How We Met
Back in the 90's I used to play happy hour piano in a nice very Brazilian restaurant on Broome street called Amazonas. Composer/arranger Sy Johnson used to come there to listen to my Brazilian piano playing. I once asked him if he knew any good American lyricist that might want to write English lyrics to my songs, and he told me: "right here, she's the very best one", and introduced me to Ellen, who happened to be there that day. This is how Ellen and I met, and it was the beginning of our very fruitful music partnership.
Writing songs together
On most of the songs we wrote together, her lyrics were added to my music and not the other way around. I was always very impressed with how Ellen would come up with those beautiful, imaginative lyrics without asking me to add or change even a single note of the melody. There was one song, "Sugar Reef", that I had written as an instrumental, not dreaming that anyone would ever be able to write lyrics to it. Ellen listened to it and came up with the idea of those incredible call-and-response male and female lines. Incredible! I think that the only song in which she wrote the lyrics first and I added music afterwards was the very poignant "And If She Asks Him". I personnally think it turned out quite good as well.
Our "Recipe for Rhythm" CD was recorded at Variety Sounds, a large studio on 42nd street that doesn't exist anymore. It featured eight of my songs with Ellen's lyrics, plus an instrumental piece and one of my songs with lyrics in Portuguese. Besides myself on piano and lead vocals, we had Ricky Sebastian on Drums, Sérgio Brandão on bass (John Abbey playing bass on one song), Romero Lubambo on guitar, Urbano Sanchez and Mauro Refosco on percussion, Bob Kindred on sax, Premik Russell Tubbs on flute and bansuri, and many other great musicians. Vocal arrangements were done by Rosalinde Block, Luiz Simas and Sue Maskaleris. There was a large number of back-up singers. Ellen was the producer, and she hired a sound engineer for the project (Peter Robbins) and an assistant producer (Beco Dranoff). The atmosphere at the studio was very happy, we were thrilled to be able to record our music in such a professional way. It all ran very smoothly, with the most complicated song to record being "Sugar Reef": a total of 10 back up singers (!) doing the fast call- and-response lines. In the end we felt we had a CD we could really be very proud of.
It's been an immense joy and honor for me to have been able to work with such a talented and generous person as Ellen. Her extraordinary lyrics will forever be in our hearts and minds.
Rio-born Brazilian jazz composer/singer/pianist Luiz Simas is a genuine Carioca. Living in New York since ‘89, he has led original groups in jazz festivals and clubs in the US, in Europe and in Brazil. Luiz' voice and music have warmed major venues including Birdland, the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and Bargemusic. His CDs include Cafune, Impromptu, Luiz Simas Live in NYC, New Chorinhos from Brazil, Recipe for Rhythm and Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest) Piano Suite.
"Luiz Simas is not only a wonderful musician, singer and composer, he is an engaging performer who draws his audience into his witty, joyful, sensuous musical world. Simas epitomizes the fantasies we non-Brazilians have about that wonderful country, and with him, we all get to be Brazilian, at least for the a couple hours!” - Judy Carmichael, pianist