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Jazz in Rio: Beyond Bossa

Brazilian jazz shares the struggle for attention

Hermeto Pascoal (front) and group at the TribOz club in Rio, Brazil, 2015
João Donato in Rio, 2015
Dick Farney, circa 1946. Photo courtesy of Instituto Cravo Albin
Paulo Moura, circa 1975. Photo courtesy of Instituto Cravo Albin
Pianist Johnny Alf and trio, circa 1959. Photo courtesy of Instituto Cravo Albin
Gilson Peranzzetta (l) and Mauro Senise in Rio, 2015
Zé Nogueira

This past April in Rio de Janeiro, I told composer Carlos Lyra, a founder of the bossa nova, that I was writing a piece about Rio’s jazz scene, past and present. “Oh, so it’s fiction!” he quipped. I knew what he meant: that jazz as Americans play it barely exists in Brazil.

Pianist João Donato, another bossa pioneer, agrees. “You cannot expect to have a jazz group here that sounds like Ray Brown and Oscar Peterson. It’s like pronunciation. A guy who lives in New York speaks English and the one who lives in Japan speaks English, but it doesn’t sound the same.”

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