Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bruxos in Brasil - Part 2

Day 7
On Monday, Nic and I had to switch hostels. I said to Nic that we should stop into Centro Cultural Rio Verde and say hi, as they had been integral to us securing the grant from OQAJ. We walked in, and within a few minutes vibraphonist/producer Guga Stroeter was showing us around Rio Verde and Sambatá studio across the street. Guga gave us newly released music from his Orquestra HB, a bunch of contact information for some of the top musicians in the city, and told us about a big band collective he's involved with called Movimento Elefantes. Comprised of a rotation of 10 big bands, they play every Monday at Maximiliano High School in Vila Madalena. Think about how many trombone players there must be in São Paulo! Guga also allowed us to use Rio Verde as a rehearsal space for our shows at Syndikat, and let us borrow Rio Verde's keyboard and a spare electric bass from Sambatá.
We moved from Vila Madalena Hostel to Sampa Hostel, located on rua Girassol in the heart of Vila Madalena. After we checked in and got acquainted with our new location, we went up the street to YB studios. One of the biggest recording studios, record labels and management firms in the city, Mauricio from YB was a fantastic resource in spreading the word about our trip among his artists. Nic and I showed up without an appointment, and once I explained in my limited Portuguese who we were, the receptionist let us in and told us to make ourselves at home. After waiting for Mauricio to finish up a phone meeting, he came down to meet us and showed us around the beautiful space, introducing us to artists who were hanging out in the café and allowing us to sit in on a mixing session.
That night, we went over to the high school to check out Big Band da Santa, a group of students and recent graduates from Santa Marcelina led by Paulo Tiné. I was not exactly sure what to expect - I was thinking they'd be playing the standard big band repertoire of Sammy Nestico and Thad Jones. Instead, we were greeted by big-band arrangements of Toninho Horta, Baden Powell, Moacir Santos and even some frevo arrangements. The American backbeat stuff was less convincing. Afterwards, we introduced ourselves to Paulo and, like every other musician we met, he was incredibly kind and helpful.

Day 8 & 9
On Tuesday, Nic and I headed over to Rio Verde in the afternoon, to work on some new tunes and get the rust off some of the usual repertoire. Not travelling with gear means limited opportunity for practice. After rehearsal, we took a detour to Isabella's Coffee Lab for an amazing cappuccino, and went back to Rio Verde to pack up the gear to take to Syndikat. Once the rainstorm subsided, we attempted to call a cab. Murilio Acioli helped us to explain the directions to Syndikat (which is located on a tiny street that no one really knows by name). We almost got into a two-taxi collision on Avenida Rebouças, and the driver blew by the street we needed to turn on. We did, eventually, arrive at Syndikat safe and sound. Wednesday night, since we left the gear at the club, I told the cab driver to leave us at the closest major intersection and we got there without incident.
Due to Mark's departure, the Syndikat gigs were done with drummer Carlos Ezequiel. A member of the faculty of Conservatório Souza Lima, Carlos is a highly regarded drummer in Brazil and elsewhere, playing with some of the finest musicians in São Paulo. We were put in contact by the Canadian Consulate in São Paulo, and it was a real education to play with him. The only way to learn about swingue is to play with Brazilian musicians, and I definitely had a better sense of that feel after the first night. Syndikat is a very intimate and cozy space, in the basement of the bar, with couches and tables close to the stage. The entire staff was friendly and accommodating, helping us set up and tear down. We were filmed on Wednesday night for a clip on TVA.

Day 10
Our final day in São Paulo. We returned the equipment to Rio Verde, and thanked Guga profoundly for all his assistance. He told us to swing by Sala Crisantempo on our way back to the hostel. A gorgeous theatre with a fantastic piano, they also host dance and pilates classes during the day. We had a final farewell lunch with Rael, and then we were off to the airport for the long flight home. Throughout the final week, Nic and I were already planning next year's trip.

Many thanks to/muito obrigado para:
and everyone else we met during the course of our trip.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bruxos in Brasil - Part 1

Day 1 - Montreal
Due to last-minute ticket purchases, Nicolas was on a different flight than Mark and me. This shouldn't have been a problem as our flights were supposed to land within an hour of each other. Mark and I met at the bus station to hop the new STM airport shuttle bus. We left around 2:45, leaving more than enough time to get to the airport for a 6:15 pm flight. That was until the bus hit an empty schoolbus on the highway and lost a mirror, leaving us stuck on the highway for a good 45 minutes before being escorted off the highway by police, waiting for another shuttle that never came. We hopped in a cab and made it to the airport just after 4. After clearing security and customs quickly, Mark insisted on a celebratory pint. Smooth flying to Miami, and then upon landing we found out our flight from Miami to São Paulo was delayed until the next morning at 9 am. Can we get on the earlier flight, leaving in half an hour? No, our bags were already checked in on the other flight. Nic has no cell phone. Oh boy. We head to the hotel with our vouchers, I frantically send out e-mails to Nic and our Brazilian contacts, and fall asleep watching Whose Line is it Anyway?

Day 2 - São Paulo
We get up early to catch the 7 am shuttle to Miami Airport. No schoolbuses were encountered. The plane sits on the tarmac for another hour before takeoff. We land in São Paulo around 6:30 pm. Mark and I were sure Nic had left for the hostel on his own. We get our luggage relatively without incident - mine was the first bag off but Mark had to wait a while for his. As we get to the exit of the airport for a taxi, Nic greets us. He waited in the airport for 11 hours for us. We apologize profusely, tell him about our obstacles, and hop in the car for Pinheiros.
We arrive at Hostel Vila Madalena around 7 pm. There's no sign, just an address, a graffiti mural, and a gate. After checking in, and rescheduling our date with Syndikat Jazz Club, Rael da Rima and friends show up. We make plans for the next day's show, and then go exploring Vila Madalena for food and drink. When we got back to the hostel, they were blasting Banda Black Rio. I knew we were in the right place.

Day 3
I woke up to the sound of kids in the school above the hostel playing futebol and our breakfast was accompanied by a soundtrack of Airto Moreira, Cartola, Miles Davis and Charles Mingus. We travelled without gear, so most of the day was spent making arrangements with Rael and crew for gear. The host of the hostel, Túlio, was immensely helpful in allowing us to use his phone, and giving us maps and directions of the area. We walked down to Rua Teodoro Sampaio, the place for musical instruments in São Paulo. Six solid blocks of music stores - and none of them rent gear. We go in to get a feel for prices and availabilities. Since I didn't even bring my cables, I got a custom mini-to-1/4" cable made by a Japanese guy recommended by every single music store on the street.
We discover a Chilean empanada joint, El Guatón, a couple of blocks away from our hostel, which would become our go-to lunch and dinner spot. The first time was a little rough, as my Portuguese vocabulary did not contain many of the names of ingredients. We spent an inordinate amount of time studying the menu, surely confusing the waitress. Once we decided what to order, the empanadas were delicious.
We got a lift from Cauê, Rael's sax player, to Serralheria, a gallery/venue in the Lapa neighbourhood of São Paulo. A beautiful space with hardwood floors, we weren't sure about the bass amp situation. Owner Amadeu Zoe greeted us and brought out their massive bass amp from the back. Lapa is a bit removed from the music and arts centres of Vila Madalena, Pinheiros and rua Augusta, so the audience was small but supportive. It was great to finally play in São Paulo, after all the planning, the ups and downs and the stress. We were joined by M.Sario of Pentágono, and guitarist Bruno Dupré. There was a lot of jamming in soundcheck, and we ended the evening with versions of Pentágono's "É o moio" and Jorge Ben's "Umbabarauma."

Day 4
We prepared for the evening's show at Jazz nos Fundos by visiting their sponsor and drum provider, Bateras Beat. Owner Dino Verdade was immensely helpful, providing us with a great drum kit, cymbals, a tour of his store/school and even giving Mark a couple of Brazilian drum magazines.
Jazz nos Fundos ("jazz in the back") is literally in the back of a parking garage. It's a hidden space but in its five years has become the spot for jazz in Pinheiros. Manager Caroline was incredible throughout the planning of this trip. Our guest saxophonist, Flavio de Souza of Projetonave, arrived an hour before downbeat - we ran down the structure of the tunes and hit. Recommended to me by trumpeter Daniel Gralha (his horn-section mate in Projetonave), Flavio nailed the tunes on tenor and soprano. A fantastic player and great guy, we look forward to playing with him again. The audience at Jazz nos Fundos was incredible - a lot of the tunes we play are somewhat obscure in Canada but might as well be standards in Brazil. The entire club was singing along at points. Note to North American jazz clubs: the female quotient was much higher in São Paulo. The vibe in the entire club was fantastic - certainly not what I would expect to find in the back of a parking lot. Photos from the show are here. After we finished playing, they served us food and I discovered Cachaça Seleta.

Day 5
The first of our three days off, we went to the Saturday market in Praça Benedito Calixto. Nic bought some caxixi and postcards, Mark bought a great denim jacket, and I bought lots of records.
In the early evening, by the time we got to O do Borogodó it was full, so we stumbled another killing traditional samba band in a bar called Linha de Gato. The band would perform breaks with fantastic precision and incredible energy, all the while nonchalantly turning around to watch the game. We walked back down towards Pinheiros, had some Japanese yakisoba for dinner, and hopped in a cab towards Bar Ao Vivo in Moema to see the legendary Zimbo Trio.
Zimbo are part of the first generation of samba-jazz trios, and one of the most profound influences on the genesis of Trio Bruxo. We walked in to find them just beginning to set up while a DVD of Diana Krall played on two big screens. I went up to pianist and bandleader Amilton Godoy and introduced myself and the band in my broken Portuguese. Mr. Godoy and drummer Rubinho Barsotti could not have been nicer to us. We exchanged CDs and they seemed to be genuinely surprised and honoured that three young gringos from Canada know who they are and would come all the way out to Moema to see them.
From the opening of "Domingo no Parque" I knew we were in for a ride. Amilton and Rubinho are still in great shape, and have the intimate hookup that only comes from 45 years of playing together. Their sense of arrangement and Amilton's elegantly florid playing style reminded me of the Oscar Peterson trio. They even managed to make "Girl From Ipanema" interesting. After their "Suite Canção de amor demais," Amilton dedicated their arrangement of Hermeto Pascoal's "Bebê" to us, and introduced us from the stage. Rubinho left the stage and his successor, Pércio Sapia, took over, adding a much more contemporary sound to the band. They ended with a 35-minute medley of Milton Nascimento tunes. An absolutely stunning concert and an evening I will never forget.

Day 6
We were supposed to meet up with Rael's crew to go see Céu in Parque da Independência, but we forgot. Instead, we had breakfast at Pain du France - really, the amount of random French names in São Paulo was rather stunning - and then went sightseeing. We walked to Avenida Paulista, Parque Tenente Siqueira Campos, and the Museu de Artes de São Paulo, where an antiques market was being held. From there we walked down to Parque Ibirapuera, explored the gorgeous Auditório Ibirapuera and hung out near the Fonte Multimidia (a pond with a floating raft of speakers in it).
Mark had to leave, so we saw him off and then I went out to O do Borogodó again. To hear that kind of swingue in a tiny little bar, up close with everyone dancing, was inspirational and educational. The trombonist doubled on cuíca, there was a flute player who kept playing snippets of Hermeto's "Chorinho pra ele" until he finally played the whole thing, and lots of great singers and percussionists. Their rendition of Chico Buarque's "Quem te viu, quem te vê" grooved its behind off.