CD Reviews

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

Review of GINGA written by Richard S. Ginell, Rovi /

Katia Moraes & Sambaguru1999
Having started her career in Rio de Janeiro, Kátia Moraes spent the 1990s in Los Angeles, eventually fronting a swinging, free-thinking polyglot band called Sambaguru. This is their first album together, and it will come as a pleasant surprise to those who don't know this attractive, energetic singer/songwriter and will be a confirmation for those who have caught her effusive, instantly appealing live act. Though the band has roots planted firmly in Brazilian music, there are no Brazilians in the band besides Moraes (they're from the United States, India, and Sri Lanka), and that undoubtedly fuels their desire to pick up threads of influence from everywhere. More importantly, Moraes is a fine songwriter (with talented keyboardist Bill Brendle often collaborating in the writing), and she spreads the word in a thin, clear, agile voice with crystalline Portuguese diction. While the Sergio Mendes/Brasil '66-like opening track "Pesca Das Muié" is almost a rewrite of Gilberto's Gil's "Roda" from the 1960s, the CD soon veers into the melting pot of tropicalia with battering Bahian rhythms, rap, reggae, ghostly chorus and sassy brass effects on synthesizer, heavy metal rock guitar, and trace African elements -- always applied with a light touch. The album closes on a compelling note with the revolving groove of "Gruve da Bicicieta" (or "Bicycle Groove") and a scorching message to Moraes' absent father ("Pai"), where the sweetness of her voice belies the bitterness of the lyric. If anything, this highly disciplined recording is a bit on the restrained side in comparison to the band's live show, but just a bit; the high quality of the tunes still shines through. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
Love, Life and Sambaguru
I’m in New York City on one of the most fiendishly cold nights of the year to review a show at Carnegie Hall, but there’s another reason to fight the traffic, frost, ice and latest call for more snow to travel across town, because in lower Manhattan at a place called SOB’s (Sounds of Brazil), a premier venue for World Music on the East Coast, there’s a musical revolution afoot with the international ambassadors of Brazilian music, Sambaguru! I’m on my way to their sound check in case I can’t get back in time for their second late night performance. In total contrast to the freezing weather outside, SOB’s is a hot, hot, hot locale and people are already beginning to congregate outside in anticipation of tonight’s show.
Sambaguru are based on the West Coast and seldom seen before New York audiences. I found them because of my husband’s addiction to the song “Tribo Gandista”, which he fell in love with on, leading us to buy every CD we could find by this amazing band and to beg radio stations and nightclubs on the East Coast to bring them here quickly. Finally, on the only night I will be in New York this year, I discover  they are performing and I literally slip-slide to West Village to see the hottest, most exciting fusion of Amerindian, Portuguese and African rhythms on the planet.
It’s been said that their style is a melting pot of samba, bossa nova, choro, sertanajo, brega, forro and maracatu colliding with Afro-Cuban, American Cajun and Jazz. It does…and so much more! Their West Coast reviews have rightly described them as effervescent, irresistibly compelling, magical and colorful, and while the adjectives flow the rhetoric doesn’t capture the array of the emotion hidden within their music. One listens and immediately experiences warmth and happiness, and then you move, sway, sing, smile and suddenly feel glad to be alive on the darkest day.
They are no novices by any stretch of the imagination. Vocalist and lyricist Katia Moraes utterly bewitches, together with another Brazilian, guitarist Grecco Buratto, percussionist Kevin Ricard, hailing from Lousiana, Sri Lankan bassist Hussain Jiffrey,  drummer and percussionist Tony Shogren from Fresno, California via South America and keyboards, accordion, cavaquinho player and composer, Bill Brendle from Santa Barbara, California.  Sambaguru demonstrates their talents as award-winning musicians and stellar performers, whether in Portuguese, Spanish or English. The combination of their vast array of experience is both unique and unequalled!
At the sound check there’s no make up, costumes, feathers or glitz, simply musicians weaving their magic, performing their craft, giving their all. It’s a miracle! Suddenly this isn’t freezing New York – it’s Brazil, it’s carnival and I’m right there and they’re playing Tribo Gandista for me and I’m thrilled!
Sambaguru’s latest CD “Tribo” is an exciting journey into Brazilian music. Thoughtful, with songs like “Everything That’s You” evoking memories of early Astrud Gilberto’s “How Insenstive”, except Katia Moraes’ vocals hold no simpering sweetness. Her phrasing is worldly and powerful, displaying the confidence of a woman, not a little girl wanting back her lover. “Bananeira” is a musical adventure, with shades of  João Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, but so much funkier in its execution. “Gato e Sapato” and “Fogo de Palha” explode with electric, infectious cross sections of rhythm luring you in to become part of the music. And then there’s the classic “Verite”, which I have played so many times that it lingers in my psyche, representing its own truth.
Hours later when I taxi back to the SOB’s for the late night show there are hundreds of people lining up to see Sambaguru.  Many of them will be turned away, as the club simply cannot accommodate their many fans. I hear the exciting sound of the  “Pagode do Maracana” leaking out onto the street, those in line are moving to its tantalizing rhythm, a long swaying train of people ready to dance, sing and enjoy life once again, and in a troubled world what more could you ask?
M. D. “Mandy” Johnson
Author of  “Circle Around The Sun”
Sunday, September 6th, 2009

(By Paula Eldenstein for Sounds of Timeless
TRIBO is a collection of original songs sung in Portuguese, Spanish and English by lead vocalist Katia Moraes out front of the internationally renowned band Sambaguru. Special guests Paul Jackson, Jr., Oscar Castro-Neves, Justo Almario and lyricist Siedah Garrett offer their stunning musical visions to this great collection of songs. Katia Moraes’ voice is sweet and enticing throughout the program and lends another layer of credibility to the 11 songs she composed the lyrics for. Great horn charts and percussive flair also make this CD worth listening to over and over again. The  joyous nature of the music should have you up and dancing to its lively flavors that are spiced up with dashes of hot Latin riffs from Justo Almario on saxophone on “Gato e Sapato” while Paul Jackson, Jr. adds his electric guitar finesse to the lovely composition called “Veritate.” This is a great song and finds Katia Moraes in a pensive mood singing beautifully in Portuguese. Overall this recording is a great way to explore the lovely vocals of Katia Moraes and the international flair of Sambaguru – all in one place. Buy it now.

Monday, July 27th, 2009
Wednesday, March 11th, 2009


Sambaguru is Back with Tribo

by Sergio Mielniczenko from KPFK
The band Sambaguru is back with a new album “Triibo”. This world band with Brazilian sounds is Los Angeles based with Brazilian leading singer Katia Moraes who also writes Portuguese lyrics. The band blends sounds based on Brazilian rhythms and styles. They are a very successful band with world class musicians and the ever powerful performance of singer Katia Moraes. Members of the band are: Kevin Ricard on percussion, Tony Shogren drum kit, Hussain Jiffrey bass and Grecco Burato guitars, Bill Brendle keyboards and accordion and Mitchel Long seven string guitar. Special guests: Oscar Castro Neves, Justo Almario, Arturo Veloso, Mitchel Long, Ken Applegate, Paul Jackson Jr., Flavio Ribeiro, The Vine Street Horns and Erock dos Santos. This good sounding album has some special tunes such as “Everything that is You” by Bill Brendle, English lyrics by Siedah Garret and lyrics in Portuguese by Katia Moraes with the participation of Oscar Castro Neves on acoustic guitar. This time Katia sings in English in a very lush music arrangement that I guess was done by Bill Brendle. For a very up beat Brazilian beat and samba the song is: "Beleza da Mulher Brasileira” by Bill Brendle and Katia Moraes. Good job!
Monday, March 9th, 2009

Dirty Linen Magazine, August/September 2000

Baltimore, MD
Kátia Moraes and Sambaguru - wrenching heavy nails GINGA This is a relentlessly perky CD. Moraes and her international band of samba musicians keep the touch light and, for the most part, humorous on this collection of sambas, choros, and afoxÚs. Moraes has a bell-like voice with such a mischievous sense of phrasing that one doesn't have to speak Portuguese to be in on her jokes. Sambaguru is equally at home with the sensuous groove of the title track and the light, transparent sound of "Sarando." The drum-heavy "Convite Pra Bituca" (Invitation to Bituca) is a highlight, with its compelling groove. The last track, "Pai" (Dad) is a departure from the party atmosphere of the rest of the release. It's a heart-wrenching indictment of an absent father. Moraes nails the emotional impact on this one as confidently as she handles the lighter stuff. This one should be in any sambaphile's collection.

Monday, March 9th, 2009


New Times, 1999
In the labyrinthine world of human emotions, few relationships are as delicate and complex as the one between father and daughter. During the first five years in the life of a baby girl, a father acts as a major catalyst by defining the way she will relate to men as an adult. If he fails to be emotionally present during these crucial years, the pain caused by his absence will haunt the daughter for the rest of her life. Singer-songwriter Kátia Moraes must know a thing or two about absent fathers. Otherwise, she could never have written the lyrics to "Pai", the closing track of her brand-new album with the ensemble Sambaguru. The song offers a sublime coupling of nostalgic melody and meaningful lyric. It might even break your heart.
Throughout the remaining 12 cuts of Ginga, Moraes reveals herself as one of the most important Latin artists living and working in the United States today. One can only speculate what might have happened to her career had she stayed in her native Brazil, although it's not hard to imagine her as  a big star in her homeland. The opening "Pesca das Mui", rapidly fulfills all the expectations any well-educated gringo might harbor about Brazilian sounds - it's frothy, infectious, and rhythmically challenging. The breathtaking "Estrelinha", on the other hand, is a lilting, velvety duet with pianist Bill Brendle that matches the grandeur of anything written by Milton Nascimento. Interestingly, Moraes bypasses the bossa nova sound altogether. Instead, her sensibility is firmly planted in the late '60s Tropicalia movement, bringing back a time when musical titans such as Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, and Caetano Veloso were at the peak of their powers.
Kátia Moraes should not be ignored. The fact that she can be found every weekend performing at Los Angeles hole-in-the-wall clubs like La Ve Lee (a place, by the way, where the Greek spinach pie alone is almost worth the price of the admission) doesn't diminish her artistry one bit. Moraes' passionately sensuous lyrics will send you running in search of a English-Portuguese dictionary. She's stunning. Ignore Ginga at your own risk, and loss.
Monday, March 9th, 2009

GINGA: Kátia Moraes & Sambaguru

KALX FM, Lawrence Kay (UC Berkeley)
Posted at
First-rate jazz-MPB vocals in the style of Elis Regina and Gal Costa. Moraes has a sweet, clear voice and sharp phrasing and is obviously well-versed in Brazilian musical history (the album opens with a homage to various musicians). Likewise, her band, Sambaguru, play tightly and with feeling, covering a wide variety of styles including jazz, samba, ax≥, and even a bit of Indian Classical, It has a few predictable pop foibles, but compared to much of the '70s MPB this is modeled on, this album is a paragon of restraint. Hopefully being based in LA, rather than in Rio, won't count against these folks--they sound great, and deserve a wide audience. For more info, visit their website at
Monday, March 9th, 2009

Kátia Moraes & Brasil Nuts

Ten Feet And The Sun
SugarCane Records

You have probably seen and heard quite a number of Brazilian singers or groups who choose to make a living outside of Brazil. Some or most of them choose a fairly easy path. They sing the traditional and tried-and-true type of Brazilian music. In that category you will find those singers and groups doing the works of Tom Jobim, M’lton Nascimento, Jo‹o Bosco, Gonzaguinha, and many other Brazilian classic and contemporary composers. These singers are doing a terrific job in promoting Brazilian music abroad.
In addition to that category, there is a very small group of original performers. Those are the singers writing their own songs and showing the world the new Brazilian music. Among those, Kátia Moraes emerges as a strong and leading force. With original compositions penned by Kátia herself and fellow Brasil Nuts members, she establishes her own boundaries and defines new parameters for Brazilian music. With this unique release, Ten Feet and The Sun, Kátia Moraes travels the entire rainbow of Brazilian music and more. Her eclectic compositions and vivacious performances cleverly mix Portuguese and English lyrics efficiently.
It's a Lie, the CD's opening track, is a stylized Brazilian northeastern "forr—" dealing with the disillusion and lies in a love affair. Bill Brendle's keyboard work and Tony Shogren zabumba percussion are astonishing. With Tonto (Fool), the bossa nova presence is more than the mentioning of Tom Jobim's name. The use of an accordion is original and effective, and Kátia's own vocal overdubs will make you reminisce of Basia's style in Astrud (from her Time and Tide release). Cidades (Cities) unites California and Rio de Janeiro, whereas M‹e çfrica (Mother Africa) takes us back to our roots. Maracatony is Tony Shogren's own version of another Brazilian northeastern tradition, the maracatπ, a dance characterized by its predominant use of percussion instruments. Tony Shogren's himself is responsible for the exceptional performance of an array of instruments ranging from frying pans to atabaques. The result is a high-spirited dance. Closing the CD, Pagode no Maracan‹ (pagode is a samba style; Maracan‹ is the world's largest soccer stadium, in Rio de Janeiro) guest stars Luizinho Mila playing tan-tan and Claudinho Sorriso playing cavaquinho. This pagode samba is ebullient and full of excitement.
If you cannot find this release at your local dealer, please check out Kátia Moraes's home page.
Copyright © 1997 Eg’dio Leit‹o