We landed in Rio last Friday feeling the excitement in anticipation of participation. Everyone knows about its rich and fertile culture, but Rio also has a mythical significance in the Jazz world so we knew our time there would be meaningful and well spent. Our presenters, Chris Street and Monica Moreira of Dueto Produções greeted us at the airport. They have already been wonderful partners and Clarice Philigret, who has been our point person for this leg of our Brazilian tour, has put in countless hours to make it happen. They are on top of every detail and instantly establish a climate of warmth and familiarity. This in itself is a highly specialized skill of great value. We arrive at the hotel and some members of the band head immediately out to enjoy the beach.
Tonight we are being treated to a reception hosted by two of JALC’s Chairman Circle members, Laura and Lywal Salles, in the home of Lywal’s sister Angela and her husband Antonio Alberto Gouvea. As the Salles are longtime friends and colleagues of JALC Board Member Hugh Fierce, we know a good time is sure to be had. Upon arrival, we see that their home is spectacularly tasteful and comfortably elegant, but that the hospitality is strictly down home. The scene was captivating; all was aglow with a relaxed Brazilian spirit, aided by caipirinhas, casual dress and familial conversations.
The room is packed with friends, citizens of cultural interest and importance, as well as musicians of the highest character and quality. Guitarist Mario Adnet, mandolinist Hamilton de Holanda, trombonist/arranger Vittor Santos, trumpeter Jesse’ Sadoc, soulful soprano saxophonists Zé Nogueira and Bossa Nova legend Marcos Valle – we found ourselves in the best possible company imaginable.
We have admired, played alongside and recorded with these accomplished musicians many times over the years. For example: Mario came and played with our Orchestra about 4 years ago and he just performed in Dizzy’s last month with his band. I recorded a great Pixinguinha choro “Um a Zero” with Hamilton, whose playing transcends description. The Orchestra performed a couple of Vittor’s insightful arrangements 15 years ago on a show entitled “Carnival on Broadway” and I loved Jesse’s playing on the album “Ouro Negro”. Coincidentally, he said I had given him a lesson when he was a kid, and that I was nice to him. It truly was extended family of the most functional sort.
The evening’s conversations ranged from Hugh Fierce’s generosity, to his trademark assiduity and diligence when he was Lywal’s boss at Chase, to overnight trading in stocks, to the history of the Bossa Nova, to what base liquor is best to use in a Caipirinha, to a great young trumpeter named Aquiles Moraes. We were riffin’. It was an unforced and comfortable gathering, with all participants in pursuing a good time through fellowship regardless of prior familiarity. Everyone talked to everyone, making it easy to meet new friends and to hatch plans with old ones in fulfillment of mutual objectives. Many of the musicians accepted our invitation to play with us on the next night’s concert.
And the world is small in many surprising ways. First, I was speaking with Mr. Marcelo Roberto Ferro, a prominent Brazilian lawyer, who was generously complementing my father’s playing and that of my family. He then went on to tell me about a friend of his, Donald Donavan, who had attended our opening season concert that featured Cucho Valdes and Pedrito Martinez at Rose Hall back in September. Mr. Donavan told Roberto that after the concert he had seen me on the subway and approached me saying, “Don’t worry, I’m not stalking you. I just heard you play last night.” I remembered that encounter so clearly and the ensuing conversation, which I recounted to Roberto to our mutual bemusement. Then, I had an interesting conversation with Vanda and Paulo Klabin who said they follow the blogs on Facebook. I said “y’all will definitely be in this one.” Here you are…and thank you for countering everyone who says they are too long.
The meal was delicious and everything was so gracefully handled that the quality of the good time enjoyed by us all became a primary topic of conversation. After dinner, I jumped on the piano and disrespected piano playing all over the world with my amateurish fumbling. Taking pity on me, Ali then jumped on the piano and accompanied Vincent who sang a blues. Finally, and thankfully, Marcus Valle rescued all of us at the keyboard and played his classic “Summer Samba”. Gizzy, Marcus and I all used my trumpet and tried to handle those changes and the very flat keyboard which Angela apologized for (there was absolutely no need) and Marcus Valle kept the groove and changes where they needed to be in spite of whatever I did to them. Soon the night was over and people left as gracefully as they had come, with full stomachs and hearts, and light in spirit.
Our concert the next night was part of the Brasil Jazz Fest in the new Cidade das Artes Hall. Getting to the gig was an experience. Whew Rio traffic!!!! When we arrive, Zé tells me he has been involved with the programming of this festival for some 25 years. We play through a set including compositions by Chris Crenshaw, Victor and me, New and Old Testament Count Basie, arrangements by Carlos, Sherman, Ted, Marcus, Chris and me of the music of Horace Silver, Dizzy, Monk, and Brazilian masters Moacir Santos and Hermeto Pascoal. On Moacir’s “Coisa No 2.” Vittor Santos comes out to join us on the trombone. On Hermeto’s “Bebe” all the cats came out to play, Hamilton, Jesse’, Mario and Aquiles, a young trumpeter everyone had been speaking about – with good reason.
Hamilton started it off right with one absolutely musical and thoroughly heard chorus. This is not the easiest song to play on with a three-part form of different harmonic shapes. He is a great musician who is as humble and gracious as his magical talent is deep. The rest of us went on into the music from that high point and Aquiles added a coda to what we played. He is humble and possesses a poet’s lyricism.
We ended the gig with a movement from Victor Goines’ “Crescent City” and everyone played except Mario who said, “I will listen intently.” The New Orleans rhythm is always inviting and interesting to hear from the perspective of different cultures. I think our audience loved seeing us play all together in an impromptu type jam session especially because we were trying to find each other……and did. The encore was Ted’s tricky and colorful arrangement in 6/4 of Moacir’s “Coisas no. 8” and we eased down into it. Moacir was a genius.
After the gig we greeted everyone and all of us musicians set plans for some big collaborations in the future. Hamilton’s manager Marcos Portinari is a natural diplomat who glitters with optimism and industriousness. He brings an abundance of cultural gifts (in the form of music and spirits) and also brings the blessing of belief in creating positive change. With his involvement, a powerful collaboration will surely come to fruition.
I have the pleasure of speaking with the President of Fundação Cidade das Artes, Emilio Kalil. We exchange comments and he says, “I want y’all back here.” These are words we all love to hear especially from Emilio. He is a rare person who understand the functional role of the arts in elevating a community, AND knows how to turn the rusty wheels of large institutions to make positive things happen. As I leave the hall, Marcos becomes the defacto translator because he’s the only one here that speaks both languages. A local musician and I speak. We end with a salutation that included the word ‘love’. Marcos moved on, but the musician kept speaking. I laughed and said, “We lost our translator.” Marcos replied, “After love there is nowhere else to go but down.”
Later that night, after every picture had been taken and booklet signed, Chris Street and I prepared to drive the 7 or so hours to São Paulo. It was about 1 am, but before heading out, we joined Victor, Paul and a friend named Thierry, who were across the street, right off the beach, drinking and talking in a small shop. We hung with them for a good hour with Vic and I regaling (or boring) them with stories about our teenaged years in New Orleans. And then, we finished our beverages and started our journey down a long stretch of Brazilian highway.