Voltarol - related music

Friday, 12 March 2010

Voltarol in Brazil 2010, continued – further doings in São Paulo

On the morning preceding the Yamandu / Hamilton de Hollanda concert we had paid another visit to my favourite CD shop. Pops Discos is situated at Shop 4, 763 Rua Teodoro Sampaio in the Pinheiros district of São Paulo. It’s a short walk from Clínicas, the nearest Metro Station, which in turn is only a couple of stops from Avenida Paulista, which is where we were staying.

Rua Teodoro Sampaio is THE street to visit if you are a musician. There are probably thirty or forty music shops there selling guitars, basses keyboards, drums, percussion, PA equipment and printed music. There is, however, only one CD shop as far as I am concerned and that is Pops Discos. I was taken there by Alberto on my very first trip to Brazil in 1994 and I have been back on every subsequent visit – often more than once. It is not a large shop – it’s not much bigger than my living room – but by heck, the stock is unbelievable. Every nook and cranny of the place is stuffed with CDs. They have a wide range of material there including much rock and pop if that is your area of interest. They also have a good jazz and classical selection as well as some second hand material, and a fair selection of DVDs.

But it is their in-depth coverage of all types of Brazilian music that keeps me returning to their premises. That and the fact that despite the apparent hotchpotch nature of the stock – at first glance you don’t know WHERE to start – one soon discovers that the stock is well annotated and that the staff can generally locate any item that they have within a couple of minutes. I have in excess of a thousand Brazilian CDs in my collection and I should think that about 60% of them have come from Pops! So, if you are in São Paulo and looking for recorded music, you know where to go! Incidentally if this looks like an advertisement – it isn’t! This is me giving credit where credit is due. However, I did tell the proprietor that I would be posting something on my blog and that I would also post a Portuguese version so that the Pops people could read it too…so here it is. If you don't read Portuguese (and you're still interested) then just scroll on down. There's more of this stuff

"Na manhã do dia seguinte ao show do Yamandu / Hamilton de Hollanda fomos, mais uma vez, visitar minha loja de CDs favorita. A “Pops Discos” fica na loja 4, 763 Rua Teodoro Sampaio, no bairro de Pinheiros em São Paulo. Descendo na estação Clinicas do Metrô que, por sua vez, encontra se a poucas “paradas” de Avenida Paulista (onde estávamos hospedados), uma caminhada de 5 minutos nós levou ao nosso destino.

Rua Teodoro Sampaio é o melhor lugar para visitar se você é músico. A rua deve ter entre trinta e quarenta lojas vendendo violões, guitarras, contra baixos, teclados, baterias, instrumentos de percussão, amplificadores e partituras. Porém, em minha opinião, há somente uma loja de CDs, a saber, Pops Discos. Conheci o lugar quando Alberto me levou lá na minha primeira visita ao Brasil, em 1994, e ela se tornou uma parada obrigatória em todas as visitas subseqüentes – muitas vezes com múltiplos retornos. A loja não é muito grande – pouco maior que a sala da minha casa – mas o acervo é inacreditável. Cada centímetro de espaço está recheado de CDs. Eles oferecem uma extensa variedade de material, que inclui bastante rock e pop, caso seus interesses estejam em essas áreas. Também possui uma excelente seleção de jazz é música clássica, alguns produtos semi-novos e diversos DVDs.

Entretanto, o que me faz voltar, vez após vez, é seu riquíssimo estoque de todos os tipos de música brasileira. A disposição das mercadorias aparenta ser bem confusa – à primeira vista, a gente não sabe ONDE começar – mas logo descobrimos que o estoque está bem organizado e que os funcionários conseguem, normalmente, localizar qualquer item em poucos minutos. Já tenho pouco mais de mil CDs brasileiros em meu acervo e creio que algo em torno de 60% desse foi comprado na Pops! Portanto, se você estiver em São Paulo à procura de música gravada, você já sabe onde procurar! A propósito, se, por acaso, esse texto tem cheiro de propaganda – nada disso! Trata se de um cliente satisfeito atribuindo o mérito a quem merece. Porém, confesso que disse ao proprietário daquela loja que pretendia postar algo sobre eles no meu blog e que o mesmo teria uma versão em português para que o pessoal da Pops também pudesse ler."

Translated by 'Son of Voltarol'. That's m' boy!

The following day we met up with our ex-daughter in law – but still great friend - Marilia, whose continuing enthusiasm for the arts in general and music in particular has led to a rapidly advancing career in Arts administration. We had lunch together and then, in the evening, went to a new venue –Tom Jazz – to see the great Joyce (voice and guitar) with Andre Mehmari (piano), Rodolfo Stroeter (double bass) and Tutty Moreno (drums). I would have paid good money to see any one of these artists, so to see them all together – and in such an intimate setting - was a real treat. Unfortunately there are no YouTube clips of this line up but I'll compensate by including clips that feature the individual artists.

Joyce (or Joyce Moreno as she now prefers to be known: she is married to drummer Tutty Moreno) is generally recognised as a singer and as a composer and in my opinion should also be recognised as an excellent guitarist. Her rhythmic sense is faultless and her chord voicings put many a jazz guitarist to shame, and yet it all integrates with the voice to become one thing. Like all my favourite singers, she never plays the diva – it’s all about the music and being at one with the rest of the band, and as you would expect given that the drummer is her husband, the rhythm section is as tight as tight can be yet full of subtle nuances.

Andre Mehmari is an astonishing pianist who should be more widely known than he is. At the age of 32 he is a veteran of the Brazilian music scene, having won the first national VISA MPB (Brazilian Popular Music) Competition - the most important award for popular music in Brazil – at the age of 21. He is in fact a multi instrumentalist, composer and arranger but, like Joyce, it seems that his music is not ego driven and he is frequently sought by other singers for his great abilities as an incredibly sympathetic accompanist. In this instance he was able to demonstrate this skill and to be equally dazzling as a soloist, creating memorable choruses but never dominating the proceedings.

Rodolfo Stroeter is a fine double bass player who also plays the electric bass. He is a composer, arranger and record producer who, like Andre Mehmari, is as much in demand with other singers as he is as an improvising musician. His own band, Pau Brasil, has long been a favourite of mine. He locked in with the guitar and drums to complete a most gloriously integrated rhythm section.

Tutty Moreno is a real drummer’s drummer. He never appears to be doing anything so laid back is he, and yet the whole band really motors with him driving. I guess the old analogy of the swan applies – when you see a swan glide past it looks so serene on the surface, but if you were to look beneath the water you would see those big webbed feet paddling away like mad. Except that in this case there is no surface to look beneath. My theory is that he does most of his playing in his head, edits it on the fly and only lets out that which is absolutely essential to propel the beat. Even his solos are minimalist yet great. If only more drummers could dispense with the often unnecessary pyrotechnics that so often find there way into solos. Tutty is probably one of the most ego-free drummers I’ve ever come across and that was the thing that made this a great evening of music – this was another example of a band as a gestalt, where individual egos made way for the collective sound.

After the gig Marilia took us back stage to meet the musicians, who were as assured and yet modest as you would expect in the light of what I have just written. Joyce will be playing in England in November. The last time I saw her in this country her band included her husband (unsurprisingly) and Rodolfo Stroeter, so I’m hoping that they will be coming over with her this time. I’ll keep you posted as and when I have information. Oh, and I have a promise of interviews with Joyce, Andre Mehmari and Rodolfo, so watch this space…

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Voltarol in Brazil 2010 continued - Meanwhile, back in São Paulo…

Life is passing incredibly slowly in Voltarol world at the moment, so for those of you who follow these ramblings – I apologise. Pressure of work, preceded by pressure of having a good time, has kept me away from the blogosphere. When one is earning one's crust by writing (as I am at the moment), the last thing one wants to do at the end of the working day is to write some more. However, I have put work to one side for the moment to continue the tale of my recent adventures…

After our stay in Teresópolis we returned to São Paulo briefly and then went on down to the coast to spend time with my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. After several weeks of sun and sea punctuated by joyful raspberry-blowing (for the mutual benefit of myself and my one year old grandchild), we returned to São Paulo for some serious music hunting.

Victor Biglione Trio at SESC Santana

First up was a concert by the guitarist Victor Biglione at SESC Santana which involved Mrs Voltarol and I in an adventurous treck across the city by tube. (I have just mentioned two of the most civilised aspects of São Paulo in one sentence – the underground rail network which, although not as extensive as the London tube, is incredibly efficient, reliable and clean, and the SESC network of venues, which are publicly funded and present an astonishing range of arts events at very reasonable prices.) Biglione, accompanied by double bass and drums, played a set of tunes which he has recently recorded as a Tom Jobim tribute. (This link also contains a more extensive biography of the artist.) He is an extremely fine guitarist and I am a great admirer of his work but on this occasion I came away slightly disappointed. The set was shorter than advertised and Biglione seemed a little detatched from us and the other two members of his trio. I think we must have caught him on a bad night because this clip from one of his gigs at another SESC in 2008 shows him in fine form. It’s certainly the same drummer that we saw but a different the bass player.

The following night we met up with our friend Alberto and his partner for a meal in a superb Uruguayan restaurant called El Tranvia. If you are a dedicated carnivore and you are ever in São Paulo then I recommend a visit. I’ve eaten there three times now and each experience has been better than the last. I shall also wax lyrical about the beer. We drank a Uruguayan brew called ‘Nordestina’ in preference to wine. I am extremely partial to wine – and especially red wine with good beef – but the Nordestina was a great accompaniment to the food. It even came in its own ice bucket!

The next night we set of on another treck – this time on foot – from our hotel just off Avenida Paulista to Parque do Ibirapuera, which is a long walk on a hot evening. We were off to see a performance by Hamilton de Holanda and Yamandu Costa (10 string bandolim (Brazilian Mandolin) and 7 string guitar respectively) at the Oscar Neimeyer – designed Auditório Ibirapuera which is a most extraordinary building and a great venue in all but one respect. So much attention has been paid to the – admittedly stunning - appearance of the foyer, that no provision has been made for a decent bar or restaurant. It might seem like an ungracious observation but there is nowhere within easy walking distance where one can get something to eat, and we were damned hungry by the time we got there.
The foyer of the Auditório Ibirapuera

Despite this it was an absolutely terrific gig. The acoustics, sound reinforcement system and lines of sight within the actual concert hall were excellent and the music was simply superb. The communication and mutual respect between the two players made for some phenomenal musical interplay and we left the venue feeling extremely uplifted. Even the absence of taxis and the long (mostly uphill) walk back to the hotel did not unduly dampen our –by this time - very hungry spirits so we availed ourselves of room service and had club sandwiches and caipirinhas for our late supper.

Here is a clip of them performing at the same venue in 2007.

To be continued…

Late update: Thanks to the comment from 'son of Voltarol' (see below) I can now correct my mistake and confirm that the delicious cerveja (beer) that we drank in El Tranvia is in fact called 'Norteñha', and so that you don't make the same mistake as I did, here's what it looks like. If you are a beer lover and you find it in one of those fancy beer importing emporia, this one is worth the price. Cheers!