Thursday, March 10, 2016

Naná Vasconcelos

Naná Vasconcelos playing the berimbau

Naná Vasconcelos, a Brazilian percussionist who left his mark on global music, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 71. Vasconcelos gained critical acclaim for his work with Egberto Gismonti, Codona, and the Pat Metheny Group. His peer Airto Moreira called him “the best berimbau player in the world.” Vasconcelos won the Downbeat Critics Poll in the category of percussion from 1983 to 1991 and was an influential figure in jazz. Read my blog about Naná for the Huffington Post here:


Naná Vasconcelos live in Rome in 1983

Codona: Don Cherry, Collin Walcott and Naná Vasconcelos

Naná Vasconcelos (standing) and Pat Metheny (center)

Egberto Gismonti and Naná Vasconcelos

Egberto Gismonti and Naná Vasconcelos
perform "Dança das Cabeças" in 1996.

Read about Naná here:

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Carnaval 2016

Papangus de Bezerros, Pernambuco, 2016

Carnaval was celebrated in 2016 in Brazil in the usual way:
all over the country, in nearly every town, and with traditions
from street blocos to escolas de samba to frevo to maracatu.

Lenine performs during Carnaval, Recife, 2016

Claudia Leitte sambas with Mocidade Independente

Who's worried about Zika?

In the mood for Carnaval

Carnaval, Olinda, Pernambuco

singer Daniela Mercury

Carnaval, Rio, 2016

Tays Reis of the group Vingadora

Maracatu, Pernambuco, 2016

Sambista with pandeiro, Carnaval, Rio, 2016

Carnaval, Rio 2016

Mangueira won the escola de samba competition
for Carnaval in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The venerable samba school paid
homage to singer Maria Bethânia

Mangueira, 2016

Mangueira, 2016

Rio Maracatu performs in Rio de Janeiro

The Filhos de Ghandy of Salvador, Bahia


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Monday, February 1, 2016

An Interview with Leny Andrade

Leny Andrade:
The Jazz-Bossa Diva

 A 1963 album with singer Leny Andrade 

"Leny Andrade… does scat singing with an agility that approaches
Ella Fitzgerald." —John S. Wilson, The New York Times

Leny Andrade is a female vocalist associated with the bossa nova and jazz shows in the legendary Beco das Garrafas in Copacabana. Her lively, passionate, jazz-inflected style has brought her critical praise and a long career. Hers is one of Brazil's most virtuosic and distinctive voices in samba, jazz and bossa nova.
            Leny de Andrade Lima was born on January 25, 1943 and grew up in Meier, a neighborhood in Rio's Zona Norte near the samba stronghold of Vila Isabel. "My mother is a professor of piano. In the beginning I was singing and playing piano. I studied piano from age six to fourteen," Andrade recalled. "The influence of jazz came through my knowledge of piano. A singer who plays an instrument sings in a different way and searches more for rich harmonies. I can't manage to sing a simple little song harmonically; it has to have a rich harmony."
            She became a professional singer while only fifteen, making her debut with the orchestra of Maestro Perminio Goncalves. "When you sing as a crooner at bailes (dances), you learn a lot. You have to sing in other idioms, various rhythms. I did this for three years, between fifteen and eighteen. My father went with me because I was a minor in age."
            Then came bossa nova, which Andrade was performing at the end of the 1950s and start of the '60s, still underage in her first shows. "Bossa nova was beginning. I sang with the Sérgio Mendes Trio—Mendes, Edson Machado, and Sebastião Neto—in Bottles Bar, one of four small nightclubs in the Beco das Garrafas [a small alley off Rua Duvivier in Rio]. It was mostly jazz and bossa nova there. Sérgio played his first samba with me. He didn't like to play samba; he only played jazz. He used to say that without wanting to, in order to continue playing in this club, he had to play samba with me, so he ended up becoming a millionaire.
            "I sang both samba and jazz equally. It was a very interesting time. The Beco das Garrafas was a place with the best musicians: Luis Eça, Edson Frederico, Durval Ferreira, Mauricio Einhorn, Nara Leão, Tamba Trio, Carlos Lyra. It was a meeting every night of great musicians.
            "And in the middle of this was Lennie Dale [1934-1994], an American who was very important in Brazilian music. He changed many things in the style of Brazilian music. He helped Elis [Regina] very much with his marvelous ideas, with putting on shows. He was a dancer and had an academy of dance in Brazil."

Leny Andrade sings "Batida Diferente"
(composed by Durval Ferreira and Mauricio Einhorn)


            Leny added, "I was singing 'Estamos Ai.' He heard it in rehearsal and said, 'Why not do it like this?' He helped singers and helped with the choreography, with the fantastic musicality that he had. I adore him. He has a talent that doesn't end."
            She continues, "In 1960, I recorded my first disc, A Sensação Leny Andrade [released the next year]. It was bossa nova, improvisations, some samba-cancões, and it gained prizes. In the '60s, I did many things. I did Gemini 5 [a musical show] with Otávio Bailey, Pery Ribeiro, Luiz Carlos Vinhas, Ronie Mesquita; it was first big show of bossa nova made in Brazil, and played for one year. Then I went to Mexico and played for one year there. In 1964 I sang in Buenos Aires in La Noche Club." Andrade lived in Mexico from 1966 to 1972, becoming well known on television and in musical theater.
            In her lengthy career, Leny has appeared at New York's Birdland, the Blue Note, and Town Hall, the Smithsonian Institution, the Hollywood Bowl, Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London, and numerous European and American jazz festivals. She has performed with artists such as Paquito D'Rivera, Luiz Eça, Dick Farney, João Donato, Eumir Deodato, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Romero Lubambo, and Francis Hime, along with others mentioned above.



Leny Andrade sings "Estamos Ai"
(Mauricio Einhorn - Durval Ferreira)


            Luz Neon, produced by Antonio Duncan, was released in 1989 and its repertoire ranges from Gonzaguina ("É") to Antonio Carlos Jobim ("Wave") to Aldir Blanc and Moacyr Luz ("Aquário") to Dizzy Gillespie ("Night in Tunisia"). "We recorded the album in six hours. I like to record like that. That way it has the emotion I want to communicate to the public. It isn't cold like many Brazilian records that I listen to. So I put the group in the studio and directed them. I had rehearsals before, and then made the record directly. It has the warmth, the spontaneity, like live music, that I like. I like to improvise."

Leny Andrade sings "A Night in Tunisia"

            About her singing, she observed, "I almost always change my style." While she can improvise and scat with the best of jazz singers, Leny said, "I will never stop doing songs that are as Brazilian as they are. There already exist fantastic American singers like Carmen [McRae], Sarah [Vaughan] and Ella [Fitzgerald]. You are never going to see a Brazilian pianist play like Oscar Peterson. Foolishness. You have to bring new, beautiful, well-done things from your country, or you don't need to come."
            In 2007, Leny shared a Latin Grammy Award with Cesar Camargo Mariano for Best MPB Album for their Ao Vivo album.

The quotes in the above profile come from my interview with Leny Andrade.

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Leny Andrade Select Discography

A Sensação. RCA Victor, 1961.
A Arte Maior de Leny Andrade
. Polydor, 1963.
Gemini V—Show na Boate Porão 73. Odeon, 1965.
Estamos Aí. Odeon, 1965.
Gemini  Cinco Anos Depois. Pery Ribeiro & Leny Andrade. Odeon, 1972.
Alvoroço. Odeon, 1973.
Expo-Som 73, Ao Vivo. Odeon, 1973.
Leny Andrade. Odeon, 1973.
Registro. Columbia, 1979.
Leny Andrade. CBS, 1979.
Presença de Leny Andrade e Os Cariocas. CBS, 1979.
Leny Andrade. Pointer, 1984.
Cartola 80 anos. CBS, 1988.
Luz Neon. Eldorado, 1989.
Eu Quero Ver. Eldorado, 1990.
Bossa Nova. Eldorado, 1991.
Embraceable You. Som Livre, 1993.
Nós (with Cesar Camargo Mariano). Velas, 1994.
Maiden Voyage. Chesky Records, 1994.
Coisa Fina (with Romero Lubambo). Perfil Música, 1994.
Antonio Carlos Jobim, Letra e Música (with Cristóvão Bastos). Lumiar Discos, 1995.
Luz Negra—Nelson Cavaquinho por Leny Andrade. Velas, 1995.
Bossas Novas. Albatroz, 1998.
Leny Andrade Canta Altay Veloso. Paradoxx Music, 2000.
E Quero Que a Canção Seja Você.  Albatroz, 2001.
Leny Andrade and Cesar Camargo Mariano: Ao Vivo (Momentos Bons da bossa). Albatroz, 2007.
Alma Mia. Independent, 2012.
Canciones del Rey. Independent, 2013.
Iluminados. Independent, 2014.


Find Brazilian music at Amazon.com:
The Brazilian Sound music shop at Amazon

More Interviews with Brazilian Musicians
The Brazilian Music Book by Chris McGowan

The Leading Introduction to Brazilian Music
The Brazilian Sound by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanh

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Friday, January 29, 2016

An Interview with Geraldo Azevedo


Geraldo Azevedo:
The Northeastern Wave

"After bossa nova and Tropicália, there was a strong northeastern movement. It didn't have a name, but I think it was as important."—Geraldo Azevedo

Geraldo Azevedo, like his colleague Alceu Valença, was part of the "northeastern wave" that enriched MPB in the 1970s. Azevedo—a singer, songwriter and guitarist—interprets regional styles with a bossa nova sensibility and sophistication. His light, clear songs center on his voice and guitar, often acoustic. Geraldo's lyrics evoke earthy romantic love and the beaches, jangadas, and coconut trees of the northeastern coast.
           Geraldo Azevedo de Amorim was born on January 11, 1945 in Petrolina, Pernambuco, on the banks of the São Francisco River. Geraldo grew up in a musical household where everyone played instruments or sang. "The folklore of the region—maracatu, coco, repentistas—it's in all of us without our perceiving it," Azevedo told me.  He was a self-taught musician and started playing the guitar at age twelve. As a teenager, he listened to Luiz Gonzaga and Jackson do Pandeiro, as well as such diverse musicians as Johann Sebastian Bach, classical guitarist Andrés Segovia, bossa guitarist Baden Powell, and romantic crooner Nelson Gonçalves. But it was the bossa nova singer João Gilberto who inspired Geraldo to become a professional musician. "He made me more serious about looking into harmony. We didn't have those [bossa nova] harmonies in Petrolina."
           He began playing with the group Sambossa as a teenager and at eighteen he traveled to Recife to attend college. While there he joined Grupo Construção, which included percussionist Naná Vasconcelos, singer Teca Calazans, and two future members of Quinteto Violado – Toinho Alves (bass) and Marcelo Melo (guitar).


Geraldo Azevedo, "Moça Bonita"

           In 1967, Azevedo moved to Rio and formed the group Quarteto Livre (Free Quartet) with Vasconcelos, guitarist Nelson Ângelo, and flutist Franklin da Flauta (Franklin Correa da Silva Neto). They accompanied singer-songwriter Geraldo Vandré in various shows and on his famed protest anthem "Pra Não Dizer Que Não Falei de Flores" (Not to Say I Didn't Speak of Flowers"), also known as "Caminhando," which was censored for ten years after its debut in 1968. Vandré was a hero of the 1960s song festivals who sang protest lyrics against social injustices and Brazil's military dictatorship. Azevedo and Vandré wrote "Canção da Despedida" (Goodbye Song) together and the government banned it for twelve years until it was recorded by Elba Ramalho.
           The notorious Institutional Act No. 5 of December 13, 1968 clamped down hard on dissent in Brazil and made it impossible for Vandré and Quarteto Livre to record. Vandré left the country and Azevedo went to prison. Azevedo was not politically militant, but his friendship with loudly dissenting musicians and artists caused him to be clandestinely seized and placed under arrest in 1969. When he came out of prison, after staying for forty-one days, he felt depressed and beaten down and almost gave up music for good. The next year was a bleak year for Azevedo, but near its end he re-encountered Alceu Valença, who gave Geraldo "a force, a strong push" and helped him regain his enthusiasm for music. The two teamed together for a while, co-writing songs (such as the hit "78 Rotações") and entering the musical festivals together
           They made their recording debut in 1972 with the joint album Alceu Valença e Geraldo Azevedo: Quadrafônico. It had many memorable songs, including "Talismã" (written by the two of them), and the haunting "Novena," a toada written by Azevedo and Marcus Vinícius. In it, Azevedo poetically evoked the intense Catholicism of his childhood.The two also later collaborated in the O Grande Encontro series, but their styles are generally quite different.

"Novena" from Alceu Valença and Geraldo Azevedo's Quadrafônico
     
           Alceu is a fiery musical alchemist who attempts to be theatrical and mythical, and Geraldo in general is mellow and down to earth. Valença fuses northeastern styles with rock and blues, while Azevedo mixes the region's idioms with bossa nova harmonies and vocal influences and the occasional light pop touch. Both often favor the northeastern xote rhythm, which has an affinity with reggae. Azevedo's lilting "Taxi Lunar" (co-written with Valença and Zé Ramalho) and tender "Moça Bonita" are based in xote; and his "Petrolina e Juazeiro," written with Moraes Moreira, and "Dona da Minha Cabeça" mix xote with reggae.
           Azevedo placed songs on numerous television novelas over the next few years, which brought him a great deal of attention. In 1977, he released his first solo LP, Geraldo Azevedo, which had the evocative Azevedo-Valença tune "Caravana" (Caravan); it was included on the soundtrack for the Gabriela TV novela. After that, Azevedo recorded albums such as Bicho de Sete Cabeças (Seven-Headed Animal), De Outra Maneira (Another Way), and Eterno Presente (Eternal Present).

Geraldo Azevedo, "Caravana"

           Other hits include "Dia Branco" (White Day), "Arraial dos Tucanos" (used by the series Sítio do Pica-pau Amarelo), "Juritis e Borboletas," "Barcarola do Rio São Francisco," "Chorando e Cantando" (Crying and Singing), and "Talvez Seja Real" (It Might Be Real). His 1981 album Inclinações Musicais (Musical Inclinations) with arrangements by Dori Caymmi and the participation of Sivuca and Jackson do Pandeiro, included his signature song "Moça Bonita."

                                    Beautiful girl, your kiss can
                                    Kill me without compassion
                                    I don't know if it's so
                                    Or it's pure imagination
                                    To find out, you give me
                                    This assassin kiss
                                    As I lie in your woman's arms

            In 1984, Azevedo traveled with the late Tancredo Neves, participating in the Direitas movement for democratic presidential elections in Brazil. That same year, he was part of the group show Cantoria with Elomar, Vital Farias and Xangai, a great showcase of northeastern musical traditions from four of the region's finest musicians. The show resulted in the Cantoria I album, which was followed by Cantoria II four years later.

Alceu Valença, Elba Ramalho, Geraldo
Azevedo and Zé Ramalho's O Grande Encontro
 
           In 1985, he released the acoustic A Luz do Solo, which is a great retrospective of his standards up to that point. In the next decade, he joined Alceu Valença, Elba Ramalho, and Zé Ramalho for the three well-received O Grande Encontro albums, between 1996 and 2000. Salve São Francisco (Save the San Francisco), released in 2010, is a thematic album devoted to the great San Francisco River, which Geraldo grew up beside and which is under threat today from dams and diversions of its water.

I interviewed Azevedo at the BMG/Ariola recording studio in Copacabana, when he was laying down vocal and guitar tracks for "Bossa Tropical," the title song for an upcoming album. Azevedo was dressed in a green and purple sweatshirt and chewing ginger root because of a bad cold. He was very friendly and relaxed.

Chris: What have you been up to?
Geraldo: I've been traveling a lot internationally. In February 1990, I have a show in Paris.

Chris: You have a growing audience in Europe.
Geraldo: I did the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1985 and it was very well received. I played with Djavan and Tania Maria, who were better known, but I did very well.

Chris: You have a unique fusion of northeastern music with many other types of music. What musical elements are in your songs?
Geraldo: My work has a lot of mixing. On the new album, for example, there's a song called "Sexo Vinte," a pun on seculo vinte (20th century). It is a mix of xote, which is very related to reggae, and the Beatles. "Talismã" perhaps originated from the Gypsies. The songs are inspired and you don't always know what the influences are.

Chris: Did you have a musical childhood?
Geraldo: In my house, music was always naturally a part of things. My mother sings marvelously. My father plays guitar. My brothers all play music. In school, I always sang at the different parties and festivals. I couldn't enter the university because I always had shows that interfered with my taking the entrance exam.

Chris: What were some of your biggest influences?
Geraldo: Bossa nova and João Gilberto. João Gilberto made me turn professional. He made me more serious about looking into harmony. We didn't have those [bossa nova] harmonies in Petrolina. Also [Dorival] Caymmi, Milton [Nascimento], Jobim, jazz. The Northeast is so much a part of me – Jackson do Pandeiro and Luiz Gonzaga. The folklore of the region—maracatú, coco, repentistas—is in all of us without our perceiving it, instinctively. Later, I turned to jazz, the Beatles.

Chris: You recorded your first album with Alceu Valença, but you had already been in Rio awhile. How did you career start once you got down there?
Geraldo: I came to Rio before Alceu. I played with Quarteto Livre, with Naná Vasconcelos and others. We never recorded an album.

Chris: The military essentially broke up the group and sent Vandré into exile and you into prison. You also couldn't record "Canção da Despedida," written with Vandré, until much later.
Geraldo: My song "Canção da Despedida" was censored for a long time. At that time, artists were suffocated. There was cultural chaos. People had to leave the country.

Chris: And you were thrown into jail.
Geraldo: I was imprisoned twice. In 1969 for forty-one days and in 1975 for eleven days. The first time in prison, I was very depressed and beaten down. But I was young and I could recover.

Chris: Alceu Valença helped you get back into music.
Geraldo: Alceu met me in Rio. Alceu gave me a force, a strong push. It was a new musical movement. I recorded my first record, Alceu Valença and Geraldo Azevedo, in 1971 [it was released the next year].

Chris: What happened the second time the military imprisoned you?
Geraldo: The second time, six years later, was more violent. I was blindfolded, tortured. My jailers asked me to play for them, but I refused. I wasn't going to play for my torturers. I was never tried. My work didn't have political connotations.  It was humanistic, more to the positive than to the nihilistic, and more to the constructive than the destructive. But any person looking into cultural and humanistic subjects was persecuted. Some people died innocently. But, happily, I came through all that. The second time, I had a very strong spirit, and I left feeling strong, even though my time in jail was very violent. After I left I decided I would become famous and I accelerated my work and recorded my first solo album, Geraldo Azevedo, for Som Livre in 1976. Ironically, [President] Geisel took my album to Germany as being representative of Brazilian culture.

Chris: What do you think was the impact of the dictatorship and the repression on Brazilian music?
Geraldo: I think the dictatorship interrupted a Brazilian cultural cycle and we still haven't managed to recover. We are still asleep. I think my success has come about because people sense something more profund and poetic in my music. They have a lack of cultural inheritance. Rock is empty, alienated. The system presents alienated music, with the exception of some artists like Cazuza, Lobão, and Renato Russo.

Chris: There was exceptional music, by Geraldo Vandré, Edu Lobo, Chico Buarque and so many others, presented at the great Brazilian music festivals of the 1960s. And then the military dictatorship stepped in and censored a lot of it.
Geraldo: At the festivals, there came out such a force. We don't have this now. I think we'll never recover what we lost, but we can have a new movement with much sweat and heart.

Chris: You are one who survived, and have large following, even though you have released a relatively small number of albums in your four-decade career.
Geraldo: Today I have a bigger public, especially in the Northeast. Now I select and choose what I want to do. I'm not so worried about TV appearances, etc. I tried to do a real commercial album with Mazzola. PolyGram wanted me to do that, and it was completely unsuccessful and is no longer in the catalog. So, I have to do it from my heart.

Chris: The music that was created by you and Alceu Valença and your peers from the Northeast was a really vital part of MPB.
Geraldo: After bossa nova and Tropicália, there was a strong northeastern movement. It didn't have a name, but I think it was as important. Alceu, myself, Zé Ramalho, Belchior, Elba Ramalho, Fagner, and others.

Chris: Did you ever imagine being where you are today and having such a long and successful career?
Geraldo: I never thought about being a musician. Music just carried me away.

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Select Discography

Geraldo Azevedo
Geraldo Azevedo. Som Livre, 1977.
Bicho de sete cabeças. Epic/CBS, 1979.
Inclinações musicais. Ariola, 1981.
For all para todos. Ariola, 1982.
Tempo tempero. Barclay/Ariola, 1983.
A luz do solo. Barclay/Polygram, 1985.
De outra maneira. Echo/RCA, 1986.
Eterno presente. RCA, 1988.
Bossa tropical. RCA, 1989.
Berekekê. Geração, 1991.
Ao vivo comigo. Geração/BMG Ariola, 1994.
Futuramérica. BMG, 1996.
Raízes e frutos. BMG, 1998.
Hoje amanhã. BMG, 2000.
O Brasil existe em mim. Sony/BMG, 2007.
Salve São Francisco. Biscoito Fino, 2010.

Geraldo Azevedo and Alceu Valença
Alceu Valença & Geraldo Azevedo: Quadrafônico. Copacabana, 1972.

Geraldo Azevedo and Assunção de Maria
Assunção de Maria e Geraldo Azevedo. Biscoito Fino, 2011.

Alceu Valença, Elba Ramalho, Geraldo Azevedo and Zé Ramalho
O Grande Encontro. BMG Ariola, 1996.
O Grande Encontro 2. BMG, 1997.
O Grande Encontro 3. BMG, 2000.

Elomar, Geraldo Azevedo, Vital Farias, and Xangai
Cantoria I. Kuarup, 1984.
Cantoria II. Kuarup, 1988.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

An Interview with Rique Pantoja


"[Brazilian musicians] are more open and are into listening to all kinds of music. They are positive about their own style. It just matters if the track is happening, if the musicians are burning."—Rique Pantoja

Rique Pantoja's diverse musical life has had several distinct stages. He has been a novice jazz musician touring Europe with an old legend (Chet Baker), co-founder of an acclaimed Brazilian jazz fusion band (Cama de Gato), an in-demand studio keyboardist and arranger in Brazil; and, most recently, a composer, performer and college music professor based in Los Angeles.
            Paulo Henrique Pantoja Leite was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1955. Following high school, he studied from 1977-1979 at the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston, where Brazilian guitarist Ricardo Silveira and drummer Pascoal Meirelles were classmates. After that, Pantoja lived in Europe and played professionally with a group called Novos Tempos (New Times). In Paris, the young keyboardist made the acquaintance of famed American jazz trumpet-player and vocalist Chet Baker (1929-1988).
             He toured Europe and recorded with Baker in the early '80s. The musical relationship of the two was an illustration of the back-and-forth that has gone on between Brazilian music and jazz since the 1950s. Baker sang in a smooth, soft, laid back voice with no vibrato and was an influence on João Gilberto and other key figures in bossa nova. Decades later, Pantoja, who had grown absorbing bossa nova as a teenager in Rio, found himself performing and recording with Baker. The latter recorded six of Rique's compositions on Chet Baker & The Boto Brazilian Quartet, and interpreted several Pantoja pieces on Rique Pantoja & Chet Baker.
            In Brazil, Rique formed the instrumental quartet Cama de Gato with Pascoal Meirelles (drums), Mauro Senise (saxophone) and Arthur Maia (bass) in 1982. They mixed a jazz-fusion sensibility with Brazilian rhythms. With Pantoja, the group released the albums Cama de Gato (1986), Guerra Fria (1988), and Sambaíba (1990) for the Som da Gente label. Their albums sold extremely well for instrumental music in Brazil and they performed in Europe as well as New York's Town Hall. Maia, who didn't study music in Boston with Pantoja and Meirelles, playfully titled one of their tunes "Por Que Não Fui à Berklee?" (Why Didn't I Go to Berklee?). Pantoja left the band in 1991 and was replaced by Jota Moraes. Cama de Gato has continued until today with differing lineups. They still record Rique's compositions.

The back cover of Cama de Gato's debut album

            During his time with Cama de Gato, Pantoja was in great demand as a studio keyboardist, and appeared on albums in the '80s and early '90s by a wide array of Brazilian artists, including Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Ricardo Silveira, Robertinho Silva, Torcuato Mariano, Tim Maia, Marina, Raphael Rabello, Raimundo Fagner, Alcione, Wagner Tiso, Paulinho da Viola, Joanna, Eduardo Dusek, and Raul Mascarenhas. He played keyboards on a landmark rock song, Barao Vermelho's Bete Balanço" (1984), a huge hit for the band and their lead singer Cazuza. Pantoja played on five songs on Milton Nascimento's Yauaretê, launched internationally by Columbia in 1987.
            Along the way, Pantoja also released several solo albums, including Rique Pantoja featuring Ernie Watts, and De La Pra Ca, which featured Watts, Silveira, Lee Ritenour and Don Grusin.
            In July 1991, Pantoja moved from Rio permanently to Los Angeles. He had begun a spiritual transformation three years earlier while in Rio, and in the '90s he began to focus more of his efforts on Christian music. He has recorded or performed since then with Christian music artists Tommy Walker, Helen Baylor, Israel Houghton, Bebe Winans, Bob Darlene Zschech, Toomy Coomes, Bill Batstone, Annie Barbour, Linda McCrary, Bené Gomes, Bob Fitts, Kirk Whalum, and Kim Pauley. He also has performed for many years in the band at the Christian Assembly church in Eagle Rock, a neighborhood in northeastern Los Angeles.
            In recent years, he has worked in commercials and soundtracks; he was the composer, arranger and keyboardist for the song "By the Sea" for the movie Jungle 2 Jungle (1997). He has released Christian-themed albums such as Night Prayer: Oração da Noite with Tommy Walker (2005), and appeared on works like vocalist Zoe Theodorou's The Essence of Life (2005), for which he was the keyboardist and arranger. His and Theodorou's song "I Believed It" from that album won Canada's Covenant Award for Jazz/Blues Song of the Year.
            He has also led his own instrumental group, the Rique Pantoja Quartet, which in 2011 performed in eight cities in Russia, among other gigs. Pantoja now teaches music as well, most recently at Biola University and LAMP (the Los Angeles School of Music and Performance), in Southern California.

The profile above was written recently, while the interview below took place in 1989 as Pantoja's solo recording career was taking off.

Chris: You appeared on a couple of guitarist Ricardo Silveira's albums. And the two of you have played as studio musicians for many of the same people, such as Milton Nascimento.
Rique: Ricardo Silveira and I used to live together; we both studied at Berklee.

Chris: Do you think you guys were "Americanized" at all by studying there?
Rique: Definitely I'm Brazilian. I grew up there, listened to bossa nova and choro.
I got turned on to [bossa] when I was 15. [There were great] instrumental players like Tamba Trio, with Luis Eça. Manfredo Fest was a great player.

Chris: Before Cama de Gato, at the start of the '80s you were playing in Europe with Chet Baker. How did that come about?
Rique: When I lived in Rome and Paris, I was playing with Novos Tempos. We were Brazilian and French musicians. We were all over Paris, and used to play seven nights a week. That's how we met Chet Baker. He was playing in a club next door, and he came over to watch us. He sat in and really liked the music. He had a producer, Yves Chamberland, and he wanted to make a record with us. We invited Chet to be part of the project and it actually became Chet's record [Chet Baker and the Boto Brazilian Quartet, recorded in 1980].


The back cover of Rique Pantoja and Chet Baker

Chris: Did you enjoy playing with Baker? It must have been a thrill for a young musician.
Rique: It was a great experience playing with him. After that [record], he called me from Rome and said, 'let's go on the road.' So we started doing an island off Naples, then Naples, Sicily, Milan, many places. Chet influenced a lot of people. Caetano [Veloso] told me he used to listen so much to Chet Baker. João Gilberto listened to him. An influence from that cool kind of singing.

Chet Baker performing Pantoja's "Arborway"

Chris: What about his heroin addiction? Was he using while you were playing with him?
Rique: Sometimes it was hard. He would go back into the drugs. It was a sad thing. But his music had such a strong heart. If I had to show him a tune and ask him what he thought, he would close his eyes [and listen]. He didn't listen to music and talk [at the same time]. Then he would tune back into the planet. He was a very nice, sweet person—from somewhere else.

Chet Baker performing Pantoja's "So Hard to Know"

Chris: Was he a mentor for you?
Rique: I definitely have been influenced by him. I learned from him. He would tell me little concepts and things about improvisation. I remember once he was telling me that for him, improvisation should always start with a melody a little kid could sing. You can burn and play fast, but it should start with simple motifs and build up from there. There were a lot of good things like that and, also, lots of sad moments.

Chris: Can you talk about your other jazz and pop influences?
Rique: I love jazz music. I listened to Gil Evans and Herbie Hancock, and at the same time grew up singing Beatles tunes, James Taylor, Carol King, Stevie Wonder, Leon Russell.

Chris: And Jobim?
Rique: I listened to Jobim, Satie, Debussy, Ravel. My father used to play a lot of that. I loved those harmonies.

Chris: How would you classify the types of songs that you write for your solo albums?
Rique: One side of my compositions is really pop or romantic. I try to keep the two repertoires separate. My solo work is more pop, maybe easier to listen to than Cama de Gato. My solo work is hard for me to label. I wrote a lot of ballads.

Chris: What about for the group?
Rique: I wrote most of the stuff for Cama de Gato. We're more on the jazz side, but we play maracatus, samba, baião. The rhythms are more Brazilian, but with modern, avant-garde harmonies, dissonant.

Cama de Gato performing Pantoja's "Pé de Moleque"


Chris: You guys were well received when you played in the U.S. recently.
Rique: We got a standing ovation at New York Town Hall concerts.

Chris: Why do you think Brazilian music has been so well received recently in the United States? You, Ricardo Silveira, Milton Nascimento, Djavan, Ivan Lins and many others have been releasing albums in North America.
Rique: I think what we [my generation] have to offer is fresh music, not trying to compare or judge. I think music has been too pasteurized, the patterns are cliché. And Brazilian music has such a strong vitality. It's like a fresh fountain and people have been drinking there. Pat Metheny gets a lot of ideas from Toninho Horta or Milton Nascimento. And there's Dave Grusin, Al Jarreau [who have also been influenced by it].

Chris: Do you think Americans or Europeans can hear the difference between what you do and what some U.S. jazz fusion bands play?
Rique: I played at Jazzmania [a club in Rio]. Americans sometimes come up and say they think the music kind of sounds like Al Jarreau or Spyro Gyra. But it isn't the same as their music.

Chris: And it's complicated because a lot of the North American groups have been influenced by Brazilian music. American music, from rock to jazz, has always absorbed rhythms and styles from elsewhere.
Rique: We [Brazilian musicians] don't have the structure to get the music out there. Our [marketing] is very primitive in a way. Pat Metheny or other big names sell thousands or millions of records. People relate to those tunes more. People don't know who Toninho Horta is, who had a big influence on Pat Metheny's music, but they know who Pat Metheny is. So if Toninho came here [to the U.S.], they would probably say, "Hey he sounds like Pat Metheny."

Chris: A lot of jazz musicians, like Metheny and his partner Lyle Mays, have acknowledged the influence of Brazilian music on their work. But the average listener doesn't know that.
Rique: Brazil is still known for Carnival, samba, but it's not just that. It's so rich. There are so many fusions we can get. I think we [Brazilians] have a lot to give to music in general. The speed of information is so fast now. People relate to music from all over the planet. Pretty soon it will be hard to say this is typically Brazilian. The new streams are tied to each other. Soon it will just be tendencies. 'This has a salsa flavor with Brazilian harmonies,' as an example.

Cama de Gato performs Pantoja's "Melancia"

Chris: Does your music have any similarities with any of your contemporaries, like  Ricardo Silveira or Marcos Ariel?
Rique: Each has a different approach, a different way. Marcos is very Brazilian, more [steeped] in tradition. He plays choros. Very rich, fresh. Ricardo's approach is more that of a guitar player. I also compose there [with a guitar], but my main thing is the piano. The voice element in my music is really strong as well. I did vocalese with Cama de Gato and on my first solo album [on "Lua Nova"]. I like to use the voice as an instrument, doubling on soprano sax, going to more of a head tone in singing. I learned from playing jazz, listening to a lot of things. It's a different way of doing it, my own way.

Chris: It's hard for jazz and instrumental musicians to compete with rock, in any country.
Rique: Nothing sells like that [rock].

Chris: It's always been tough for instrumental musicians, even in the bossa nova days.
Rique: A lot of musicians from that generation became hardened. Bossa nova was a type of music that kind of got lost when the Beatles and Roberto Carlos came. They had to go back to nightclubs, piano bars, things like that. It's sad because many of them are still great musicians. There is a new breed of musicians from Brazil now. People are more open and are into listening to all kinds of music. They are positive about their own style. It just matters if the track is happening, if the musicians are burning.

_______

Extended Discography
(U.S. Releases unless otherwise noted)

Rique Pantoja
Rique Pantoja featuring Ernie Watts*. WEA (Brazil), 1985.
[*released in the U.S. by WEA Latina in 1986].
De La Pra Ca. Som Livre (Brazil), 1989.
Love Brought Us Here, Pony Canyon (Japan), 1990.
Live in L.A., NET Records, 2001.

Rique Pantoja & Chet Baker
Rique Pantoja & Chet Baker*, Warner Music Latina, 1993.
[first released in Brazil in 1987]

Rique Pantoja & Tommy Walker
Night Prayer: Oração da Noite. Net Records (Brazil), 2005.

Cama de Gato
Cama de Gato. Som da Gente (Brazil), 1986.
Guerra Fria. Som da Gente (Brazil), 1988.
Sambaíba. Som da Gente (Brazil), 1990.

Select Rique Pantoja Songs Recorded by Others
Yasuko Agawa with Ivan Lins. "More and More." Amizade, JVC (Japan), 1994.
Chet Baker. "Arborway." Four: Chet Baker in Tokyo. King Records (Germany), 1989.
_______. Various songs. Rique Pantoja & Chet Baker, Warner Music Latina, 1993.
Ron Benise. "Sonata in E." Carnaval. Rosanegra Music, 2003.
Cama de Gato. "Arpoador." Dança da Lua. Line Records (Brazil), 1993.
_______. "Sweet Dance." Amendoim Torrado. Albatroz (Brazil), 1998.
_______. "Bimini." Agua de Chuva. Perfil Musical (Brazil), 2003.
Hélio Delmiro. "Inaiá," "Romã." Romã. Line Records (Brazil), 1990.
Kali. "Pitu." Kali. Som da Gente (Brazil), 1985.
Kevyn Lettau. "Foundation of Humanity." Another Season. Samson Records, 2001.
Arthur Maia. "Cama de Gato." Planeta Música. Cabeçadura Records (Brazil), 2002.
Tim Maia. "Sem Volta." Somos America. Continental (Brazil), 1987.
Raul Mascarenhas. "Bem Verão," "Um Dia Mellow." Musician. WEA (Brazil), 1988.
_______. "Voo Livre." Sabor Carioca. Chorus Estúdio/Som Livre (Brazil), 1990.
Christine Miller. "Christmas Time," "Miracle Morning." All is Bright. R.M.I. Records, 2005.
Russ Miller. "Brincadeira," Be-Pop," "Inaiá," "Salseada," "Frigiano." Cymbalism. R.M.I., 2006.
_______. "Mosquito Bites," "The Last December," "Rhythm Conversations." Arrival. R.M.I., 2007.
Christopher Parkening & Jubiliation. "Lamento," "Ciranda Bambolê." Jubilation. EMI, 2007.
Raphael Rabello & Romero Lubambo. "Melancia." Shades of Rio. Chesky Records, 1992.
Mauro Senise. "Tudo ou Nada." Mauro Senise. Visom (Brazil), 1988.
Ricardo Silveira. "Story Teller." Story Teller. Kokopelli Records, 1995.
Zoe Theodorou. "Shining Star," "Life Without You," "I Believed It." The Essence of Life. Gruvu Records, 2005.
Trio da Paz. "Melancia." Partido Out. Malandro Records, 1998.
Paulinho Trompete. "De Lá Pra Cá." Um Sopro de Brasil. Visom (Brazil), 1990.
Tommy Walker. "Te Alabamos." Live at Home. Get Down Records, 1999.
Ernie Watts. "What Do You See?" Stand Up. Odyssey Records, 1992.

Appearances on Chet Baker albums
Four: Chet Baker in Tokyo. King Records (Germany), 1989.
Chet Baker & The Boto Brazilian Quartet.  Dreyfus Jazz Line, 1991.

Select Participations (as keyboardist or arranger) on International Albums
Yasuko Agawa with Ivan Lins. Amizade, JVC (Japan), 1994.
Torcuato Mariano. Paradise Station. Windham Hill, 1994.
Russ Miller. Arrival. R.M.I., 2007.
Brenda Russell. "Please Felipe" Paris Rain. Hidden Beach, 2000.
Steps Ahead. "Red Neon Go Or Give." N.Y.C., Intuition, 1988.
Robertinho Silva. "Lilla." Speak No Evil. Milestone Records, 1994.
Zoe Theodorou. The Essence of Life. Gruvu Records, 2005.

Select Participations (as keyboardist or arranger) on Brazilian Recordings
Barão Vermelho. "Bete Balanço." Maior Abandanado. Som Livre, 1984.
Chico Buarque. "Brejo da Cruz." Chico Buarque. Philips, 1984.
Gal Costa. "Topazio." Profana.  RCA, 1984.
_______. "The Laziest Gal in Town." Gal.  BMG Ariola, 1992.
Hélio Delmiro. Hélio Delmiro in Concert: Romã. Line Records, 1991.
Eduardo Dusek. Cantando no Banheiro. Philips/Polygram, 1982.
Gilberto Gil. Um Banda Um. Warner, 1981.
Guinga. Simples e Absurdo. Velas, 1991.
Kleiton & Kledir. Kleiton & Kledir. Ariola, 1983.
Edu Lobo & Chico Buarque. "Ciranda da Ballarina." O Grande Circo Místico. Som Livre, 1983.
Tim Maia. "Sem Volta." Somos America. Continental, 1987.
Raul Mascarenhas. Musician. WEA, 1988.
_______. Sabor Carioca. Chorus Estudio/Som Livre, 1990.
Pascoal Meirelles. "Anna." Anna. Independent, 1985.
_______. Paula. CID, 1990.
Milton Nascimento. Anima. Ariola, 1982.
_______. Yauaretê, CBS, 1987.
_______. "Feito Nos." Miltons. CBS, 1988.
Angela RoRo. "Querem Nos Matar." Polydor/Philips, 1982.
Mauro Senise. Mauro Senise. Visom, 1988.
Paulinho Trompete. Um Sopro de Brasil. Visom, 1990.

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