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Brazilian-Americans vs. Brazilians

Nick Catalano By

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It has been over 40 years since Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto, Egberto Gismonti, Gilberto Gil and other leaders of the Bossa Nova movement exported their tropicalismo sound to our shores with enormous success. Soon after this contagious samba sound mesmerized Americans many Brazilian musicians emigrated to the U.S. in search of recording contracts, solid club bookings, and large American fan bases.

Most of these Cariocas (natives of Rio) and Paolistas (from Sao Paulo) have remained. One estimate puts the number of Brazilians at over 15,000 just in the New York area. Most of these expats have remained in the U.S. and many Samba pioneers have become fixtures on the local latin jazz scene. Names such as Claudio Roditi, Helio Alves, Nilson Matta, Romero Lubambo, and Duduka da Fonseca have become fixtures, even celebrities, in the context of Brazilian jazz in Gotham.

However, since they left the old country the music in Brazil has changed. On my last trip to Rio (1979) I could not find American music on local radio. Nowadays, if you listen to radio from leading Brazilian cities, you will hear music that echoes hip-hop, rap, metal and other contemporary American sounds. The old tropicalismo sound is all but lost in the country of its origin. Ironically, it is very much alive here. A new cultural phenomenon - that of Brazilian-Americans - is busy preserving , recording and extolling the sound of the Jobims, Gilbertos, Gils and Gismontis.

This development is quite natural of course. It parallels that of the African slaves who came to America and, after a couple of hundred years, were African-Americans. The music of the latter group became the foundation of Blues and Jazz and evolved far from the polyrhythmic sounds of African tribes. Further, intermarriage between French whites and African blacks resulted in the Creole culture - another source of new musics.

Music never stands still. Its continual change must be uppermost in the minds of reviewers who are constantly making generalizations as if stasis were the norm instead of change.

The Brazilian-Americans are always busy. Recently, I heard Duduka da Fonseca and his quintet at Sweet Rhythm. The group dutifully played the music of Jobim ("Desafinado , "Waters of March , "Dindi ) Gismonti ("Loro ) and Hermeto Pascoal ("Chorinho Pra Ele ). The vocals from Maucha Adnet were reminiscent of the Flora Purim-Astrid Gilberto school. Duduka soloed on Berimbau—a classic Afro-Brazilian instrument - and the entire evening echoed the tropicalismo magic of yore. A young phenom, Anat Cohen, played reeds and added to the authenticity.

A new CD from Marcos Ariel, 4 Friends has arrived. Ariel's music hails from the next generation of Cariocas after Jobim et al. It interfuses some European classical sounds (Bach, Chopin) with influences from Chick Corea (a contemporary of Ariel's). It is interesting to hear these sounds introduced to the Boss Nova literature of the previous decades. The change is subtle but unmistakable. The CD is dubbed "Marcos Ariel 4 Friends. It features Joao Baptista, Ricardo Silveira, and Jurim Moreira- all from Ariel's generation. Compositions such as "Ipanema Curves and "Rhapsody in Rio retrieve the old flavor with some new spices from the 80's and 90's.


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