Free Jazz Festival - Brazil

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Submitted on behalf of Alvaro Neder

During the three nights, at the Club stage, the only dedicated to jazz, performed Moacir Santos Tribute: Ouro Negro, Bill Henderson Quartet, Chico Hamilton & Euphoria, Randy Weston's African Rhythms Quintet, The Benny Golson Sextet, Pat Martino and Phil Woods Quintet. Brazilian instrumental artists in a freer style also performed in this stage, like the young revelation of the acoustic guitar, Yamandú Costa, and the Curupira trio.
In the Thursday 25th, the Club was opened by an orchestra formed by talented and renowned Brazilian musicians who presented the "Ouro Negro" tribute to Moacir Santos (the same title of the CD recently recorded by them, dedicated to Santos's compositions), certainly the harmonically most advanced Brazilian popular composer. His creative music, deeply indebted to his researches on African music, offers a fertile field for the contrast between the visceral rhythm and the sophistication of his writing, evidenced by the execution of his inventive arrangements by the competent orchestra. Good though scarce improvised solos (another idiosyncrasy of the composer) also were offered by the soloists Nailor Proveta (alto sax, clarinet), Jessé Sadoc (trumpet), Teco Cardoso (baritone sax), Vittor Santos (trombone), Marcelo Martins (tenor sax), Andréa Ernst Dias (flute), Cristóvão Bastos (piano), Ricardo Silveira (guitar) and Zé Nogueira (soprano sax). In spite of the several first division vocal interpreters convoked for the album's recording (Milton Nascimento, Joyce, Djavan, Gilberto Gil, Ed Motta and others), no one of them was called for the show, and all songs had purely instrumental renditions. Opening with the "Coisas" series, the second number that was executed by the orchestra was Santo's only popular success, "Naná" ("Coisa # 5"), followed by other pearls like "Bluishmen", "Amalgamation", "Mãe Iracema", "Amphibious", always evidencing notable sound fluidity even if involved in accentuated harmonic restlessness. By the end, it was possible to notice that Moacir Santos created an afro-Brazilian language freed from references both to the Brazilian folkloric genres and bossa nova. Deeply moved, the 77 year-old artist who is still recovering from the stroke, having watched the show attentively from the first line, addressed the audience with some difficulty, thanking for the homage with emotion.
Following, Bill Henderson, from the height of his 71 years, climbed the stage with his habitual disposition and vocal quality. With humor, he reacted to the difficulties brought by the irritating sound leakage from the neighboring stage, Cream. His brilliant timbre and contagious swing, supported by the agile and inventive solos by Mike Melvoin (piano), by the confidence of veteran John Heard (bass) and by Larance Marable (drums) captivated the audience, who was surprised by the transformation od a Paul Simon classic ("Keep the Customers Satisfied") into a blues. Henderson also had a high performance in ballads like "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing" and "My Ship".
The night ended with Chico Hamilton who, at 80, seems to have 20 years less. Hamilton, exhibiting his habitual excellence at the drums, accompanied by his semi-electric quintet Euphoria, provoked mixed reactions upon his imposition of the backbeat as a modernizing intention, searching for a sonority that oscillated between John McLauglin's jazz-rock (evoked by guitarist Cary DeNigris) and a commercial pop sound that flirted with new wave ("At The Corner"). The only correct actuation of Paul Ramsey (bass) and interesting solos by Evan Schwan (tenor) and Eric Lawrence (alto/soprano) also weren't enough to give consistency to a performance that sounded uncoordinated, amid to less creative themes (mostly riffs) and to the use of a kaleidoscope of styles that also included bossa nova ("That Boy With The Long Hair"). The utilization of the horns as accompaniment also was somewhat monotonous due to the exclusive option for the simultaneous attacks, rejecting the possibility of polyphony. One of the night's good surprises, though, was to have Chico as singer in three themes. Holding the microphone with the left hand and playing the drums with the right one, Chico conquered the audience with the blues "I'm Gonna Move Outskirts Of Town".

In the Friday, the Clup opened with Yamandú Costa. Frantically saluted by some critics as "o Hendrix do violão" ("the Hendrix of the acoustic guitar"), Costa played unaccompanied a repertory that included classics of the Brazilian guitar ("Desvairada", "Lamentos do Morro", both by Garoto; "Brasiliana no. 3", by Radamés Gnattali), other classics like the choro "Brejeiro", by Ernesto Nazareth, the valses "Rosa", by Pixinguinha, and "Luíza", by Tom Jobim, along with folkloric songs of his region (south of Brazil) and even his take on two jazz themes ("'Round Midnight" and "All The Things You Are"). Costa evidenced at the same time an exuberant and rustic technique, showing velocity but an unfinished articulation. For those who know well the music of his region of South America, the remarkable influence of Argentinean milongas, zambas and tangos, of the chamamé correntino, of the Paraguayan harp, is easily recognizable, especially in his harmony and overall sensibility. Indeed, in spite of his being a young violonista (21 anos), and of the fact that many of the executed pieces already bring in their structure an advanced harmony (like Astor Piazzola's "Adiós Nonino"), it was evident in his improvisation and arrangements a preference for a melancholic, non-dissonant harmony, reminiscent of the traditional music of that region dominated by feelings of loneliness provoked maybe for its territorial vastness. This is not to say that the overall impression aroused from his playing is that of melancholy. On the contrary, Yamandú, with his preference for the impetuosity, for the spectacular, with his somewhat excessive use of sound, brightness and less subtle percussive effects, and with his natural anxiety to be noticed in this artistic debut, will most certainly benefit from age and experience which, bringing the professional maturity to a musician who already possess the necessary tools for a significant work, will soften what is hard in him, and will fortify what in him still vacillates.

It was when occurred the best in this Free Jazz Fest's edition, and maybe the best moment of all editions. It may be said that the audience was unprepared for Randy Weston's African Rhythms Quintet. Weston, at 75, brought a sound that, through his research on African music, avoided deliberately jazz clichés and conventions in search of a 3rd millennium language. Alex Blake (bass), who had been in Brazil 30 years ago, where he came accompanying Dizzy Gillespie, maybe was the one who best epitomized this conscious pursue through his avoidance of single-note solos, privileging chords and strongly percussive effects. Talib Kibwe (alto sax/flute) and Benny Powell (trombone) dialogued in duets which substituted the extroverted idea of a festival performance for an almost religious introversion, dominated by an attention and respect for the emission of each note that transcended the spectacle and suggested a mystical devotion. The group, which also comprises the percussionist Neil Clarke, presented pieces like "African Sunrise", where Weston explored the piano as a polyrhythmic instrument; "The African Cookbook" and "The Shrine" (which had an Indian-scale ecstatic flute solo).

The night still had much to give with the Benny Golson Sextet (Benny Golson, tenor; Curtis Fuller, tb; Mulgrew Miller, p; Valery Ponomarev, tp; Lonnie Plaxico, b; Carl Allen, d) doing a tribute to Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, with original arrangements. Though Golson's solos were somewhat disappointing, showing a lack of continuity and connection between ideas, the level of the audience's excitation reached surpising levels with the brilliant performance by Ponomarev, followed closely by Miller's at the piano. Ponomarev exceeded himself in fluency and inventiveness both in the quick tempi and in ballads, deserving special mention the classic "I Remember Clifford" (Golson). Correspondingly, Allen was up to the mark of the one to whom the homage was paid, especially in "Blues March" (Golson).

In the Saturday, the night was opened by the Brazilian trio Curupira (André Marques, p; Ricardo Zohyio, b; Cleber Almeida, d). In spite of their use of jazz as an element of their musical palette, the Curupira is not a jazz trio. They are three young musicians of considerable musical capacity and preparation, but they privilege research on Brazilian music and folklore --- notwithstanding, they propose a post-modern approach regarding the use of devices of contemporary concert music in the advanced harmonies, and even of free jazz in some moments. The group doesn't do of improvisation the main axis of its performance, preferring to rest on fairly rich arrangements and strongly rhythmic passages. The few improvisations, deprived of a higher inventiveness, demand bigger attention by the band's members. The scenical setting devised by the trio captivated the audience presenting impersonations of caipiras paulistas e mineiros (São Paulo's and Minas Gerais's hillbillies) and sertanejos nordestinos (people form the Northeastern hinterlands) upon their presentation of a landscape of rhythms of those regions.

Substituting the Art Van Damme Quintet, which couldn't attend, Pat Martino (g) and John Ridl (p) evidenced a big power of communication and interplay in a highly subtle performance. Martino provoked pronounced tension as he played with rhythm, avoiding reiteratedly the obvious resolutions, while ideas flowed seamlessly in phrases in which chromaticism abounded. Ridl participated in the dialogue with great precision, complementing Martino's statements in a quasi-telepathic manner. The duo offered remarkable harmonic sophistication and melodic inventivity in Martino's originals like "Interchange", "Welcome To a Prayer", or in "Oleo" (Sonny Rollins).

Closing the night and the festival, followed the performance by the Phil Woods Quintet --- brilliant, as always. The pulmonary problems suffered by the leader weren't evident, absolutely, during his solos, which were long, fluent and perfectly enchained, both in terms of ideas and execution. Only after these, and as he left the stage in charge of Brian Lynch during all "Bus Stop" (Lynch), it would be more conspicuous that the old saxophonist needed to get his wind. In the same way, Lynch revealed himself as a great sensation, presenting virtuosic, inventive and brilliant solos in rapid tempi as in "So In Love" (Cole Porter). Also in ballads the two soloists topped expectations, shining in compositions like "People Time" (Benny Carter) and "Body And Soul". The audience thanked the juicy performance with long and enthusiastic applause, extensive to the wise selection by the fest's organizers, anticipating the next one and willing that something new happens so many other editions of the Free Jazz Festival occur in the future.

Alvaro Neder covered the festival by invitation of In Press Assessoria de Comunicação/ Concita Carvalho.

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