São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro
From May 22nd. to 25th. (2002) the 3rd. Edition of the Chivas Jazz Festival took place in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). Reputed for privileging jazz musicians stricto senso, leaving out of its schedule pop artists, this year's edition brought the French pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, the North-American saxophonist Chico Freeman, the South-African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, the Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen, the Belgian pianist Nathalie Loriers, the Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu, the North-American saxophonist Dewey Redman, the North-American pianist Fred Hersch, the Brazilian singer Luciana Souza and the North-American saxophonist Dave Liebman.
People who came from abroad just to attend to the festival in Rio de Janeiro may have found queer the weather (rainy) and the temperature (pleasant 20C/68F, considerably cold for this city). The place where the event was held, the Marina da Glória, is close to the Modern Art Museum, where the other Brazilian annual jazz festival (the Free Jazz Festival) has been realized in the latest years. The spot is really charming, standing by the sea and with a great sight over downtown framing moments of very special music, and it represents an evolution in comparison to the aseptic Garden Hall, where took place the second edition of the festival in Rio, last year. It won't take too much for the fest's organizers to solve small problems with eventual noises, since just two occasions brought unexpected sounds mixed to the music (a tractor operator was determined to take a solo and a percussive ensemble dedicated to some excavation in the premises also made an appearance). This not to mention the Carioca's affective tenderness towards his/her cell phones that apparently prevent him/her of turning them off during the performances.
Unfortunately unable to attend to the first night (Pilc/Freeman), I was nevertheless prompted by the noted jazz critic José Domingos Raffaelli that Pilc, accompanied by Thomas Bramerie (bass) and Ari Hoenig (drums) realized one of the best concerts happened in Rio in the latest years, interpreting with extreme inventiveness classics like "So What", the blues "Freddie Freeloader" and the standards "Autumn Leaves" and "In A Sentimental Mood" topped by a tribute to Tom Jobim with "Wave" and "Corcovado" ("Quiet Nights") in which imagination would have surpassed the diplomatic intentions.
But in the second night I was at my post when Abdullah Ibrahim began the musical banquet with his refined piano accompanied by Beldon Bullock (bass) and George Gray (drums). Making of subtlety the general tone of his presentation, Ibrahim explored the whole gamut within the chosen resources, leaving aside effect and privileging ideas and expression. His harmony, apparently simple to unaware ears, contains hidden complexities, of which one of the most intriguing aspects is a certain tonal/modal ambiguity. By the way, ambiguity seems to be an important category for the musician, in whose hands a ballad is unnoticeably, gradually transformed in a spiritual, with beautiful coral harmonizations with closed chords occulting also a major/minor indefinition in the tonality. After the hearer is comfortably settled within a consciously triadic sonority, he/she begins to be disturbed by a slightly afflicting sensation brought by certain harsh harmonic shocks disguised by the calid and pacifying execution. Another memorable aspect of his musical promenade was when Ibrahim walked hand to hand with stride piano and ragtime in the space of one composition. Playing 15 originals in suite form, the pianist put difficulties to the audience, eager to demonstrate its appreciation. By their turn, Gray and Bullock, melodical and expressive, performed in a completely adequate way to Ibrahim's intentions, supplying a myriad of colouristic inflections which propitiated a delicious counterpoint to the composer's ideas.