In the spring of 1963, I was treated to my first exposure to any kind of music from Brazil, in the form of the iconic “Girl From Ipanema”. I was astonished at how present, clean, and, well, perfect the music sounded. Dry and sonically unadorned, the harmonies and stark melodic beauty of Astrid Gilberto’s voice popped out of the hi- fi like diamonds. It had an enormous effect on my early teenage ears, and would continue to influence my jazz playing as I followed my musical muse. Later in my teens I would seek out the works of the greats and gradually arrive at a vague inkling of “saudade”, the longing that weaves through much of Brazilian melody and harmony. Baden-Powell, Luis Bonfa, Luis Eca, and, of course, Jobim found their equal billing in my heart along with Coltrane, Miles, and Cannonball. Throughout my career as a jazz musician the Brazilian sound continued to influence me.
In 2007 I had the great fortune to spend time in Sao Paulo and Rio listening to and playing with some of the great players in Brazil today. Impromptu “rodas” or choro jam sessions would pop up out of nowhere. The unearthly joy of sitting on Rogerio Souza’s front porch playing “Doce de Coco”, jamming ” Noites de Carioca” with 200 others in the park under a giant banyon tree or playing “Desafinado” with the great mandolinist Izaías Bueno de Almeida can’t be denied…it was magic.
The durability and flexibility of Brazilian music is as undeniable as it is enchanting. Today’s young and fabulous players in Rio, for example, delight in taking the great choro tunes like “Brejeiro” or “Biruta” and boldly reconstructing them on the spot, filling them with vitality and fire. The music evokes deep levels of beauty and friendship. I present this collection from the heart, not as an “expert” on the music of Brazil, to which I make no pretense, but as a Canadian jazz musician playing with his friends, an avid and lifelong fan of the genre.