Thursday, December 2, 2010

Going Back to the Source

Instead of getting into the myriad of things that have occurred in my private life, some of which influenced my sabbatical from this open forum, I prefer to get right into the act of sharing of some good roots drumming with all of you friends. For as much as I love the challenge that one gets with the creative interpretation of jazz and avant-guard performances, there's so much soul-reward in these kind of grooves that it's worth soaking this in on a regular basis!

This is the kind of drumming that I moved to NYC to be a part of in 1976. I'm talking specifically about the Bata drumming. The other conical (conga-shaped) drums and rhythms was also reminiscent of the kind of drumming that was happening in Washington D.C. during the 70's, and which I had a lot of fun participating in. And, at the time, while there were some "old-timers" who used to always drum at the fountains on Dupont Circle and I can remember a guy by the name of "Chico" and another "clean-looking" dude who I came to superficially know as "Charlie", and their thing was a medium-tempo-to-slow guaguanco. And, it was tasty, with Chico always drumming as the alpha dog.

But, my main drum buddies back then were Leo Leobons, Chuck Cuyjet and the Puertorican reps consisting of Raul Rivera, Coqui Perez, with the Cuban brothers (Chino and Micco) filling up the reserves. Add to this the sudden introduction of Simbo Wu-Shu (Craig Johnson), Bird, Obanjoco, John D. and my pad always had constant drumming going on! That time was a precious laboratory for every kind of drumming possible! And then there was another Latin drumming contingent in D.C., up by the Omega Restaurant composed of Rafael Solano, Ruddy, Bacho Africano, and sopme other brothers who we would go and shed with, from time to time.

But, this is the kind of drumming tht I'm talking about...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Hurricane from Bahia: Ivete Sangalo + Samuel Formell of Los Van Van!

Here’s one of my all-time favorite bands; Los Van-Van de Cuba!
Led by the wonderfully creative bassist, Juan Formell, it is from this band that the celebrated drummer, Jose Luis "Changuito" Quintana came from. Changuito is credited with having co-created the “Songo” style of Cuban music and rhythm, by which means he adapted the traditional drum set into the context of the Latin music orchestral drum ensemble. When he left the Van-Van band in 1992, Juan Formell’s son, Samuel, took Changuito’s place, effectively commanding the drum chair while also manning the timbales, as well! It is Samuel who is featured in this swingin’ clip, filmed at the Karl Marx theater in Havana, Cuba. Enjoy, as Samuel sculpts a badass solo on timbales and drumset! ...smokin'!!!



Now, some more samba percussion, from a show titled , “Cidade do Samba”, which has become a favorite of mine. This clip features the special appearance of singer/composer Juan Luis Guerra, from the Dominican Republic, paired off with Brazilian singing and dancing hurricane, Ivete Sangalo. Between us, it’s a very bold move to attempt to sing and/or perform roots samba if you don’t know how to speak Portuguese or how the samba rhythm swings. But, to my surprise, Juan Luis Guerra pulls it off, without causing any major train wrecks. Then again, an even bolder move is to attempt to demarcate one’s own stage space while performing with Ivete Sangalo! That’s what’s really dangerous to do! This beautiful performer from Bahia takes absolutely no prisoners during her performance!



I am able to sense that Ivete, who naturally exudes tons of charisma on and off stage, wasn’t totally satisfied at having been paired up with the Dominican merenge star. One can notice how she challenges him to move his feet to the samba – a challenge that is quite common in the idiom and genre of samba! As Juan Luis doesn’t bite the hook, Ivete resolves to simply have her own fun on top of the samba groove while taking over the stage, effectively stealing the spotlight from the Caribbean brother. I can see from Juan Luis’ face that he is concentrating on keeping it together during this performance, as Ivete commands every square inch of their stage riser, except the spot where he is standing on. I'm afraid that he's learned the hard way that, while Ivete is a tough act to follow, it can prove to be even more hazardous to share the stage with this formidable performing powerhouse!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Gilberto Gil and Marjorie Estiano - Chiclete Com Banana

Here’s another video clip from a great show which features former Brazilian Minister of Culture, singer/composer Gilberto Gil and singer/actor Marjorie Estiano. Originally from Bahia, Gil is totally at home in the samba genre, although he has composed prolifically in almost every style of music, including rock and reggae. Marjorie, on the other hand, is not that experienced with this style, but she manages to defend her presentation with her sense of stage presence and her appealing tonal quality.

While Marjorie is totally committed to her heartfelt vocal delivery, Gil’s natural charisma and exuberant artistry quickly evidence why he has always been a musical powerhouse in Brazil and around the world. An accomplished guitarist, as well, Gil’s enthusiasm is as contagious as it is over-powering! However, the experienced and consummately confident entertainer that he is, provides him with the insight of knowing exactly when to physically lift up Marjorie to his own level. And, rise she does!



This song is performed really jazzy and we can see that the band is performing with a cool reverence that denotes the respect and sheer awe that everybody feels in the presence of Gil. The drummers keep the groove burning at an even smolder, maintaining a controlled wicked infectious swing all the way through song, which Gil flipped into an improvised vocal jam. There is even a cat playing a small frying pan, which is mentioned in the lyrics of the song!

Brazilian audiences love to see their artists dancing to their own groove. It’s appreciated as the artist’s surrender to the most elemental of instinctual human pleasure for the benefit of the audience. And, Gil throws down, on the hoof, with total natural abandon, much to the crowd’s delight! Even band director, Rildo Hora is totally mesmerized by the magic of the moment, so much so, that Gil directs the finale of the song.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Roots of Samba: Zeca Pagodinho and Dudu Nobre

Following my blog's purpose, which is the featuring of virtuosic drumming from around the world (and, preferably performed by my own friends!), I’ve lately been giving priority to samba jams. Here’s one that features two of the genre’s most popular contemporary masters, Dudu Nobre and Zeca Pagodinho, performing together at a National Samba Day celebration party, this year in honor of singer Beth Carvalho’s 40-year career commemoration. The music and video production was directed by Brazil’s stellar producer, Daniel Figueiredo, owner of the Music Solution Studio, in Rio de Janeiro.

The song is titled, “Quem É Ela”, and was written by both of the performers, Zeca and Dudu. Check out, however, the cats on the pagode drums, as they lay down this thick, sweaty, badass, funky accompaniment to the singers and melody players! These cats are putting muscle into a traditional poly-rhythmic samba stew, with sophisticated technique that actually surpasses the need for amplification. They are playing just as if they were hanging on the corner of their favorite neighborhood botiquin on an animated Sunday afternoon!



Towards the end of the song, Zeca snaps on colleague Almir Guineto, who rises to the challenge (literally!) and responds with an improvisation of his own – something totally spontaneous and unplanned! Dudu Nobre, sensing from his ample experience that the situation is about to veer off into uncharted territory, raises his arm to direct the song’s finale, just as Almir is calling on another sambista to rise up and get into the developing call-and-response singer duel. As such, the song ends on a good note and organically flows into another jam….soon to be featured here, as well!

Enjoy... then, get up and get your drums out!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Old Songs > New Grooves!

It was back in 1939 that Glenn Miller first recorded his classic song, “In the Mood”. A subsequent Brazilian version, with Portuguese lyrics was composed and recorded in 1954 by Aloysio de Oliveira, whose orchestra Bando da Lua (The Band from the Moon), accompanied Carmen Miranda on her tour of the U.S.A. This samba version combines the talent of radical punk-rocker, Pitti, with hard-core rapper, Marcelo D2, in an interesting and swinging rendition of this timeless classic! But, check out the guys back in the percussion kitchen, cooking up a hot and spicy samba jam!




And, here’s an impromptu jam with my soul brother, Daniel Figueiredo, and mutual bro, Claudio da Matta. We were all in a recording studio in São Conrado, mixing video for another project, (www.musicalnationproject.com) when we took a break and pulled out some instruments, just for the fun of it. As we set up, with no previous rehearsal, a swift video assistant scooped up a minicam and registered this first-take of us experimenting with a new groove for the bossa classic, Wave”. Now, all of a sudden, besides all of our other individual and collective projects, we’re considering building up a repertoire for this trio.



Daniel Figueiredo is one of Brazil’s premier television soundtrack composers and producers, as well as a gifted multi-instrumentalist. Claudio da Matta, a former Olympic athlete medalist, is a proven composer, vocalist and guitarist.

Later this month in Rio, I'll be featured in a show with saxophonist Ricardo Serpa's "Quarteto Aquariando", at the Santo Cenarium theater! Don't miss it!