Singer/songwriter Avi Wisnia is the son of a New Jersey rabbi, but his performances at the second annual Singer-Songwriter of Cape May Conference and Showcase March 27 and 28 will feature the classic sounds of the Brazilian bossa nova with, as he states, “…pangs of soul, folk, jazz, and pop to create a new sound.”
But no one in Wisnia’s family is Brazilian or Portuguese.
“I just stumbled onto this music,” he said in a recent telephone interview. “I remember hearing ‘The Girl From Epanema’ and I identified with it.”
Wisnia explained that he took the classic Brazilian sound and fused it with music he listened to as he was growing up.
“Artists like Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, and Joni James,” he noted, “along with some contemporary artists like John Mayer and Nora Jones.”
He’s originally from New Jersey but grew up near Philadelphia. He now lives in New York City where he teaches pre-school music.
“Then I gig around New York and Philly at night,” he said.
He’ll be performing in Philadelphia at Fergie’s Pub, 1214 Sansom St. May 2. While in Cape May, he’ll be solo at The Brown Room Friday, March 27 at 7 p.m., and with his full band at The Boiler Room, Saturday, March 28 at 8:30 p.m.
Wisnia is the lead vocalist, and plays piano and xylophone. He studied music at NYU, and intended to compose and score music for videos.
“But I got into classic bossa nova,” he said. “I just dove right in on my own while at NYU.”
When he’s not working on his own compositions, he likes to listen to the classics, like Jobim, Joao Gilberto (husband of Astrid, lead singer on ‘The Girl from Epanema’) and their daughter, Bebel.
Most of what you’ll hear at his Cape May venues will be his original creations, since, as he noted, “That’s the nature of the festival. But I will perform some popular songs; I’ always need some ‘crowd pleasers.’”
When composing, Wisnia said he starts with a “taste of an idea.”
“The writing process is different from writer to writer,” he said, “and sometime from song to song. The really good ones haunt you. Sometimes I have to consciously sit at the piano, while other times, I can’t sleep because the melody and words keep coming.
“One song—Rabbit Hole—almost wrote itself that way.”
His band will be recording and releasing their first studio album in the future, and if you want to get a preview of what you can hear live in Cape May at the festival, just log on to aviwisnia.com, where you can listen, purchase, and get a schedule of his appearances.
It’s not bad, for a sound he just stumbled onto.
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