Duduka Da Fonseca: The Guy From Ipanema

R.J. DeLuke By

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The 1950s into the early 1960s was a special period in Brazil, the land of beautiful beaches, picturesque mountains and the home of a warm, inviting and sensuous music called samba that was developed during those years. It was also a time when bossa nova, another sumptuous musical style, was spawned. The music invades the senses on many levels and in the early 1960s it invaded the United States, thanks to the likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto and his then-wife Astrud Gilberto, among others.

One young man from Ipanema, in the southern region of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, was taking it all in. An artist in the making, he was captivated by not only the music, but the spirit of the times. In the early '60s, at age 13, he started teaching himself to play the drums. He played along with jazz records and the samba musicians he saw on television shows. Eventually, he became one of the sweetest and strongest drummers representing that music on the scene. He remains that, to this day. The first-rate musician also cooks like hell on straight-ahead jazz material.

"I was born in a time that was a very good time," says Duduka Da Fonseca, now 61. "Brazil was having a cultural revolution. Bossa nova was created in the '50s. We had a president that most of the people loved. And Brazil for the first time was world champion in soccer. That's a big thing in Brazil. In 1958, Brazil won, in Sweden, a first world championship. It was a fantastic time. It was so romantic, so beautiful, the sense of pride of the people. It's pretty amazing in the '50s and '60s, all over the world ... Art Blakey, Wes Montgomery, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Pretty amazing, how beautiful."

Da Fonseca says the music of that period "serves to help every musician, and everyone that plays now. All that music that was created a long time ago by Miles, by Coltrane, by Monk-all those great geniuses. Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joao Gilberto. It still helps the musicians these days. It's a platform you can learn from and try to do your own thing, learning from it."

Da Fonseca mastered the drums learning that music. His career in Brazil and the U.S., where he landed in 1975, includes playing with Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, flautist Herbie Mann, trumpeter Claudio Roditi, pianist JoAnne Brackeen, bassist Eddie Gomez, guitarist John Scofield, trumpeter Tom Harrell,saxophonists Joe Lovano and Gerry Mulligan, pianist Dom Salvador, bassist Rufus Reid, pianist Kenny Barron, and many more. The drummer works in many styles of music, but one of his goals is to keep alive and vibrant the jazz samba music and the compositions of the greats from that era, so many of which he has played with and befriended over many years.

To that end, this year saw the release of a new album from his splendid quintet, Samba Jazz-Jazz Samba (Anzic, 2012), that presents the music with beauty and verve. It's the second such effort by the band-Samba Jazz in Black & White (ZOHO Music) was done in 2006- and is equally outstanding. The quintet-in addition to Da Fonseca, including Helio Alves on piano, Anat Cohen on saxophones and clarinet, Guilherme Monteiro on guitar and Leonardo Cioglia on bass-excels at this blissful music.

Duduka Da Fonseca-Samba Jazz"While bossa nova focused on the beautiful melodies, lyrics and a gentle approach, samba jazz was based on jazz improvisation with an open approach. It was, and still is, very common to play classic hits of bossa nova with a samba jazz approach," explains Da Fonseca. "Bossa nova came from samba ... it's just a subtle way to play samba ... a very soft way to play samba. But the rhythm of bossa nova is samba. It's parallel. In the late '50s, when bossa nova was created by Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and many other young composers that never got the recognition that they should have; parallel to that, all those musicians-the rhythm section and the horn players that were playing on the bossa nova great albums-they were playing also what we call samba jazz. It was created the same time that bossa nova was created."

"Those musicians that were part of the great bossa nova albums, they loved to listen to [pianists] Horace Silver and Thelonious Monk, and to Art Blakey and the The Jazz Messengers. They loved to listen to jazz. Like the Blue Note label. [Saxophonist] Wayne Shorter, Miles. That's how samba jazz was created. The rhythm is samba, but incorporated with jazz improvisation."


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