What is Brazilian jazz?

A different view in brazilian jazz.

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Tony Ananias

Today we can certainly talk about a Brazilian Jazz, and with initial capital letters. Verify its existence is not a problem. Have set it is something much more difficult.

The label placed so, without more, is certainly vague. Is it possible to make it more accurate? And in what way? A first possible way of defining what is meant by "Brazilian Jazz" would say he is simply the American jazz - from Dixieland and New Orleans until Hardbop, say - played by Brazilian musicians. Brazilian because it would be played with "accent" in Brazil. This definition would not be exactly wrong, but is too restrictive, leaves much out. Another way would be to say that amounts to Brazilian Jazz Brazilian Contemporary Instrumental Music, pricipalmente practiced by instrumental groups concentrated in the axis Sao Paulo - Rio de Janeiro - Minas Gerais from the 70s. Still another way would be to define the Brazilian jazz and improvised music a second but with a syntax jazz inflection and Brazilian rhythms (which would, in practice, a fusion between jazz and MIBK). But at this point one might observe, rightly, that that would take into account also the choro, to the extent that this is the music that plays within the Brazilian musical culture analogous to the role of jazz in American culture. And so on: every attempt at definition is revealed, not false, but incomplete, too restrictive.

One thing is certain: what we perceive as Brazilian Jazz can not be reduced to just one of those aesthetic lines. It also seems unlikely that it can be defined as some type of "combination" of these genres in certain relative proportions. So when we speak here in Brazilian Jazz, we're not talking about a closed and defined style, but plural and mutable.

Probably one reason for the difficulty in defining the Brazilian Jazz is the extraordinary richness of rhythmic Brazilian mother. The Brazilian territory pulses from north to south in a myriad of different rhythms. To mention only some, not necessarily in order of importance: the frevo, maracatu, the gherkin, the xote, the ballad, coconut, hammer, tangled, fashion, samba, bossa nova, the singers, the ranchera, the drums. In other words, we could say that we have only one swing, we have many.

Once the Brazilian Jazz is at the intersection of multiple influences, it follows that can also find their origin in several directions. We seek these origins dating back to the old Pixies and willows. Or we can go back to the orchestras of balls at the time of World War II. Or we can confine ourselves to go back to a more recent times, the emergence of bossa nova - which, though not exclusively instrumental, put a new harmonic language that would be absorbed by many musicians. We can also, finally, we report the innovative and groups with a more modern language, such as the New Quartet.

The question, however, still stands: what is it that unites such disparate musicians as pianist, conductor and arranger Nelson Ayres, saxophonists Mane Silveira, Teco Cardoso and Victor Assis Brazil, trombonist Raul de Souza, composers and multi- instrumentalist Egberto Gismonti and Hermeto Pascoal, the pianist Eliane Elias, guitarists and violinists Heraldo do Monte, Paul Belinatti and Laurindo Almeida, percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, Dom Um Romao, Guelo and Paulinho da Costa, the bandleaders and Silvio Severino Araújo Mazucca, the Cyro Pereira arranger? We already know that they have individual styles differ greatly. By what right, then, are grouped under one label?

Perhaps the solution is not a stylistic definition closed, but the existence of a certain factor, a certain "Brazilianness" whose characterization would need to rely on loans, not a musicologist, but an anthropologist or a sociologist ... But this way, although it is interesting in itself, does not appear of great value to this case, because we can not perform here an anthropological analysis of this type. Finally, with regard to the characterization of a Brazilian Jazz, obviously we are facing a difficult task, more difficult than characterizing any of the styles "canon" of American jazz.

For all these difficulties, here we opt for using an informal notion of Brazilian Jazz and dynamic that emerges over the relations of similarity between musicians than a precise definition. This web of connections is built gradually based on chains of influence, these rather something that we are able to map. Thus, for example, from a can as name Hermeto ... who collaborated on several occasions with Heraldo do Monte ... As guitarist and guitarist Paul Belinatti ... who played and composed in the group Pau-Brazil ... in which also played Rodolfo Stroeter ... that was part of important avant-garde group Group A. .. Teco Cardoso also where he played ... woodwind virtuoso like Carlos Malta ... that surveyed the interior rhythms of Brazil as Paulo Freire ... part of the People's Chamber Orchestra ... and so on. Endless other paths like this are possible. Thus, the concept of Brazilian Jazz emerges, albeit slowly and inevitably imprecise way, the web of relationships between different artists. It is not a closed concept, but open.

Properly understood, a similar phenomenon has occurred with certain types of jazz frontier as the free and fusion. Certain works of these artists and styles are so different from what is traditionally meant by "jazz" that to include them in jazz, if only operate for similarities and interrelationships, as we did here.

You can go a bit in the characterization of Brazilian Jazz highlighting some of the traits of this music. The first concerns the instrumental formation. As you know, Brazilian music has a good solid blows in the instrumental tradition (mainly metals), and also the piano, guitar and percussion. Minor is the tradition of bow instruments, for example (and consequently of symphony orchestras that have strings in your spine). This condition, in a sense, the actual instruments that are used in Brazilian music.

On the aesthetic level, an interesting feature would be a certain conciseness, an economy of means - despite the traditional image of Brazil as a country exuberant, excessive, festive and carnival. We can observe that, contrary to this stereotype, many musical expressions are distinguished by short melodies, dry, sharp, clearly drawn, arid and harsh harmonies, simple rhythms and powerful, a capella singing desert and hieratic. This is observed both in the music coming from the scrub, like that of the cerrado, as in the swamp. Even the samba, this export has now fully industrialized, is traditionally regarded as the best and most economical billing and succinct, both in verse and melody. To give another example, enshrined the bossa nova compression of information in short songs with highly poetic verses, framed by a few chords and sophisticated. I mention these roots to suggest that the rebarbative, the ornate and verbose are not typical of Brazilian music.

In particular, few things are stranger to Brazilian music than sweet accompaniments and filigreed, nowadays ubiquitous in pop music, performed with strings - or, more recently, with synthesizers. Nor is characteristic of the Brazilian tradition, for example, the use of fancy, glittering and choreographed marching band, so popular in North America: our band concerts are different. Other examples are possible: rarely arise here as a track of Wagner, for example. Even the baroque is economical! At this point, might be someone mentioned as a counter-example, the figure of a mighty composer Heitor Villa-Lobos as. But it is important to note that even Villa remains permanently simplicity as an active pole in the musical creation as opposed to the other pole, the complexity. That when he does not, masterfully, from the abundance of simplicity, as it does in many passages.

Ezra Pound said that poetry = conciseness. It is this equation that may explain the character "poetic" of Brazilian music. Turning our ears to Brazilian Jazz, we realize that this "school of brevity" has borne fruit. The focus of the music is generally well defined. The phrasing is incisive. The accompaniments are economical. Harmony is concentrated, but to great effect. Even the humor and decanted "brejeirice" Brazilian, who did not fail to give the guys are obtained in a "smart", when connecting A and B in the shortest possible: who blinks, loses gag.

80s of the twentieth century to now, we could observe a considerable enhancement of Brazilian Jazz, although the emphasis by the media to those artists are still short of what is desirable. But it has grown in the press and public perception that Brazilian musicians were and are able to create a song prepared, consistent, technically well done, which no doubt can match the best that American jazz has ever produced. And with an additional quality: it is a vital music that reflects the best characteristics of Brazilian civilization. Insofar as we believe there is something in the Brazilianness that is somehow relevant to the rest of the world and for humanity as a whole, Brazilian Jazz is an open channel for the dissemination of this good thing that we carry within us.

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Tony Ananias