Voltarol - related music

Thursday, 4 June 2009

A random selection…

I was thinking about what to write about the other day when I glanced at the pile of CDs that had accumulated next to the Hi Fi over the weekend. It occurred to me that the pile more or less represented my last two days of listening and was worth sharing with you so –

First up was Luiz Avellar – Bons Amigos. This album was recorded in 1995 and I bought it in São Paulo not long after it came out. I had been made aware of Luiz Avellar by my habit of reading sleeve notes. His piano playing cropped up on a regular basis on albums by artists that I liked so I was quickly drawn to his name when I saw an album by him. A quick inspection proved that he kept good company on his own albums as well. Here were Paulo Moura(clarinet), Paulo Russo (double bass), Hélio Delmiro (guitar), Arthur Maia (electric bass) and Hermeto Pascoal (melodica), all making guest appearances. I owned albums by all of them and I soon realised that, of the other sidemen, Ricardo Silveira (acoustic guitar), Jorge Helder (electric and double bass), Robertinho Silva (drums and percussion), Raul de Souza (trombone) and Carlos Bala (drums) had all appeared on other albums that I owned. Only drummer Cláudio Infante and vocalist Ana Zinger were unknown to me.

It’s a great album and shows Avellar and co to be world class musicians. This is another illustration of Brazilian jazz, taking as it does a selection of popular Brazilian tunes and giving them a jazz interpretation. There are tunes by Dorival Caymmi, Dori Caymmi (Dorival’s son), Toninho Horta, Caetano Veloso, Tom Jobim, Hermeto Pascoal and Gilberto Gil, as well as two originals by Avellar himself. This is well worth tracking down and adding to your own collection if you have a taste either for jazz or for Brazilian music generally. For a taste of Avellar’s playing try this –

Next on the CD player was Weather Report – Night Passage. This album features what for me is the best line-up that they had, and I was lucky enough to see them play at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1980 (see Bass Thoughts). The personnel are – Joe Zawinul – keyboards, Wayne Shorter – saxophones, Peter Erskine – drums and Robert Thomas Jr. – hand drums. The material is by Zawinul with the exception of ‘Port of Entry’ by Shorter, ‘Three Views of a Secret’ by Pastorius (one of my favourite Jaco tunes) and a storming version of Duke Ellington’s ‘Rockin’ in Rhythm’ that sits surprisingly naturally alongside the other compositions. Here’s ‘Port of Entry’.

Convite Para Ouvir Toquinho e Vinicius (An invitation to hear Toquinho and Vinicius) first came to my attention in 1994, in a small restaurant in Angra dos Reis (christened ‘Free Willy’s on account of an unfortunate incident involving a large rip in the waiter’s track-suit bottoms). There was a little cassette player in the corner and it was playing this music which instantly captivated me. I made it my business to get the name of the album and sought it out as soon as we got back to São Paulo. This compilation album, first issued in 1988, has been a firm favourite ever since.

The ‘Vinicius’ in question is Vinicius de Moraes, who was well known world wide for his collaborations with Tom Jobim, but also collaborated with the great Baden Powell. Toquinho was new to me – a fine guitarist, singer and composer who also wrote many songs with Vinicius. On this album the material is drawn almost exclusively from these songs, with the exception of one song by Dorival Caymmi. A lot of the tunes on this will be familiar to many people, even if the titles aren’t. This is classic stuff in the Bossa mould that is pure Brazilian: untainted by the North American record company’s need to have English lyrics or more foursquare rhythms. Here are a couple of archive clips. Don't be put off if you don't speak Portuguese - the musical content of the first piece is well worth it. The second clip is short but gives a real flavour of how differently they interpret the familiar Jobim tune. All of the songs here are on this compilation.

Michel Petrucciani’s ‘Both Worlds’ album was one of the last that he recorded before his early death, coming out as it did in 1998. Mrs Voltarol bought it for me as a Christmas present that year and we both loved the CD. It featured several of my favourite musicians – Steve Gadd on drums, Anthony Jackson on bass and Bob Brookmeyer on trombone and arrangements – as well as two Italian players – Flavio Boltro on trumpet and Stefano Di Battista on soprano saxophone. We enjoyed the album so much that when we heard that Pettruciani was due to play at Ronnie Scott’s in the new year we immediately decided to go up to London to see him. Alas, our excitement was short lived as Petrucciani died on January 6th 1999 at the age of 38. Here he is in 1998 with Gadd and Jackson, playing one of the tunes from the album - 'Brazilian Like'

The final item in this random selection is O Brasil Da Sanfona. This is a recording of a concert dedicated to the sanfona (or accordion) music of Rio Grande do Sul and São Paulo (in this case referring to the state). I have written elsewhere about being converted to the joys of accordion music (see Accordion Crimes) Strangely, I bought this album principally because of the label. I have many CDs on the Núcleo Contemporâneo label and I have yet to hear an album from them that wasn’t excellent. A quick visit to their website will tell you a lot about them. This is a company run by one of Brazil’s finest musicians – Benjamin Taubkin – and his sister, Miriam Taubkin, who is the driving force behind many of the label’s special projects.

‘O Brasil Da Sanfona’ is one of those projects, which sought to showcase the incredible musicianship of accordion players in central Brazil. The only name that I knew was that of Toninho Ferragutti, who is a fantastic musician. The other players on here all lived up to my expectaions. They are Caçulinha, Gilda Montans and Meire Genaro, Regina Weissmann, Renato Borghetti, Gilberto Monteiro, Oscar dos Reis, Luciano Maia and finally, Renato Borghetti. Unfortunately I can't find any web refences in English for these musicians but I've managed to find a few YouTube clips of some of them. Incidentally, the accompanists on the album are not credited but the standard of their musicianship is very high . Here's Caçulinha -

And here's Gilda Montans and Meire Genaro playing Astor Piazzolla's 'Libertango'.

Next up is a ten minute selection from Regina Weissman.

and finally, here's Toninho Ferragutti.

So that’s it. That was one weekend’s listening for the Voltarol household. I hope this music will give you as much pleasure as it gives us.