"Pinay in World Music Top 20" from Ruben Nepales with Philippine Inquirer

LOS ANGELESùFor her fourth US album, jazzipino queen Charmaine Clamor offers ôSomething Good.ö This high-spirited musical romp is on the Top 20 of the JazzWeek World Music radio chart, CharmaineÆs third straight album to have achieved a similar feat.

If you have not yet heard of Charmaine, who was born in the Philippines and was singing to bus passengers at age 3, check out ôSomething Good.ö The album is not only good; it may be her best one yet.

The Los Angeles-based singer broke out in the international music scene with her second album, ôFlippinÆ Out,ö whose opening track ôMy Funny Brown Pinayö captivated jazz and world music fans. As a result, she was featured on BBCÆs ôThe World,ö National Public RadioÆs ôWeekend Edition,ö as well as jazz and mainstream publications.

Charmaine, who joined Cyndi Lauper, Tori Amos and Natalie Merchant on David Byrne/Fatboy SlimÆs concept album ôHere Lies Love,ö will launch ôSomething Goodö on Saturday, Dec. 4, 8 p.m., at LAÆs premier jazz venue, Catalina Bar & Grill on Sunset Blvd.

The show is part of the 6th Annual Filipino-American Jazz & World Music Festival that opens on Friday, Dec. 3. More information is available on

Excerpts from our interview with Charmaine:

You sound like you had fun singing the tracks on this album.

This album represents who I am now as a woman, as a human being. And it defies genres and focuses only on good music, not categories... I definitely had fun bringing out all the different aspects of Charmaine Clamor.

ôDoodlinÆ in Taglishö is so sexy!

ôDoodlinÆ in Taglishö allows me to play one of my favorite characters, the slightly delusional, crazy chick. I always admired Sarah VaughanÆs version of this Horace Silver tune but I wanted to give it my own Pinay flavor. I thought it would be a great idea to ôdoodleö and scat like youÆre actually doodlinÆ during the solo version... This is actually one of the most played tracks on jazz radio. It swings!

ôSomething Goodö by Julie Andrewsùwho knew there was a bluesy, va-va-voom version waiting to be made from this wholesome classic?

I like how you describe this version: va-va-voom! IÆm a huge fan of ôThe Sound of Music.ö I must have seen it 100 times. And one of my favorite songs from the musical is ôSomething Good.ö I approached my trio with this tune and this is the version we came up with: a groove that is very Clamor-esque, greasy and funky.

ôFeelinÆ Stevieö is my favorite track. ItÆs a rollicking tribute to Stevie Wonder.

ôFeelinÆ Stevieö is a crowd favorite, especially when we have the horn section, as we will at my Catalina Jazz Club show on Dec. 4. Like everyone else, I think Stevie Wonder is a once-in-a-generation artist. My long-time producer Michael Konik and I wanted to pay tribute to him. Michael came up with a catchy ôStevie-soundingö melody, wrote clever lyrics to it and gave it to sax man Robby Marshall to arrange.

I love that the three-song ôMother Nature Suiteö goes from a plaintive, haunting, dark cry about the dire worldwide situation regarding accessible clean water in ôMotherless Ili-Iliö to something hopeful, with a childrenÆs chorus appropriately thrown in, in ôFlow.ö

IÆm very proud of the ôMother Nature Suite,ö which is the centerpiece of ôSomething Good.ö IÆve evolved into a more vocal and proactive proponent of green living. I hope to inspire listeners to be aware of the consequences of our actions toward Mother Earth and to make the necessary changes. ôSometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,ö a traditional spiritual song, and ôIli-Ili Tulog Anay,ö a Visayan folk lullaby, embody my anguish over how our Mother Earth is rapidly being destroyed. I feel that I am a motherless child, a long way from the comfort and serenity of home.Æ

And ôIli-Ili...ö expresses similar sentimentsùan adult is hushing the child to go back to sleep, because the childÆs mother is not there. I was struck by the powerful parallel message of these songs, that without Mother Earth, where would our kind be?

We wanted to end the ôMother Nature Suiteö on a positive note, as I strongly believe that we can make a difference and that we still have hope. ôFlowö is an original song by Bo Razon (music) and Michael (lyrics). Whenever I have an opportunity, I volunteer for two water organizations in Los Angeles: Food & Water Watch and Sierra Water Committee.

One of the pressing global issues today is the scarcity of clean water. According to the United Nations, every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. Michael captured my strong feelings about the water issue and put it brilliantly with BoÆs catchy melody, creating ôFlowö or ôFor the Love of Water.ö I wanted to bring in childrenÆs voices to make the message more powerful, to remind us that our choices about water use will affect the generations to come. The Our Lady of Refuge Choir in Long Beach, California, directed by Art Maramba, did a fine job on this track.

Who knew ôMaalaala Mo Kayaö could be turned into an up-tempo tune that actually works? The rollicking piano intro is wild!

ôMaalaala Mo Kayaö is one of my favorite kundiman. I approached Eli Brueggemann (pianist/arranger) with my idea for this songùhow I wanted it to have a fast tempo. Eli took it from there, came up with the ôrollicking piano introöùitÆs a tango!ùand the whole arrangement. IÆm very happy with the way it turned out. So are a lot of jazz radio stations!

ôSweet Spotö is so sexy that it should be banned! I meant that as a supreme compliment to your sensuous singing here.

ItÆs funny because people usually hear me sing jazzipino, harana and jazzùbut then I turn around and serve up a downright dirty song and they canÆt believe it. IÆm actually a lover of the blues, and IÆm happy to show my sensuous side once in a while.

Tell us about the other tracks.

ôEvery Single Momentö is one of the unique songs on the album. It is sort of a ômornaö or the blues of Cape Verde. We chose it because it brings the listeners immediately to a different realm, gives the listening experience a world feel with its beat and our laud. We wanted to let the listeners know right from the start that this is not your typical jazz album. ItÆs ôsomething goodö! ôIkawö is another jazzipino number. ItÆs another one of my favorite kundiman and I wanted to give it a big band sound. Robby Marshall elegantly handled this swinging arrangement. ôThe Farther You Goö is a collaboration between the great Mon David (music) and Michael (lyrics). Mon has a knack for coming up with very catchy melodies. He let me listen to it and I liked it right away because of its playfulness and lightness. Mr. Konik shaped the way the story goes on this piece so I could enjoy portraying the delusional, ôFatal Attractionö woman on this number. ôI Believe in Loveö is one of my favorite songs on the album. The music was composed by Joshua Redman, one of our greatest contemporary sax players, and Eli B. put such beautiful lyrics to it. Aside from the sublime melody, the message of the song is powerful, and I wanted the album to end with a positive message: yes, things are sometimes bad but I believe love can take us to the other side. It may take some time but I know it will happen.

In ôBreakfast with Bubba,ö I can picture a club jumping with joy and energy.

ôBreakfast with Bubbaö is the bonus track. I had so much fun singing this tune with my FreeHam Records colleagues, Mon, Mark Winkler, Mr. Z, Michael and the living legend, Linda Hopkins. This is our tribute to our beloved morning KKJZ DJ, Mr. Bubba Jackson, whom we love for his energy, generosity and strong support of Filipino jazz. This is actually one of the hits from the album and IÆm delighted that Bubba was tickled by this tribute. ItÆs so catchy that kids even sing it. Again, this is a Mon and Michael composition.

by Ruben Nepales, for Philippine Inquirer, NOVEMBER 27, 2010