I felt like doing something a little different this week for my Jazz bloggery. Latin rythms have been a part of Jazz since its inception. Jelly Roll Morton is known to have insisted that Jazz include the “Latin Tinge,” and Jazz and Latin Music have had a relationship ever since. But…um…what the heck is “Latin Music???”
And that’s what I want to start to address here. Clearly Cuban music is different from Brazilian music and beyond that Cuban music is diverse and Brazilian music even more so. And beyond that is all the other great music from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, The English Speaking Caribbean, the French speaking Caribbean, DR. etc. Mexico, Argentina, Cuba and Brazil were particular centers of European derived classical music in the 19th and into the 20th century. And of course there are the ways in which the musics of Brazil and Cuba/Puerto Rico--as well as elsewhere in The Americas—are connected through the African diaspora. But for Jazz and American popular music in general, Brazilian and Cuban/Puerto Rican music have loomed very large.
It would be a mistake to try and tackle both, Brazil and the Spanish speaking Caribbean, in the same diary. And since I got to sleep last night at 4am after getting home from a gig with a band doing a show that features the material of Santana and other Salsa influenced rock tunes (we’ll do ‘Late in the Evening’ and add a montuno at the end, do “Good Love” like a Salsa. It’s a fun gig and I get to improvise alot)…this week its Brazilian music. There’s lot I do not know about Brazilian music, but I know a lot more than most Americans.
So please sit back, grab a capirinha, and tumble through the orange portal south of the equator
The United States of America is an incredibly rich and diverse musical place. There is so much variety that it’s really breathtaking if you think about it. Brazil is our rival in this. And there are amazing Brazilian academics who have chronicled the musicological history of Brazil. I think it’s important to recognize that things like Samba and Rhumba/Mambo and Jazz all develop into being around the same time. There are a variety of things going on at the same time historically: French tourists in Rio wanting to see performances of Samba while in the United States, prohibition and the creation of the speak easy’s fule and fund the development of Jazz. 1920’s Jazz becomes popular worldwide, this affects song writing and performance worldwide including Latin America. Conventions and ideas contained within popular music in the 1920s, largely indistinguishable from Jazz at this point in time, diffuse and combine with popular music practices globally, which is further coordinated through the invention and institutionalization of radio. Ya, globalization through telecommunications began a century ago.
Theador Adorno called this process the democratization of music. It has its pluses and its minuses. The pluses are things like how radio brings classical music to the working class and folkloric music to a larger audience. And of course this leads to hybridization.
Brazilian is not just about Samba. It’s also about Choro. Here are two Choro’s. The first written by one of Brazil’s great classical composers, Villa-Lobos, March 5, 1887 – November 17, 1959. The second one features one of Brazil’s great players of this sort of music, Baden Powel, August 6, 1937 – September 26, 2000
Samba like in its rhythms, yes. But key is the guitar rhythms and the sort of melodies. Here is some Samba
It’s actually a pain looking for good authentic samba from the 30s on youtube. Youtube is full of more recent Samba and some things have changed over the years. And a lot of those clips of recent carnaval parades and celebrations.
But of course there is this…you can def hear the Samba and the choro. But also you can hear the song format being shaped by American popular music/Jazz
BTW…the was Groucho’s only feature film without the other Brothers. It’s no “Duck Soup”.
At the end of the 50s, there’s a new sort of renewal in interest in things Brazilian. There was a brief democratic government after the fall of Getulio Vargas. There was the effort to construct Brasilia, the current capitol of Brazil. There was “Black Orpheus”
Film is a powerful medium in Brazil as well. I’m sure lots of DK’ers can think of recent excellent Brazilian films.
Geo-politically, the United States has historically approached Brazil as the lynchpin to South America. There are significant oil and mining interests in Brazil and major American players involved in developing these industries in Brazil in the 50s. US-Latin America relationships in the 50s are complicated and manipulative, but Brazil doesn’t get the United Fruit treatment. Brazil gets relationships of “partnership.” (its ok to imagine Mr. Burns saying “excellent” while lightning crackles in the background at this point) And cultural exchange.
In the late 1950s. the US State Department sent a group of American Jazz musicians to Brazil on a cultural exchange/exposure sort of tour. Jazz had become popular in Brazil. The story generally goes that various “Frank Sinatra Fan Clubs” started popping up where Brazilians would get together and listen to Sinatra and the other big bands of the 30s and 40s. One young man who just loved this music was named Antonio Carlos Jobim, January 25, 1927 – December 8, 1994.
When the Jazz musicians got back to the States, they told tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, February 2, 1927 – June 6, 1991, that he should check out what’s going on in Rio and that the music there would fit his sound. What follows includes the greatest song ever heard in an elevator.
I’m not going to get into Stan Getz’s jazz career here. He did a lot to popularize the Bossa Nova and made some great records this way…but he did not innovate this music. He loved this music, but he also saw an opportunity to join in and had a tremendous amount of success because of that.
Recognize that one? Hehe. That one was redone by Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66 and became a huge hit. Its gets very saccharine. One can imagine how this could appeal to a crowd raised on the Rat Pack while being resistant to RnR.
But…the changes and events of the 60s were also not limited to Height Ashbury and Piccadilly Circus. Nor, sadly, Vietnam. In 1965, a new military government takes control of Brazil. Legend has it that they asked LBJ for permission, to which he agreed. In the scheme of the cold war, the notion was that if Brazil could be kept from communism, South America would likely remain stable. This is post Castro, but pre Pinochet. And if I’m not mistaken, as military governments go, this one could have been worse. I remember once reading that less than a 1000 people were “disappeared.” That probably doesn’t include private death squads taking out street kids and such. But this is not Pinochet and 20,000 in a soccer stadium being taken out or the horror of Argentina in the late 70s. Fascists’ vs Communists. Any one notice that we sorta sided with the Communists in WWII—however tentatively—and have sided with the fascists ever since?
And then there were….The Beatles. A new generation of Brazilian musicians who were consuming all the English speaking musics, but who also came from Bahia (mostly) and relocated in Rio. At first its called the Tropicalia movement. Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Maria Bethania, Tom Ze, Os Mutantes. But now we can see I as the start of MPB, musica populaire brasiliero.
Some of it gets a bit psychedelic
Bunch of freakin’ hippies! Hippies who go to the UK in exile from said military government. One thing that military dictatorships really don’t like is freedom of expression and the members of the Tropicalia movement wanted nothing but freedom of expression.
Caetano writes this next one about London. The “flying saucers” he refers to are the helicopters and other tools of military surveillance he had come to know in his homeland.
Meanwhile back in Rio there are people like Chico Buarque. IN the 60s, Buarque established himself as a poet and even a playwrite. And in Brazil, there were annual song writing contest and winners would have their lyrics published in the newspapers and such.
The following song is called Calice. It is a song full of catholic imagery and the symbolism of the sacraments. “Calice” means chalice. “Calice” is also a homophone with “cali-se” which means “shut up”. So while on one level this is a very lovely catholic song about a man talking with his father during a crisis of faith. And on another level it is a protest song against the control of the press and the lack of freedom of speech. The chorus line can be read as “Father, take this chalice from me.” Or “Father, take this gag order off of me”. The dark beauty of all of this is that besides being a huge hit in Brazil, the lyrics got published in the newspapers and government didn’t realize what was going on. There are stories of a concert where Buarque was to perform and the police had figured out what the lyrics meant. They tried to shut off his PA system to keep him from singing the song, but they turned the mics off one at a time. So Buarque would sing the word “Calice” at one mic and they would turn it off and then he would go to the next one….in essence he sings “Shut up” into the mic and then it is cut off and he runs to the next etc etc. Now THAT is “punk rock”!
Hey….there was two guys singing lead on that! The second man was Milton Nascimento. The influence Milton has had on Jazz has been immense. You cannot listen to Pat Metheney or 1970s Wayne Shorter or just about any fusion…and unfortunately smooth jazz too…and not hear his influence.
Back in the 1990s when I was really getting into all things Brazilian (I’ve been to Brazil a few times. I’ve studied Portuguese. I changed plans, but I had intended to do an anthropology PhD dissertation in Brazil. I did graduate level course work on the anthropology of brazil), I saw an ad in Down beat magazine that read something like “Imagine if Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Exile on Main street had been unavailable in the united States for 15 years. Now on CD: Milton Nascimento, Clube do Esquina vol 1 and 2.”
Volume one is that good.
These two are also done Los Borges, a guitar player/singer. Both he and Milton hail from Minas Gerais and bring in different influences from the other music. Much of the Bossa Nova stems from Rio. The pioneers of MPB I shared above also sort of break out within Rio, but are actually from the State known as Bahia.
He is prolific throughout the 70s and not one thing from the 70s is boring or substandard.
There is so much more Brazilian music to hear. The old hardcore, The Bossa Nova, Jobim, Astrid Gilberto, Jorge Ben, Milton Nascimento all probably hold the biggest influence on American Jazz, and of course it’s a two way street. Two more great tunes…
Just a personal favorite from the great Djavan
And one more from Gilberto Gil. This one was written for the film, Quilombo, which deserves to be redone with a Hollywood budget.
That’s more than enough music for one day. Ive left a lot out with regard to Brazilian music. I haven't given you anything here recorded later than 1982. Brazilian music has changed and developed in many ways. Forro, Brazilian hip-hop, heavy metal/folkloric hybrids, the influence of Bob Marley, Marisa Monte, Olodum and Ile Aiye. I could do a whole other diary on Bossa Nova alone.
But I wanted to get some stuff out there, if only as reference points for future diaries. Back to the basics of Miles and Trane next week. Thanks for listening! And don’t forget to support your local Jazz musicians.
Note Diary title Edited for better Portuguese grammar