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Marco Antonio Santos: About: Silence


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Marco Antonio Santos: About: Silence
Marco Antonio Santos grew up in Betim, an industrial city in southeastern Brazil. His father, an automotive tooling designer, listened to North American Top-40 radio (Bee Gees, John Denver). At family gatherings, Uncle Fabiano sang such Brazilian popular classics as Noel Rosa's "Com que Roupa?," accompanying himself on guitar and inspiring a twelve-year-old Marco Antonio to pick up the instrument. Music was not a popular career choice in Santos' blue-collar hometown, so he didn't consider it for himself, but his interest grew as he discovered Pat Metheny and Milton Nascimento, who—like Santos—hails from Minas Gerais. Santos' desire to study composition emerged once he saw Maria Schneider in New York, bearing fruit when he graduated from University of Texas with a DMA in Jazz Composition and released About: Silence, his first album as a leader.

In Austin, Santos quickly became a first-call guitarist in a variety of idioms, as a side person and with his own ensembles, including the Jukebox Trio, whose repertoire reflects the North American pop he was steeped in as a youth. Fans in Texas who know his outgoing persona as a performer may be surprised at the introspection of About: Silence, but the project was imagined, in part, as an antidote to the din he perceived around him, especially on social media. "Nobody was listening, everybody was only speaking," as he put it. He wanted to get behind the noise and create not just a string of songs but a cohesive artistic statement, under the influence of "months of isolation and the loss of so many lives during the worst of the COVID pandemic, the suppressed voices in recent cases of racial injustice, and my personal experiences as an immigrant in a very individualistic culture." The release includes visual art, dance, and Santos' own striking poetry in Portuguese (with translations).

The instrumentation of About: Silence pits a jazz trio of guitar (Santos), bass (Chris Jones), and drums (Fabio Augustinis) against wind and string quartets in alternation, producing unexpectedly plangent timbres, honeyed dissonances, and fluid textures. Envisioned as a multi-movement work, each component expresses a distinct aspect of silence. For example, "Bittersweet" conjures saudade, a longing for things that no longer exist. "Breathtaker" and "I Can't Breathe" fall on opposite sides of police brutality, silencing and being silenced. "March of Loud Quietude" evokes depression, the interior world of the sad clown, portrayed via subtly shifting polyrhythms—5/4, 3/4, 4/4— under a calm exterior. A standout piece is "Missing Part," an expression of grief over the loss of a part of oneself that has died; "when you look at yourself and see that you've changed," as Santos put it. In the video release (below), Sarah Wales' haunting dance brings the moment to life.

About: Silence is a love letter to a quieter world, an intimate stillness shared by a busy musician who put the rock and rattle of his day-to-day on hold to reflect. It is well worth a spin.

Track Listing

About Silence; Bittersweet; Breathtaker; I Can't Breathe; Eyes of Us Both Part 1; That Brief Moment When Everything Seems to Click; Eyes of Us Both Part 2; Things Money Should Not Buy but Seem to Be Always for Sale; Missing Part; Numb; March of the Loud Quietude.


Marco Antonio Santos: guitar; Chris Jones: bass, acoustic; Fabio Augustinis: drums; Dominique Reilly: flute; David Blackwell Jr.: oboe; Dr John Mills: saxophone; Daniel Toscano: clarinet; Brigit Fitzgerald: bassoon; Corina Santos: violin; Camille Schiess: violin; Rebecca Lester: viola; Matt Armbruster: cello.

Album information

Title: About: Silence | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Ears And Eyes Records

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