Duduka Da Fonseca: The Guy From Ipanema
A very personal statement to the drummer was the first recording under his own name. It resulted in Samba Jazz Fantasia (Anzic, 2002), a project that is close to his heart.
"One of the most touching things happened in 2000 before I became 50," he recalls. "I said I want to do an album. It was my first solo album. Before that I made a few albums with Trio da Paz and as a co-leader I did a few albums, and recorded with a bunch of people. But that was my first solo album. I called a few of my good friends I had been playing and recording with through the years. So I called 11 Brazilians and 11 Americans. Among them were people from Trio da Paz-Romero Lubambo and Nilson Matta-and my American friends, like Tom Harrell, Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Eddie Gomez, [pianist] Marc Copland-a bunch of people.
"I produced everything the best way I could. My wife (Maucha Adnet) helped me a lot to organize the session because there were 22 musicians. I tried to sell the album to record companies. For more than one year, nobody wanted to buy it. They would says, 'It's beautiful music, but..." There was always 'But.' Finally, a small company from Ohio said we don't have money, but we can give you X-amount of albums and you can recover some of the money you spent when we release the album. And they did. And six or eight months later it was nominated for an American Grammy. So I wasn't doing something that wrong, you know?," he says with rightful satisfaction.
The album is superb samba jazz, from top to bottom, the musicians working in different combinations exquisitely, bringing great tunes-including four originals-to life. "I'm on a mission to make it popular, this style of music, a mix of Brazilian and American jazz," he says. Da Fonseca's recorded output has been steady and consistently exceptional since that session.
He admits it is "a non-stop battle" to make a good living and keep things moving for a jazz artist in today's turbulent times for the U.S. economy and in a music business climate that is in the midst of major changes. "I'm not crying the blues. I'm very thankful for everything I have." He's been getting more recognition for his accomplishments over the years. It may have taken a while, but it is greatly deserved.
"I'm happy people are realizing there's something there. You feel your work is being heard, and that is encouraging," he notes as he looks back. "To have the chance to play with those great American musicians is fantastic. That's the reason I moved to America, to have the opportunity to play with my idols. I was lucky enough to play and record with [alto saxophonists] Phil Woods and Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan, Eddie Gomez ... As a teenager, I used to play with the album Bill Evans at Montreux Jazz Festival (Verve, 1968), with Eddie Gomez and [drummer] Jack DeJohnette. I used to play along with that, then years later to be able to play with (Gomez's) trio is super rewarding."
The music of Cuba, Brazil and other regions of Latin America has a high popularity in the U.S. The strong, infectious rhythms and elements of improvisation combine superbly with jazz music.
"I've played a lot since 2007 with Rufus Reid, a great bassist and composer. We play a lot of straight-ahead [jazz], which is great. I love it. But you think in 4/4. But in samba, and samba jazz, you're not thinking in 4/4, you're thinking half time. You're thinking 2/4. The samba rhythm is in 2/4. Even though you can improvise over it in 4/4, the rhythm section is playing 2/4. They are like fruits from the same tree. Brazilian music and American music, being in North and South America, they have a lot in common. Since as long time ago, before Carman Miranda in the 1940s. In the beginning of the 20th century, groups of Brazilian musicians had already traveled to Europe and the United States. You see the convergence of Brazilian and American music. It's a long friendship. It's a long love story between Brazil and America."
Da Fonseca knows. After all, he's been right inside it, with his unshakable rhythmic individuality and never-ending good taste.