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LUBA MASON has gone out on a limb on her latest CD, the sensuous 'KRAZY LOVE' - a celebration of love and life set to the most intoxicating Brazilian flourishes this side of the equator. The jazz chanteuse, former classical pianist and actress of Broadway and television ('HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS...', 'CHIGAGO', and the controversial PAUL SIMON musical 'CAPEMAN') can now add 'songwriter' to her already impressive resume. 'KRAZY LOVE' is MASON's maiden voyage as a songwriter and the results are astounding from the easy-going title track to the vibrant reflection of childhood memories set to a fierce Bossa Nova on 'THIS HOUSE' and the slow burning elegy 'SUMMER NIGHT' - the composition that started it all. "I actually had a verse and a chorus for that song and the rest was finished by RENATO NETO (the album's co-producer) and myself." says MASON "We put another verse in there and a bridge. From that point on, we started writing. The process took about two years on and off."

Songwriting aside, MASON's got one hell of a voice and the playful duet between her and husband  - Latin superstar RUBEN BLADES - on 'E COM ESSE QUE EU VOU' provides another stellar moment. Co-produced by Brazilian pianist RENATO NETO and boasting a top notch band comprised of JIMMY HASLIP (THE YELLOWJACKETS) on bass, percussion by CASSIO DUARTE and MARCO COSTA, and SANDRO ALBERT on guitar, 'KRAZY LOVE' is a flawless CD with musicality to spare.

ROCKWIRED spoke with LUBA MASON over the phone. Here is how it went.

My and a friend of mine were complimenting the photography on the CD cover. I wish I could keep my place just as spotless.
Well I have to say, that picture wasn't taken in my house. It was actually taken in my friends house in Panama of all places. It made for a great setting and I love the feel of it.

I didn't think the cat in the picture was real. You'd think there would be hair everywhere.
You know what, the cat is real but it was photo shopped onto the photo. That is my cat.

I can see where it was photo shopped. The shadow looks superimposed.
It's actually difficult to photograph any animal.

Well KRAZY LOVE is a great CD and I didn't mean to get things started on such a superficial tangent. Now that the CD is out there for everybody to hear, how do you feel about it?
I'm tickled pink. When I first started the project, I really wasn't sure what was going to end up being on the album. I started out wanting to do a Brazilian-based jazz album, but it was going to be an album of covers and I had a group of classic Brazilian songs put together and I was lucky enough to have RENATO NETO as my collaborator for the project. As we started to get together to work on these songs, we were about three sessions deep into it and I wasn't satisfied with just doing a Brazilian cover album and that was when RENATO had asked me if I could write. At first I said 'no', but then I remembered that I wrote a song about ten years earlier. I had a verse and a chorus. He asked me to bring it in and mind you I was playing the song for him. I hadn't played piano in several years and was feeling very insecure about my writing. I was so nervous and he just stood there and said 'Play it again!' After that, he said that it was really good. That song is cut number four on the album. It's called 'A SUMMER NIGHT'. I actually had a verse and a chorus for that song and the rest was finished by RENATO and myself. We put another verse in there and a bridge. From that point on, we started writing. The process took about two years on and off. Of course each of us had other projects going on at the same time so we would get together for a couple of months and then we'd go our separate ways and get back together. We had no time limit or anything. It was just a project that we were both very passionate about. Going back to your question - the fact that this album has been released and that it came out the way it did is great. I love the songs. I think each one of them is very different from the other and I'm just pleased that I wrote eight of the ten songs which is a big surprise on my half. I think I was very lucky that my collaboration with RENATO was so easy . I am so pleased and I am getting some wonderful reaction to this album.

What drew you to music in the beginning?
I started out as a musician. I was a classical pianist for twelve years. I started playing piano when I was five so music has always been a huge part of my life and the piano playing led to voice lessons because my piano teacher was a choir director and then the voice lessons led to being in choirs and I became very involved in music in high school and I was in musicals. I also picked up playing clarinet and guitar. My older sister is an opera singer so I started studying with her. Both of my parents never pursued music but they both had beautiful voices and music was always in the house. It was all around me and it has always been a big part of me. And of course I ventured into the whole BROADWAY area for fifteen years and that involves music as well, but this album brought me back to my roots as a musician which is really kind of nice.

How did Broadway begin for you?
The first Broadway show that saw was back in the fifth grade. It was THE MAGIC SHOW and when I saw that musical I knew then and there that that was really wanted to do when I grew up. After high school, I had no acting training but I had all of this musical background and singing background and to be on Broadway you needed to be a triple threat. You need to be able to sing, dance and act. So I applied and got accepted to NYU where I majored in Drama and in my last year in college I had eight credits to kill and there was a program with THE AMERICAN DANCE MACHINE which was affiliated with NYU so I applied there. LEE THEODORE, who was the founder, just took me under her wing after that year of taking eight hours of dance classes with her and hired me into the company for the next five years. So I became a triple threat and after the dance company, I was ready for Broadway and I started auditioning. I got my first show and that lead to eight more. It was just a wonderful world to be a part of. If you were lucky enough to get into a hit Broadway show, you were employed for at least a year or more and it was a steady paycheck. It was a great job. A hard job but it's wonderful. It's a wonderful family to be a part of.

You met your husband RUBEN BLADES on Broadway.
You bet. It was PAUL SIMON's THE CAPEMAN. An ill-fated musical unfortunately.

It was a controversial one as well.
Absolutely! It was based on a true story of a young Puerto Rican boy living in Hell's Kitchen who murdered two innocent white boys and he wore a cape at the time, so he was nicknamed THE CAPEMAN by the press. It was not a very liked subject to begin with and the Latin community began to lash out and didn't like the idea of a musical that they felt glorified a murderer and reflected badly on the community. However, the play had beautiful, beautiful music written by PAUL SIMON. DERRICK WOLCOTT contributed to the script and we had MONK MORRIS doing choreography for the show. And yes, I met RUBEN during that production . It was a great experience for me to be working with all of these great people and it also exposed me to Latin music for the very first time. I had never listened to any kind of Latin music. As a matter of fact, RUBEN not only introduced me to Latin music but he also turned me on to Brazilian music as well. That was what planted a seed in my head when I heard it. I knew one day, that I wanted to record this material.

This album is your first real foray into songwriting.
Absolutely. I had never written before and I'm very proud to say that eight of the ten tracks are written by me or co-written with RENATO on th album.

Describe how that felt – you, being this person with little to no experience as a songwriter writing things down for a project that people are going to hear. What did that feel like?
It's crazy! It's kind of crazy! Because I had never written before. Just playing this one song for my collaborator, I was so nervous. I was sweating. RENATO, first of all, is a wonderful, wonderful musician originally from San Paulo. He has been the keyboardist for PRINCE for the past four or five years so that says a lot about his musicianship . I respected him so much as a musician that when he said that he thought that one song was really good I was like 'Wow! If he thinks this is good, maybe it is good!' I have to say that he encouraged me in my writing and he provided such a safe comforting environment for me to write in. From that point on, we began to write together. He loved everything that I did. Being in that environment is one thing, but the next step was to put it on an album and have the world listen to it. It was great that RENATO loved my music, but would everyone else love it? It was a scary process. It was also scary playing the material for RUBEN for the first time He's the Minister of Tourism in Panama, so he lived down there for the past four and half years so he wasn't even around when I was writing this material. He had no clue of what I was writing and hadn't heard any of it. When he heard it, he flipped. He was blown away. I have to say , between RENATO and RUBEN and getting their seal of approval, I thought 'I guess this is pretty good'  and I felt that I had a pretty good start with a couple of really great musicians that I respected so I figured that I was ready to let this go. I'm just so proud of the album! So proud!

I can only assume that some of these songs probably didn't come easily.
In complete honesty BRIAN, I really didn't struggle with any of them. Not having written before, I really had no structure and nothing to compare this experience to. I found that writing in the morning was the best time for me so I treated it like a job. I would set my alarm every morning and got up at the same time and went to this one special place in my house that is so relaxing and comforting. With a clean slate first thing in the morning, I would just work from an organic place. I just had a pad and pen in hand and either lyrics started to come or a melody would pop into my head, so I would run downstairs to the piano and my tape recorder and just start going for it. I didn't censor myself in anyway. Then I would bring whatever I had to RENATO and then he would feed off of that or vice versa.  Sometimes we would have a session and RENATO would come to me with a melody and then I would go home with that melody and write lyrics to it. I have to say it was just easy. I really didn't struggle. The fact that I'm not nineteen years old helps because I've got a pool of life experience behind me. I definitely had something to grab from as far as my writing. Also, the fact that I have such a diverse musical background having studied classical, listening to pop radio and being exposed in the world of Broadway and being exposed to Latin music through my husband, I just had source of music to come from that I felt confident. It all happened to work. Who knows  what my next album will be like. It might be a total struggle, you know what I mean?

What tracks off of this album stand out for you the most at the moment and why?
That is a tough question! That's like picking a favorite child. I think one of my favorites has to be 'A SUMMER NIGHT'  because it was the first song that I wrote. It comes in at a really great place on the album. It comes after three uptempo songs and once it comes on, it just lands. It's got a slow Bossa Nova sound  and the mood of it is so relaxing. I think 'GORGEOUS FOOL' is one of my favorites as well because it's humorous. It's funny. I took  a humorous approach with that song. The lyrics kind of remind me of COLE PORTER and I'm proud of them. I'd have to say those two songs.

Talk about the band that you recorded with. Who are they and what do you think each of them brought to the table musically and personality-wise?
I'm so proud of this band! RENATAO NETO was the keyboardist and pianist on the album. He was also the arranger, co-songwriter, and co-producer. He was the core of this album for many reasons that I've already mentioned. He provided such a safe, comforting environment for me to write in and his knowledge of Brazilian music was invaluable. JIMMY HASLIP was the bass player on the album. He's from THE YELLOWJACKETS. He grounded these  songs. He was the anchor and he would drive these songs to a place that I thought was different from normal Brazilian music. He added that wonderful element and he is one of the nicest guys that you'll ever meet. He was this approachable, easy-going guy so he was great to be around. SANDRO ALBERT, the guitar player, has become a dear friend and he's played with me in New York, not just for the album but I've performed at BIRDLAND so he's become a very good friend. He is also from Brazil originally as is RENATO. CASSIO DUARTE is a percussionist from Brazil. He really provided a wonderful array of choices in percussion for the material. MARCO COSTA was the drummer and he had such a wonderful touch to the drums. He gave such musicality to the rhythm of the music. The budget only allowed for us to have two days in the studio and I had only one day to lay down all of the tracks, so these guys laid down ten tracks in one day. To be able to do that with the budget that I had, was wonderful. These guys are excellent musicians and just great guys to hang out with. Last but not least, I have to mention HUBERT LAWS who came in at the tail end of the project. He's this legendary flautist who has mastered not only classical and pop and R&B but jazz as well. He came in and did a wonderful guest solo spot on 'THIS HOUSE'. And of course, my husband RUBEN BLADES who came in and did a duet with me on the album with one of the covers 'E COMM ESSE QUE EU VOU' which was written by PEDRO CAETANO. My husband is not only my number one fan but a number one fan of Brazilian music and he sings in Portuguese on the album and I sing in English in the duet. When RENATO and I were brainstorming the cuts on the album, we both agreed that I needed to do a duet but we were scratching our head as to who I could do the duet with and we're dropping all of these names of Brazilian singers and we're overlooking the pink elephant in the room. We were doing this the whole day and coming up with people that we could e-mail and then RENATO went 'Wait a minute! What about RUBEN?'. It was all a matter of getting his schedule to synch with ours and getting him up here from Panama to do it. Of course he was delighted to do it and it's another one of my favorite tracks on the album. It's a great, hip, fun number.

Do you think you and RUBEN would ever collaborate again?
Absolutely. We're talking about doing an album together of boleros, so that is definitely going to happen in the near future.

What would you like a person to come away with after they've heard KRAZY LOVE?
What I tried to create with this whole album was a certain wonderful mood. The album creates this cool Brazilian mood. It's just kind of calm and relaxing and it has a very easygoing feel to it and I also think that music is very accessible for being very Brazilian based jazz music. It's accessible to everyone. You don't have to be a real Brazilian jazz lover of any sort. It's accessible to anybody who may not necessarily listen to this kind of music because the album was created with a lot of different influences and I think that came from my background. I've had people as young as nineteen listen to it and love it as well as more adult contemporary listeners. The album is great for everyone.