Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fred Hersch plays Jobim

Fred Hersch, a US jazz piano player, released last year an album that fascinated me. The album is entitled Fred Hersch plays Jobim. Although not a pure Choro album, Fred Hersch dedicated it to the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, the great Brazilian composer. In the liner notes Fred tells that he is a great fan of chorinhos - this fascinating for Choro music is to be heard in some of the tunes - enough reason to introduce you to this album.
Fred Hersch is one of those jazz piano players who fascinate me. Although he plays and records since the early 1980s I learned about him and his music only a few years ago, thanks to the documentary Let Yourself Goes - The lives of Fred Hersch - a fascinating portrait of a gifted musician in his fight agains his HIV-infection. Last year I heard him in a concert with his Fred Hersch Trio + 2 at the North Sea Jazz Festival, in Rotterdam. For this performance Fred had invited two horn players, Ralph Alessi on trumpet and flugelhorn and Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone. The photos used in this contribution are made, with a simple digital camera, during this concert.

Fred Hersch ( North Sea Jazz Festival ( Rotterdam) July 2009 ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

Last year Fred released a solo album dedicated to Antonio Carlos Jobim. But few people won't have ever heard the music of Jobim. His bossa nova styled songs like the Girl from Ipanema, Desafinado or Meditation, to list some well known themes, are well known and where all part of the pop charts of the 1960s. The bossa nova, a mix of Brazilian music and jazz, to keep it simply, was introduced by musicians like Astrud Gilberto, Charlie Byrd, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Stan Getz. I told about this period in a contribution about Eliane Elias' tribute to 50 years Bossa Nova In the liner notes Fred tells that he was introduced to the Bossa Nova by a local guitar player Kenny Poole. This men died a few years ago and I found a fragment where you can here him playing.

He learned to play the Brazilian rhythms by drummer Edison Machado. He was one of the first to transfer the rhythms of the Bossa Nova, the Samba, and the Baiao to the drum set. He met Edison at a gig at the New York club Cachaca: I was lucky to be taught on the bandstand by a real master: Edison Machado. During Fred's career he visited Brasil three times and played with Leny Andrade, the great Brazilian singer who often played with the Sergo Mendes band Sexteto Bossa Rio. In Brazil Fred Hersch learned more about Choro. I am a huge fan of chorinhos - the equivalent of Brazilian ragtime - and have learned many of them and written some of my own. Fred Hersch at the North Sea Jazz Festival - Rotterdam ( July 2009) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

Around 1870 in Rio de Janeiro ( Brazil) a new musical style emerged that would become one of the most creative musical manifestations in Brazil. Choro was primarily an instrumental form, and to a North American ear it might sound a little like a small Dixieland jazz combo playing with strange rhythms, extreme melodic leaps, unexpected modulations, and occasional breakneck tempos. Interestingly, choro's development in Brazil slightly predated the rise of ragtime and jazz in North America. Choro and jazz were both characterized in part by their use of improvisation and African-derived musical elements. ( source: Choro: Improvisation South of New Orleans in The Billboard Book of Brazilian Music by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha p. 151 )

Fred Hersch at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam ( July 2009) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

In the album Fred Hersch plays Jobim Fred didn't want to play only the well known tunes, already listed above, but also some of the lesser known Jobim compositions. One of those less known tunes is O Grande Amor, which he learned from Stan Getz, who recorded it several times ( like in Sweet Rain, March 1967). I played briefly with Stan Getz in the mid-1980s and it was from him that I learned O Grande Amor. It is now one of the tunes I like the best. It starts almost like a classical Debussy-etude before it developed into a more swinging rhythmical theme. Fred Hersch was allowed to make a choice from the hundreds of compositions archived in the Jobim estate. This album contains nine tracks - all tunes were composed by Jobim, but Fred's version is not a copy of the originals. He made a selection of lesser known tunes like Por Toda Minha Vida and Luiza and some more known themes like Meditacao, Insensatez and Desafinado. The latter surprises as it contains rhythms and harmonies you don't expect in this well known theme - Fred says that he was inspired by the Brazilian rhythms he had heard. His interpretation of the slow tunes are more like a meditation - almost introverted, like Bill Evans would have played it, but the more rhythmical up-tempo tunes like Desafinado and in Brigas Nunca Mais, one of the tunes that surprised me too, the rhythms and harmonies seem to be inspired by the Choro music. On this tune, Hersch is accompanied by percussionist Jamey Haddad. This album was recorded at Ambient Studio in Stamford CT and Hersch plays on a well tuned and great sounding Steinway piano. Love to share with you the tune Insensatez as played by Hersch on this album, dedicated to the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Reading through so much of his music reinforced my belief that Jobim is one of the great composers of the 20th century regardless of genre. His bittersweet harmonies, fabulous melodies and superb craftsmanship are evident in everything he writes. ( Fred Hersch in the liner notes of Fred Hersch plays Jobim)

Ths contribution is also posted at the Keep Swinging blog.

Hans Koert

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

7 + 7 Cordas = Magic!

What happens when two aces of the violão sete cordas ( the acoustic seven string guitar) get together to make music? The answer to that question is the word 'magic', at least considering the contained recordings on the new cd featuring Yamandú Costa and Valter Silva, a marvellous example of preservation of the special and rare moments when mutual understanding and creative craftmanship reaches a level of magic leaving the listener with a feeling of endless happiness - and a gratitude beyound words. The cd has a special background according to the liner notes by Marcello Gonçalves, well known seven string guitarist of Trio Madeira Brasil, quote: " At a celebration for my birthday in 2004, besides all of the usual suspects, I invited Valter Silva, who still hadn't met Yamandu. (...) The two of them got to know each other, began playing and the party halted in its tracks as everyone stopped to listen. That magic, which we are always searching for, but never know when it will appear, appeared. After everything went back to normal, Yamandu and I looked at each other and said, "We have to record this." And that's exactly what we did. During the sessions we were always searching for that special magic. When it didn't appear, we would move on to another piece and come back to it on another day. It was a fast process but done without being in a rush.- This CD shows the energy of the 70-year-old Valter and the maturity of Yamandu's 30 years. It is an homage to the music of Rio de Janeiro, to the 7 string acoustic guitar, and to Valter himself, a true artist of this music and this instrument."

The cd is produced by Marcello Gonçalves and contains 13 tracks of delightful interplay between Yamandú and Valter, the music is well chosen from a repertoire of classic choros and features performance of compositions by Dilermando Reis, João Pernambuco, Pixinguinha, Jacob do Bandolim, Canhoto da Paraíba a.o.. The set-up of the duo sessions has Yamandú playing the melody while Valter contributes accompaniment adding marvellous modulation and fill ins. Both musicians are left space for improvisation and embellishment and even though Yamandú is playing lead, Valter also gets the chance to show off his ability as a soloist and a great improvisator on the seven string guitar. The performances are very balanced, the two musicians have the ability to listen to each other while playing and create wonderful variations of the musical themes 'on the spot of the moment', the result is magic and a perfect cd, highly recommended. - The cd is available for purchase here and you also have the opportunity to listen to all tracks in streaming audio at Rádio UOL, click here

I have not been able to find uploaded videos featuring Yamandú and Valter performing together, however, to give you an impression of Valter Silva's capacity as a master of the seven string guitar, to end this I'll insert a couple of examples where he is featured. - Here is a fragment of a rehearsel with guitarist Guilherme Lamas, the music performed is a composition by João dos Santos, "Paulista"

Here is a fragment from a live performance/roda da choro featuring Valter Silva, the music performed is Pixinguinha's "Um a zero"

Finally, here you have a performance of Pixinguinha's "Cochichando", Valter Silva in interplay with Ronaldo Santos (cavaquinho) and João Rafael (pandeiro)