Stephanie Ozer

Stephanie Ozer performs in jazz festivals, concert venues, intimate clubs, house concerts, corporate events and weddings — in ensembles of jazz, folk, klezmer, and Brazilian jazz. Stephanie’s CD, “O Começo: New Beginnings in Brazilian Jazz”, was recorded in Rio de Janeiro with the legendary, Grammy winning vocalist Leny Andrade with whom she has subsequently toured.

Nominated twice as Best Jazz Musician in the North Bay, Stephanie holds a classical Piano Performance Degree from the University Of Michigan School of Music where she played in the University Javanese Gamelan. Her award winning Ozer-Moore piano/vocal jazz duo opened for Abby Lincoln and Phoebe Snow in Ann Arbor, MI.

With her inventive and poetic musical spirit, Stephanie performs in the Bay Area and nationwide — solo, duo, trio to sextet — in genre bending music in collaboration with top flight musicians from the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, including vocalists Claudia Villela, Fabiana Passoni, Maria Marquez and Sandy Cressman, Sax/flautists Mary Fettig and Harvey Wainapel, guitarists Ricardo Peixoto, Luiz Brasil and Randy Vincent and bass players Scott Thompson and Peter Barshay.

Stephanie teaches many styles of piano, technique and improvisation and coaches vocalists in accompanying themselves and performance techniques from her home studio in Sonoma Valley and at Jazz Camp West.

It all started in Rio – the story behind “O Começo “

We thought it was going to be a vacation, and that would have been enough. We thought, 10 days away from the kids, in an exciting city far away, the city of the music we love so much….

Tuesday, our second night in Rio, and we are thrilled to find a listing of our favorite Brazilian vocalist, Leny Andrade, performing tonight in a club downtown. Sitting in the front row, hearing her deep, poetic songs we are in heaven. Leny, with her pianist, commanding the room with a grace, authority, and intensity unmatched.

It is part way through the set, and David whispers to me, After the show, we’ll go backstage to ask Leny if she’ll record with you while we are here in Rio. I need you to go along with me on this. Okay? And I say, Do I have to decide right now? And he says, You’ve got two more songs.

Then we are backstage with Leny and her posse, explaining the links that bind us to her — my mentor Marcos Silva who performed with Leny before he left Rio years ago, our common love for this music. And we say, We thought maybe you’d be in California some day, and we could record with you, but here we are in Rio. And she says, So you want me to come to California to record? We say, No, we are here in Rio, we want to record here. And Leny, THE Leny Andrade of the pantheon of Bossa Nova, pauses, and says, There is a studio. I want you to try the piano, and if you like it, then we will talk. Call me Thursday.

And we rent a practice keyboard, and I call her Thursday and she says call me Saturday and I call her Saturday and she says Tomorrow I will pick you up at 3:00 at your hotel, and take you to the studio. And she does take us, across the bay, where we gaze back at the amazing views of the marvelous city, and then to São Francisco in Niterói to a little stone block building and a smiling, jolly gentle man, Fabio Motta, studio owner and her friend for decades. I sit down and play and David hear’s them say, She doesn’t play like an American, she plays like a Brazilian. And suddenly everyone is smiling, and Leny is asking what songs we will record, and I am on eggshells in heaven. And Leny is driving us home and it is 11:00 PM and she says Are you hungry, and we are tired but we are hungry and she takes us to the restaurant across from the cafe where Jobim wrote “Girl from Ipanema” and she introduces us to this composer and that writer, and a man comes up to her and kisses her hand….

It is Monday night, 7:00 PM, and we are at Fabio’s studio. Leny says, Do you want a drummer, and I say Yes, and she pulls out her “cellular” and makes a call and says, you are lucky, there is also a bass player coming, Ivan Lins’s bass player, Nema, with Erivelton the drummer. And it is 9:00 and they arrive and then, after much strong coffee, we start recording — it is midnight. And then it is 3:30 in the morning and Leny says what’s next, anything else? And I say, Yes, one last song, Rio. And then it’s 5:00 and Leny is dropping us off again at our hotel as dawn creeps over Ipanema Beach, and I think I am in a dream, a movie, I am waiting for the credits to roll down the sky. And the next night again, all through the night, tracking vocals and leaving the studio with four tunes in a rough mix. Then it is Wednesday, our last day in Rio and Leny insists on taking us to the airport, and with much hugs and kisses (this is Rio!) we say goodbye, we will be back, she will visit us in California.

My butt has been kicked, my soul inspired. I practice, a lot, and call some of the most wonderful musicians I know in the Bay Area, and schedule rehearsals and sessions to complete what the magic of Rio de Janeiro has begun.

So here it is, O Começo, the beginning, another beginning in life, in Rio, in music.

Stephanie Ozer

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