A daughter of musicians, it’s no surprise Natalie Cressman took a similar career path.
“My parents exposed me to a lot of different performing arts, and they were nice in not trying to push me into music, but the door was always open,” she said.
The world outside that door is expansive and Cressman, now 30, is apt to explore it. She’s been a trombonist for the Trey Anastasio Band since she was 18. And next month, she will release the second album with Ian Faquini. “Auburn Whisper” blends traditional Brazilian rhythms on an exquisite collection of 13 songs mostly sung in Portuguese. Faquini plays acoustic guitar and sings. Cressman plays tenor and bass trombones, sings, and she composed the arrangements.
Natalie Cressman & Ian Faquini perform Friday, April 1, at Cypress Reno, the renovated S. Virginia St. midtown venue, formerly called The Saint. It will be the first Reno appearance for both musicians.
Each grew up around rock and roll. When he was 8 years old, Faquini moved from Brazil to Berkeley, where his father was a rock and blues singer-guitarist. Cressman’s father, Jeff Cressman, was a trombonist for Santana for 16 years, and he’s recorded with — and engineers — everybody from Peter Apfelbaum, Tito Puente and Sheila E. to Boz Skaggs, Joshua Redman and his wife and Natalie’s mother, Sandy Cressman, who happens to sing in Portuguese.
Faquini stayed at home and attended California Jazz Conservatory and Cressman went to Manhattan School of Music.
“It was my first semester of my freshman year and there’s a guy named Trey (Anastasio) who wants to hire me; the music world is wacky like that,” Cressman said. “My dad was the connection because he tried to hire him first. But he was touring full time with Carlos Santana.”
Anastasio would pick up Cressman from school and they drove to rehearsals. Cressman was allowed to take “artistic leave of absences” when the Trey Anastasio Band went on tour.
Jam and jazz contrast in style but connect in the tendency to improvise.
“I think he enjoys bringing in people who aren’t just carbon copies of the kind of music that he’s formulated. There are so many bands right now that are heavily influenced by Phish and I think he likes picking musicians who bring in something different.”
Faquini calls Guinga his greatest mentor. The famed Brazilian guitarist is skilled at creating rhythmically and harmonically complex melodies in many different styles. Faquini has made albums with three duos: Ian Faquini & Rebecca Kleinmann, “Brasiliense” (2014), Ian Faquini & Paula Santoro, “Metal Na Madeira” (2016), and Natalie Cressman & Ian Faquini, “Setting Rays Of Summer” (2019).
“We met because we collaborated with her mom,” Faquini said. “I wrote a song with her mom and and Natalie did the horn arrangement.”
Faquini and Cressman bonded at California Brazil Camp, an annual two-week music and dance gathering in Sonoma County.
A listener of the “Auburn Whisper” album is reminded of Brazil’s most famous song, “The Girl from Ipanema,” sung by Astrud Gilberto and written in 1964 musically by Antonio Carlos Jobim and lyrically by Vinicius de Moraes. (“The Girl from Ipanema” is the second-most recorded pop song in the world, behind The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.)
“Starting as a jazz musician, bossa nova was the style of Brazilian music I was most familiar with growing up,” Cressman said. “Those early bossa nova recordings that really made an impact in the U.S. … When I would hear that as a young person (I felt) it fit my voice and I’m not even from that culture at all. It gave me a view and vision of how I might fit in the music world with the voice that I have. So it’s no surprise that I am now spending a lot of time singing in Portuguese.”
At the age of 25, Cressman decided to master Portuguese, and now she is fluent. She laments her French is faltering a bit nowadays.
Press materials describe the songs on “Auburn Whisper” as multi-layered. A standout song is “Ralando Coco.” Trombones, guitar and harmonies are delivered with Coltranian speed.
“Natalie convinced me to record it,” Faquini said. “There are lots of layers but we do it live, too. It’s a fast notey one, for sure.”
Subjects of the songs are about places the musicians remembered during the live music lockdown.
“We were in the thick of the pandemic and had nothing but time so we got a little more elaborate this time around,” Cressman said. “There are a lot of different horn components, that’s the big difference in the sonic landscape. Subject matter is more thematic for the nature of California and Brazil as a product of us missing the connections we’d get every year. Places we miss.”
- Natalie Cressman & Ian Faquini
- When: 9 p.m. April 1
- Where: Cypress Reno, 761 S. Virginia St., Reno
- Tickets: $10