Sunday, November 9, 2014

YouTube pick of the week: Three Phases of Sivuca!

For This week's feature, I'd like to share the music of one of my favorite musicians, Severino dias de Oliveira, better know by the professional name Sivuca had an extremely long and prolific career, not only in Brazil, but internationally as well. An accomplished pianist, guitarist and arranger, Sivuca's primary instrument was the accordion and I would argue that he was the finest accordionist of his generation.

While a kid called George Harrison was introducing Paul McCartney to John Lennon, Sivuca was already releasing his second album, the "Motivo Para Dancar" (Reason to Dance) released in 1957, one year before Joao Gilberto's first single, a song called "Chega de Saudade" and two years before  Gilberto's first full LP, which had the same title (and was featured on BBR #25). Unlike Gilberto's album, Sivuca's has long been out of print, but we're lucky to be able to hear it thanks to YouTube. Many of Sivuca's signature traits were already present at this early stage, Including his impressive facility on the Accordion, as well as his vocalizations, a trait that he dropped in favor of actual singing later in his career. The set presented here is hardly likely to set the house on fire, but the musicality is undeniable.

Years went by and Bossa Nova had its day. While Sivuca did even adopt some of its repertoire, he was always more at home in the Forro idiom. In some ways this marginalized Sivuca, as this musical style, associated with the rural areas of northeastern Brazil was considered unsophisticated by the people living in the large urban centers, such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Still, Sivuca thrived through the strength of his music and released albums regularly.

Of the three featured albums, I own and recommend very highly our second selection, 1993's Pau Doido, Released overseas with the name Crazy Groove. A highly virtuosic album, which I own on vinyl and on CD.

In the latter years of his career, Sivuca's lifetime achievement afforded him many opportunities, including the chance to record with two other younger accordionists, the late great Dominguinhos and Oswaldinho do Acordeom. With the former's death, I would argue that Oswaldinho is the greatest living Brazilian accordionist, if one does not count Multiinstrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal. The selections tackled by the trio are more retrospective in nature and played a bit too fast for my ears, but all in all still a very enjoyable album,

Bem Brasil with Will Crawford is a Native Alternative Production. 
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Sunday, November 2, 2014

YouTube Pick of the Week: ConSertão, Featuring Heraldo do Monte, Paulo Moura, Artur Moreira Lima & Elomar

Well, it's our first week off the air, but as promised, the show will go on on our blog. (We'll be back on the air soon. Watch this space for updates!)

*****My past shows are still available for download for the next 30 days! Download them while you can!!! Here's the link to my archives:


Today's feature is an album that I had planned to play on the show, but never got around to do it: it's the extremely rare ConSertão album, which I happen to own on vinyl, but which I understand has now been released on CD, so you may be able to get your hands on a copy. Luckily, someone posted the whole thing on YouTube, making it easy for me to share this record with you.

Original Album Cover. L-R: Heraldo do Monte,
Elomar, Arthur Moreira Lima, and Paulo Moura
The concept of a supergroup is well known: a bunch of established artists get together to collaborate on a project. Well-known examples include Cream (with the late Jack Bruce on Bass) and The Traveling Wilburys. 

In Brazil, however, this concept is not as popularized, with the best-known example of a Supergroup probably being Os Doces Barbaros, which was comprised of Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, his sister Maria Bethania and Gal Costa.  Even so, this foursome were not so much a group, as a collaboration between the four srtists. In reality, the first self-contained supergroup title must be given to a group we're covered many times here on BBR, The great Quarteto Novo, which featured Airto Moreira (Weather Report, Return to Forever), Hermeto Pascoal (Miles Davis) , and the comparatively less famous Bassist/Arranger Theo de Barros and Guitarist Heraldo do Monte, who is also playing on the recording we are featuring today.

Besides Heraldo, we have the great Saxophonist Paulo Moura, whose long career has included stints with Cannonball Adderley. Classical pianist Arthur Moreira Lima, who achieved international recognition in 1965 when he drew the second place in the International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. Never one to be confined by stylistic labels, Moreira Lima may be the best known interpreter of the works of Ernesto Nazareth, a prominent late 19th/early 20th century composer of Tangos and Boleros highly influenced bi Chopin and who could be broadly described as Brazil's answer to Scott Joplin. 

Rounding out the quartet, we have the singer/songwriter Elomar. Born in the Sertao regions of Northeastern Brazil, Elomar's songs are greatly influenced by Iberian and Arabic music, brought to Brazil by the Portuguese colonization. His folk poetry is often sung in an ancient regional dialect with lyrics that often make references to passages in the Old Testament. Although the least known of the four, his aesthetic seems to be the guiding principle behind the music in this double album. 

The name "ConSertão" is actually a pun. it means both "Large Concert" and "With Sertão", the backlands away from the Atlantic coastal regions where the Portuguese first settled in South America in the early sixteenth century.

This is not a lively record, but rather a long sequence of tone poems with occasional singing from Elomar. on many tracks, Heraldo makes use of the Viola Caipira, a close cousin of the acoustic guitar, and Moreira Lima makes occasional contributions on the harpsichord. An unprecedented meeting of talents whose real significance may not be fully recognized for years to come. Enjoy!

Below is a translation of the rather convoluted liner notes on the back of the album:

The Idea of ConSertão is to showcase the Brazilian instrumentalist and his ability to arrange, improvise, embroider, embellish, weaving musical frames e plots over well-known (or not so well-known) musical themes, but of unquestionable musical value.

The freedom of improvisation, if employed with taste, consolidates the musical form, instead of tearing it apart. This architectural problem, the managing of form in music with space for improvisation, so feared at the beginning of rehearsals, resolved itself as we gradually became accustomed to our companions' musical vocabulary, enhancing our own playing with the wealth of each other's ideas, adding our colleagues' dilalectic wealth to our own musical language.

Another concern we had was to establish musical ambiences, more by suggestion than by affirmation. From there, maybe, originates the somewhat impressionistic character of the opus, as each musician had the opportunity to fully explore his individual fantasy, being limited only by the boundaries of good taste. Evidently, all the influences we experienced as musicians playing as a group  and as human beings came to the fore. 

Arthur Moreira Lima 

Bem Brasil with Will Crawford is a Native Alternative Production. 
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