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Inaldo Calvalcante de Albuquerque: The Man From Brazil

Sammy Stein By

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I love and will always love to play frevo in the street for people to dance, sing and have fun. It is a magical moment. —Spok
Frevo maestro Inaldo Calvalcante de Albuquerque is known as Spok to players and friends. He is leader of the Spokfrevo Orquestra, which recently wowed audiences at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London. Between numbers, he spoke with passion about frevo music and his love of the genre, saying it was part of the soul and spirit of the people of Northern Brazil.

Spok was inspired to play because his father always loved the music, poetry and the local folk poets of the area around Recife, capital of the state of Pernambuco in northern Brazil. Spok elaborated, "He used to take me to local meetings of poets and to watch the local bands playing. I remember when I was approximately five years old seeing my father listening to the LPs of the frevo masters during the days of carnival and hearing the music. Frevo has always been part of my life. Also, due to the influence of a friend, Mr Ademário, I went to music school to study frevo."

Musical influences include historical folk master composers and the repentistas (folk poets who improvise lyrics spontaneously). Two of the masters Spok cites as influential are Luiz Gonzaga and Dominguinhos.

Spok plays the saxophone mostly nowadays, but his first instrument was a requinta (a smaller version of a clarinet). He did not play requinta for long, because his teacher, Mr Policarpo Lyra, gave Spok a saxophone to try. Spok fell in love with the instrument and to his delight, he was given one to keep.

He first performed in his school orchestra. The school was the Polivalente de Abreu e Lima. This orchestra already played frevo. After several years, Spok found himself studying frevo in Recife and it was here he got the chance to play with frevo master composers (only the composers of the past are referred to as maestros),

When asked to describe the emotions he feels when he plays frevo, Spok commented that it is difficult to put into words. "Nowadays" he said, "I feel two different emotions. I started playing frevo in the streets of Recife during the four days of carnival, the main festival of the our state Pernambuco. I love and will always love to play frevo in the street for people to dance, sing and have fun. It is a magical moment. However, nowadays I also love playing at major venues in the world, almost as much as playing on the street. It is a real dream, especially seeing the audience in silence, listening and appreciating the same music. It is wonderful to play our music everywhere we have been, especially when the audience appreciate our music. This is wonderful for us."

Asking Spok if he listened to music other than frevo, he responded, "What I listen to most are the folk poets and repentistas."

Spok has clear philosophies on life and music—his main mantra is, "Never lose your soul in anything that you want to do in life."

Frevo is played in general by large groups of musicians to create frevo bands or orquestras. Is Spok aware of the other musicians when he plays? And how does he describe the connections made by the music, between the band and audience? He replied, "I maintain a great relationship of respect, trust and friendship with the musicians; this reflects on our performance on stage. A positive environment is necessary for the best results to happen. With regards to the audience, I have to say that it is a very good sensation to observe, as soon you come on stage, that they usually expect to listen to a big band that is going to play jazz like the American big bands, but suddenly, when we begin to play, they realize they are going to hear something completely different. This gives us a boost and a lot of strength to believe every time more in our music and in our truth. The positive response of audiences to our music is very important to us."

It is clear that Spok is passionate about his music; what of the future? He replied that he intends to keep producing more frevo works with the orquestra and also, in the next few months, he will release a documentary called Sete Corações (Seven Hearts). "This documentary," he explains, "talks about the life of seven frevo master composers." Spok also has a very altruistic and important project which he would like to pursue to help people in Northern Brazil. He explained, "I would like to open my own institute/foundation, called Passo de Anjo (Angel's Steps). The institute would help children from Recife by teaching them about the cultural and art aspects of the Pernambuco. These are two great dreams that will become true."

On a final note, Spok added, "I very much appreciate this and hope the readers of All About Jazz will come to learn more about frevo music."

Of this and his two great dreams, Spok is sure and speaking with him, albeit through an interpreter, there is no doubt about the determination and enthusiasm of this very special man from Brazil.

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