossa provide a bossa nova primer and a snapshot of where the band is at today. The album starts and ends (tracks 1 and 10) with superb interpretations of two classic compositions by Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. The other standouts are 6 (made famous by Joao Gilberto) and the two originals, a Harding-composed instrumental (4) and one from the pen of Singh and Bio Ritmo’s Marlysse Simmons (they work together in two other projects, Miramar and Os Magrelos). Harding is a master of Brazilian guitar, always subtle and rhythmically propulsive. And Singh sings bossa nova as though she grew up on Copacabana; she’s actually a native of that Portuguese hotbed Kingsport, TN. Quality stuff here.
Review of Summer Samba CD on Venus Records
The lovely Laura Ann does a nice job here with a host of classic Brazilian tunes – sung in both English and Portuguese, and backed by a jazzy little quartet! The album’s got a nicely gentle feel, one that suits Laura Ann’s vocals nicely – and it never tries to hard to be too classic, nor too updated in its approach to the tunes – and instead just lays back with a relaxed, open feel that lets the musicians bring their own expressions to the tunes. Instrumentation includes guitar, bass, and drums – plus sax and flute from Rodrigo Ursaia – used in nicely gentle ways that never compete with the vocals.
Review of Summer Samba CD on Venus Records
Laura Ann’s voice is rich, slightly husky and honey-colored. Unlike some bossa nova singers, she is not afraid to use vibratos and open up with her emotions. She gives wonderful renditions of super-famous bossa nova songs like “Dindi” and “Desafinado,” but she shines even brighter with less frequently recorded gems like “Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar” and more recent compositions such as “Flor De Lis” (Djavan) and “Lucidez” (J. Aragao). American and Brazilian musicians back her with assured hands. The rhythm of the bossa nova feels genuinely authentic, and guitarist Kevin Harding is consistently great. Rodrigo Ursaia turns in wonderful tenor sax and flute solos as well. Audiophiles will also be delighted: The guitar sounds natural and rich, and Laura Ann’s voice sounds intimate and attractive. All in all, this is an excellent bossa nova album. Indeed, it’s one of the best by an American singer in my recent memory. Highly recommended!”
Review of Magrela Rose, Os Magrelos & Laura Ann 45 on Electric Cowbell Records
…Os Magrelos brings vocalist Laura Ann Singh into the fold to integrate vintage bossa nova sounds into their musical makeup. Vocally, Singh sounds like she could be at home on the Bossa Nova and The Rise of Brazilian Music In The 1960’s series of Soul Jazz curated compilations released over the last couple of years which have done a great job of covering the Brazilian bossa nova scene of the early 60’s (and the Elenco label in particular) that seems to be oozing influence here.
Hear & Now: Beatles to Brazilian quartet Quatro
Laura Ann Singh, the charismatic and talented 31-year-old singer for Richmond Brazilian quartet Quatro na Bossa playing Friday at Ashland Coffee & Tea, has spent her life singing. Born in Kingsport, Tenn., her Irish/Scottish-American parents instilled a lifelong love of music in her from an early age.
“My father is a guitarist, pianist and songwriter,” she told me over a cup of coffee at Lamplighter in the Fan, “and my mother is a singer, as well. She taught me harmony singing when I was about 4 or so. We were always either listening or playing music at home, and we always sang in church on Sundays.”
But as much as her parents’ influence attracted Singh to music (she cites Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole as her inspirations), it was listening to her father’s Beatles records that had the biggest impact on her.
“I love the Beatles,” she said. “I never get tired of listening to them.”
Her love of the Fab Four runs deep. She formed a short-lived, all-girl Beatles tribute band called the Girdles with local musicians Molly Berg, Bonnie Staley and Marlysse Rose Simmons that packed local clubs during their all-too-brief existence. “I’d love to play with them again, but everyone is so busy,” she laments when I ask her if the group will ever grace local stages in the future.
And like her favorite Beatle, George Harrison (“I’ve been listening to ‘All Things Must Pass’ a lot lately,” she says), Singh has an appreciation for all different types of music.
“I first got interested in Brazilian music in 2001, when a friend of mine came back from Brazil with the first three Joao Gilberto albums. At the time, those records were really hard to find and I just totally fell in love with them.”
Sharing her love of Brazilian bossa nova and samba was guitarist Kevin Harding. The two met when Harding was teaching music at the University of Richmond, and they formed Quatro na Bossa in 2003. The band’s current lineup features Singh and Harding on vocals and guitar, with bassist Rusty Farmer and percussionist Andy Brockman.
In 2008, they released their first full-length recording, “Summer Samba,” on Venus Records, and the group is currently recording new material at Red Amp Audio in Richmond with Jody Boyd. It will be released later this year.
“One of my favorite Brazilian singers is Elizete Cardoso. She has a voice that just melts my heart,” Singh says of the legendary Brazilian singer and actress, someone Singh has an uncanny ability to replicate. “She and Elis Regina are really inspirational to me.”
Besides playing full-time with Quatro na Bossa, Singh sings with Miramar, the group she formed with Rei Alvarez and Marlysse Rose Simmons from Bio Ritmo, specializing in the romantic bolero sound of the Puerto Rican troubadours of the 1950s and 60s. She also performs jazz standards with pianist Tommy Witten, does commercial singing work at Black Iris Studios and is the musical director at her local multi-ethnic house of worship, Eternity Church on Chamberlayne Avenue.
“I’m my happiest when I’m singing,” she confides.
Judging from her continually impressive body of work, she must be one of the happiest people alive