Three generations of Brazilian jazz musicians celebrate carnival in Aspen
There is more to Brazilian music than bossa nova and samba. For a crash course in these deeper and broader recent pop traditions, sit back and listen to guitarist Vinicius Gomes.
“Bossa nova is one face of the prism that is Brazilian music,” Gomes, who leads a trio at JAS Cafe at the Local Coffee House this weekend, said in a recent phone interview from New York. .
For this Mardi Gras weekend, Jazz Aspen Snowmass welcomes Gomes, percussionist Valtinho Anastacio and singer Jamile Ayres for four shows celebrating the sounds of the Brazilian carnival tradition.
“We’re going to be playing a lot of well-known tunes and stuff that we like to play in the standard repertoire,” Gomes said.
The show is a treat for Brazil connoisseurs and anyone looking for a festive soundtrack to toast the carnival. For Gomes and his acolytes, it is also an opportunity to open some ears to the rich Brazilian tradition.
“Brazil is a special place musically and culturally because, apart from the United States and Cuba, it may be the only place that has its own songbook,” he said.
Anyone who walks into a jazz club will know what a bossa nova is. But beyond that, the sounds of Carnival, Brazilian jazz and deep Brazilian songbook are probably less familiar. A deep dive into Brazilian sounds like sertanejo and forró are just an internet search away. Gomes wants to help listeners discover and appreciate songwriters like Milton Nascimento, whom he calls the “Brazilian Gershwin”, and João Bosco and fall in love with long-established popular Brazilian musical traditions.
“For us, I think it’s our duty as musicians — especially here in New York and in the United States — to expand public awareness,” he said.
Percussion and rhythm are so often what listeners associate with the Brazilian sound, but the melodies have often been just as influential, Gomes noted.
“That Brazilian post-bossa nova music, those guys influenced the way Herbie (Hancock) composes and Wayne (Shorter) composes,” Gomes said, noting how many chords from ’70s Brazilian trends ended up in bands. jazz fusion of the day like Weather Report.
Gomes arrived in the United States less than three years ago, settling in New York after studying music in his native Brazil – he was born and raised in São Paulo – and gained his first international attention in Europe. .
After studying music at the University of São Paulo, Gomes won a year-long residency in Basel, Switzerland in 2018. From there, he landed a position teaching music to undergraduate students. at New York University, which brought him to New York shortly before the pandemic. The timing turned out to have its creative advantages. The city’s top jazz musicians, Gomes noted, normally tour the world and jostle between jobs. The shutdown of the live music industry and international travel due to the pandemic kept them in New York.
“There were no concerts,” he said. “But all of a sudden you had all these amazing musicians who usually travel all the time and they’re right there. So I started playing sessions with all the musicians I ever wanted to play with.
Among them are the two who join him in Aspen for the premiere of the new trio at the JAS Cafe.
“We all come from three generations of Brazilian music and we all converged here in New York,” Gomes explained.
Jamile Ayres is a young jazz singer who has recently been touring New York City to trendy jazz clubs like Birdland, Mezzrow and MInton’s.
Drummer Valtinho Anastacio, a fixture on the New York jazz club circuit for 35 years,
specializes in the percussion traditions of Brazil, playing instruments like the pandeiro, tamborim, caxixis and berimbau. He played alongside an earlier generation of jazz greats, including pianist McCoy Tyner, with whom he performed on two Grammy-winning albums in the early 1990s.
He and Gomes have performed together frequently in recent years, although the Aspen shows mark the first time these three have performed together in front of an audience.
“It’s both fresh and familiar,” Gomes said of the new band. “It’s super exciting. I am happy to bring this music to Aspen. It’s going to be very special. We have so much to show and explore that is exciting.
They lead a lineup of JAS Cafe which, after some pandemic-related cancellations, is hitting its stride this spring with a three-concert lineup starting with this Brazilian combo. Guitarist and vocalist Raul Midon will headline March 11-12, followed by organist Joey Defrancesco’s new trio with Anwar Marshall and Luas Brown on March 25-26. All shows will take place in the cozy confines of the Local Coffee House, the one-stop location for this winter’s JAS Cafe programming.