Samstag, 30. Juli 2011

July 30

Yesterday started with an early rehearsal with Luizinho Santos. He brought in a few tunes by the maestro Moacir Santos, composer and arranger who lived and worked many years in the USA. I never played his music, so it's a very welcome addition - the choro "Cleonix" is simply enchanting, with very hip and tender chords in the second part - obvious infuluence of the jazz language, perfectly used in this context.

We'll also play one of his "Coisas", pieces scored originally for a chamber ensemble and bearing more of "classical" touch to it, yet never leaving the Brazilian roots aside.

Rain, rain, rain…It's really a bit annoying sometimes. It just has been raining non-stop for days. Oh, well…

After another hour of Portuguese in the library, I went to the long-awaited visit at Dunia Elias' place, the goal being to learn about the aspects of translating música gaúcha to the piano. Dunia is really an expert in that field. She indroduced me to a number of musicians I never heard of, some Brazilian, lots of Argentinian. Names which down here are well known and revered - complete novum for me. Well, that's what this journey is all about.

Here is one of the newly "discovered" greats - Atahualpa Yupanqui - playing a Zamba, an Argentinian genre in 6/8, always melancholic, but danceable too.

and a touching clip of him doing a milonga.

Dunia very quickly improved my take on milonga, and especially on chamamé, where I obviously was missing the basic understanding of the rhythmical nuances. It's a bit overwhelming, trying to absorb in a decently authentic way so many types of music, all deceivingly close to each other, like all those based on the basic idea of the hemiola… Another genre I'd like to get next to is chacarera. Not to mention the Condombe…
I came back lugging lots of CD's and some DVD's full of the music. Dunia is a very expansive and generous person; I am very grateful to her for helping me in such a huge way to make a modest step further on this road.

Freitag, 29. Juli 2011

July 29

Another morning and early afternoon of what becomes a daily routine of doing local co-ordination of "events" like rehearsals, meetings, plans to go out etc. The schedule never stays as planned - number of sudden ajustments is always required, and I am adopting quite well, I believe. But it does cost extra energy and nerves. I am feeling it by now, especially since I came down with a bit of a flu yesterday. Lots of raw garlic is being consumed; I might lose all my new friends, but what to do?

I enjoyed the afternoon lesson of piano I gave to José and proceeded to play and talk for a few hours with Rafael Ferrari. His commitment to our project here is great, and I am learning from him a whole lot about the regional music, Brazilian politics and much more. I truly hope one day to be able to bring him, Samuca and couple of other musicians over to Europa. The música gaúcha definitely deserves much wider recognition!

After that i jumped in the taxi which whisked me to Morro Santa Tereza, a sizable hill down the riverside, where all the local outlets of the broadcasting companies co-exist on a rather limited space. The goal was to meet Paulo Moreira and do the live interview with him at TVE FM Cultura. Since I already had the pleasure doing it last year, I felt quite comfortable. Paulo made sure that there is ample information about the upcoming workshops and concerts in the Goethe-Institut, and played a couple of tracks from my CD's.

Here is Paulo at work

I had to cut my visit short - it was time to go to the Teatro Renascença, to catch two great bands backing two fantastic accordion players.
It was really a great show, both parts. I am really very happy about the fact that now I am recognizing most of the genres; not only that, I actually knew a few tunes of the repertoire - thanks to Rafael Ferrari, mostly!

Renato Borghetti opened the show. His band included a very good pianist, so I could check out the figures he used to play Milongas, Chamamés and so on. Very good and strong. Amazing flute player… I need to find out who the guys are…

After a break Chango Spasiuk and his band took the stage. That was even more interesting for me, since I am not informed really about Argentinian music, even though I've been learning bits and pieces about it, thanks to Mimo Ferreira. Chango comes from the region, actually, just from the other side of the border. He seems to be an absolute master of Chamamé - they played many regional variations of this music in 3/4, with unusual accents and rhythmical patterns. Very soulful, strong - also thanks to the guitar player doubling on percussions, including a huge cajon box. I need to learn more about Argentinian and Uruguayan music, that's for sure!

Here is the chamamé maestro:

Donnerstag, 28. Juli 2011

July 28

I am very happy about the fact that here, in Rio Grande do Sul, the accordion, or gaita, is one of the most popular instruments. It appears practically in every true gaúcho band. The level of playing, needless to say, is really high, as I get the confirmation of it every Tuesday, listening to Samuca.
Today he sent me a few mp3's of his favorite classics. Here is "O que mais tu qué" written by Samuca and Arthur Bonilla - I found the video of this performance, beautiful and a bit scary...

I am thinking of accordion today also because tonight I'm going to the Teatro Renascença to hear two great gaita players - Chango Spasiuk from Argentina and the star of this discipline here, Renato Borghetti.

Here is the Borghetti playing "Milonga para as missões" by Gilberto Monteiro. No video, just the great, straight forward sound of milonga from Borghetti's first album in 1984.

And here is Chango Spasiuk and the band (well mostly a great guitar player) playing the famous chamamé tune "Kilómetro 11"

Mittwoch, 27. Juli 2011

July 27

Morning flew by occupied by writing emails and organizing some rehearsals.
For our scheduled hour of Portuguese José had a wonderful idea - using the great weather today, he drove me to the Fundação Iberé Camargo, an impressing museum build by the famous Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza. Even though it reminds a bit of Guggenheim New York, the building has it's own qualities which impressed me quite a bit.

Even the subterranean parking space has the dignity of a Greek temple.

The museum is mostly dedicated to the work of the famous gaúcho painter and artist Iberé Camargo. The strategically placed windows offer great views on the Lago Guaíba and the downtown Porto Alegre.

Here is my teacher José Fernandez in front of some works of the maestro.

Today I demonstrated amply that I am learning and internalizing the Brazilian culture - I came back from this little escape good 35 minutes too late for the lesson of pandeiro and a rehearsal with Mimo Ferreira. And it was no problem whatsoever!! The mission accomplished, cultural exchange is full in swing...

Mimo brought back my new pandeiro - he treated it with several coats of the Nivea cream on both sides, stretched the skin some and made it come up some, so there are more overtones happening. We looked today at two seemingly quite similar traditional rhythms - baião and coco - both hailing from Northeast of the country.
I'll try to keep up the regiment of practicing. On Saturday I'll go to the next practice of batucada at the MEME.
July 26

The day started with the task to finish writing a Choro - the 3rd part, usually in a major key, was still eluding me. Since I am one of those poor chaps who need pressure to get things done, the mission was accomplished just in time. A rehearsal with Rafael followed; he actually liked the finished choro - and he already learned by heart the other 2 parts, including the virtuosic 2nd one, incredible.
Right after the rehearsal I rolled downstairs to the concert hall, where Diego dos Santos (reeds), Gustavo Muccillo (electronics) known as BODE, bassist Guilherme Felippe known as CP and Bruno Melo on drums - all members of the quartet of free improvising enthusiasts, were already setting up their gear, to start a session with me. A few invited guests were present as well. It was an interesting experience, for both parties, I am sure. I can well imagine that these guys are a musical minority here, even much more so than elsewhere, their love for this kind of music keeping them going...We played for an hour. Here is an excerpt from the proceedings:

Here is their blog.

Right after that (and a round of beers in the Goethe Bar), it was time for me to go to Parangolé, to dig again the Roda do Choro of my friends. It was a hot session indeed.
Rafael informed me that the great Perisca Grecco was playing not far away. After the gig, Rafael, myself and Karen, a young cute singer, who usually hangs out in Parangolé on Tuesdays, went over to yet another club in the Cidade Baixa - Dhomba.
It was a marvellous show - strong, tight band, wonderful songs and lyrics by Perisca, inspired and authentic. Modern, personal take on the música gaúcha!
Amazing, always, how open, friendly and warm-hearted the Brazilian musicians are - to talk to them at extent in the break and after the show is absolutely normal, especially when Rafael introduces me to everyone. Nice, nice feeling...
July 25

Just one block away from the Goethe there is a water-clearing plant, housed in the old palace-like edifice, with a gorgeous little park in front of it.
On the rare sunny days, I love to sneak out for a moment and sit there, contemplaining on the events of the recent weeks.
Here are some images of this little gem:

Dunia Elias, a pianist and composer, whom I met last year, came back from a 10 day tour. It's a very welcome news, she is really a good friend, and she helps with advice and information wherever she can. I am really looking forward to have a musical exchange session with her on coming Friday - she happens to be the holder of all kinds of information on gaúcho styles of music transproted/adapted to the piano.
This Monday night we went to In Sano, a club in Cidade Baixa in which Nils Wogram and I already have been last year, after our memorable concert here.
Monday nights belong here to the 18 piece big band, where Luizinho Santos also pays. The sound of the band is very tight, and the repertoire - mostly popular Brazilian music in sleek arrangements - is most satisfying.

Paulo Moreira, the champion of all things Jazz and popular music in general, a radio personality, a journalist and a great guy, was there too.
He invited me for the second time to do the live show with him on Thursday, I hope it works out.

Here are Dunia, Paulo, Bethy and Luizinho:

Montag, 25. Juli 2011

25 July

Today the director of the Goethe-Institut Porto Alegre Reihard Sauer came back after the vacation, spent with his 2 sons in Florianópolis. Reinhard is a great and generous guy, very much involved in the arts and music. He is the man who made my residence here possible, starting with the basic information about such residence and ending with the help and support in all instances involved. Thank you, Reinhard!!

Sonntag, 24. Juli 2011

July 24

Before I jump into any activities of the day, I feel like it's time to give some more examples of the typical música gaúcha, using the tracks of the tunes I am preparing to play with Rafael Ferrari and friends on August 5.

Here is a very popular Vanera called "Tertúlia"

I love Vaneras for their contagiously upbeat character, combining the macho slant - seemingly "a must" in this music - with the slinky elegance of the Brazilian music in general.

Here is another Vanera, this one written and played by Samuca (Samuel Costa), a great gaita (accordion) player. He is already quite a star of the region, and, having just released his first CD "De tudo um pouco", he is good and ready to go "national".

And here is a fine example of another beloved gaúcho genre Milonga called "Em cima do laço" performed by Bebeto Alvez

Another Milonga by Albino Manique called "Bela e atrevida", played by Renato Borghetti, probably the most famous gaiteiro of Rio Grande do Sul living.

And now, changing the pace, we turn to yet another popular genre down here, Chamamé. It is in 3/4, or in 6/8 if you wish, with quirky off-beat accents but hauntingly beautiful touch to it.
This one is also by Albino Manique - "Kilômetro 11"

I have to admit, that, in spite of several talks with both Rafael Ferrari and Mimo Ferreira about these types of music and especially their rhythmical proprieties, I am still far from being able to discuss this topic in depth - even though I'll play these tunes in public in less then 2 weeks, in front of the audience which grew up with the music... So, for now, I just want to give the first impression of it. Enjoy.

Samstag, 23. Juli 2011

23 July

Day started in a quite lazy manner, me sleeping late and enjoying every minute of it. When I finally was up and around, the main difference was not to be ignored - it was sunny and warm! I had to seize the moment, even though I actually wanted to try to write some more music or start preparing for the workshops. But the nature won over… I took first the Avenida de Independéncia, the main drag right where I am staying.

Remembering that Adair told me about an open market on Saturdays on rua Vasco da Gama, I made my tracks there. It turned out to be a rather small affair, but, at least, I finally found lemons in abundance! It is a relatively rare sight here, since lime rules totally, and not only in caipirinhas - it's hard to find lemons, what can I say…
After that I went through the Parque Farroupilha, better known as A Redenção. It`s nice on a weekend like this, everybody just hanging out, enjoying the good weather leisurely. Here some images of the park.

After that I arrived at Fundação ECARTA, where Rafael Ferrari and Samuca were to play, but I got there way too early. Remembering that Mimo Ferreira was giving a lesson of percussion at MEME, which is only one block away on Rua Lopo Gonçalves, needless to say that I went right over.
The first great impression of the place from the week before was confirmed in a huge way. I was welcomed like an old friend and immediately led to the space at the back where a small group of students were already grooving away. Mimo invited me to join them - nobody needed to repeat the invitation. It was a wonderful experience! I grabbed one of the pandeiros and joined the study of Baião first, later Maracatú. Later I dared switching to agogô, once I copped the appropriate rhythms to play. This is how paradise could look and feel, as far as I am concerned! :-))

Here is some true Baião the way it's done in the Northeastern Brazil

I love good maracatú in every form. Here is an interesting clip of maracatú mixed up with Villa-Lobos.

The percussion class I attended today

MEME sports a lovely patio, an old but quite well functioning piano, great owners and personnel. I am coming back!!

Finally I managed to shake of the mesmorizing sound, becouse I didn't want to miss the duo in ECARTA. Surprisingly, Samuca didn't make it and Rafael, heroically and musically very successfully, gave a solo performance.

Afterwards we went for cheesburgers of enourmous size and beers and had an interesting coversation on number of subjects. The night fell over soon enough and it was time to part the ways, for now...

Freitag, 22. Juli 2011

This morning I really felt like getting out a bit, so I opted to get a "lotação" - a smaller and in this case more comfortable bus - and go to Bourbon Country Shoping. It's not that close to Goethe, so I had a chance to stare out of the window, absorb the views passing by and generally think of the past few weeks. The goal of this journey was to check out the "Livraria Cultura", a huge book store with a very good music section, which was supervised by this gentlemen - Alexsandro Gustavo Prinz Canal - who knew me by name and helped me find some interesting books on the social history of popular music in Brazil.

After a very nice and funny chat at lunch with Rosa, José and Eric, I had an hour of Portuguese with José. He is really a great guy, very considerate, polite and smart. I am totally lucky that he has agreed to teach me.

Right after that, it was time for another rehearsal with Mimo Ferreira. This time he brought bunch of cymbals and other stuff, as I asked for some sustained sounds as well.

Here is his blog.

He played me on youtube some very groovy clips of Hugo Fattoruso, this great Uruguayan pianist, doing the candombe. The sound and the rhythms of the tambores are truly great.

No video here, but amazing tambores sound.

Then we switched to "ciranda", a Brazilan genre, usually somewhat more stately and often melancholic in character.
Here is a clip of the great Lia Itamaracá, the queen of ciranda.

Now I agreed to write a ciranda for our upcoming concert and the recording date. Let|s see how this goes...

And the best news of the day - no, what am I saying, of the month - Eric managed to figure out the way to hook me up with a good stable internet connection. HURRAAAAAAH!!!!!

Donnerstag, 21. Juli 2011

21 July

After some discussions in the office about the further tightening of the overall program, I caught up per Skype with an old friend of mine, Leonid Keylin, whom I went to Juilliard together with, and who's been living in Seattle for the past 25 years.

After that, I contacted Cândido, the guy Mimo hooked me up with to get a serious pandeiro, and, after yet another satisfiying "almoço" (Brazilian lunch), he came to the Institute, bringing me this beauty

It is bigger than the one I got here, the so-called "onze polegadas", eleven thumbs size - but it's light, got great sounding "platinellas", big bass sound etc.
It comes from Rio de Janeiro, made by the family making those for generations. It's exactly like the one Mimo is playing. I am a happy camper.

Right after this Rafael came to the scheduled rehearsal. Even though he is very much a Brazilian, he pleasantly contrasts to most of his countrymen through his punctuality. We had a great rehearsal, playing milongas, vaneiras, sambas, just grooves and also looking at my new tunes, as well as his.
I am really lucky to have him here and on my side, so to speak.

By the way, this is the upright piano I got put in my space upsatirs - and what a great move on the part of the organisation it was!

Since I am showing a bit around, here is my working space. It's so weird - I've been here two and a half weeks, and I am already so used to everything here, in the pad as well as in the immediate surroundings - the corner store, the "Apetito", a nice place I get almoço every second day, a small park of the Praça Julio de Castillios etc...

To finish today's show of things local, here are my gaúcho shoes called "alpargátas" - well, more like house shoes. The leather is amazingly soft and robust at once. They are of the very typical regional style and they also make some fashion statement...

Mittwoch, 20. Juli 2011

20 July

Since the chronic problems with internet continue to plague us here, I am using the chance and sneak early in the morning in the room 43 which has a stable connection.

Well, it is actually possible to say that my "official" activities in the auditorium of the Goethe-Institut have been defined:



August 1 - Workshop 1 --- composition and improvisation. Hands-on look at some of the tactics and practices; tunes of Tim Berne, Andy Laster, Herbie Nichols and mine (modesty itself) will serve as examples.

August 2 - Workshop 2 ---- Jazz Piano --- whatever one can imagine, pertaining to the subject.

August 3 - Workshop 3 ----- well, actually, more of an informal meeting with everyone interested to discuss the music, try something out and exchange knowledge and opinions.


August 5 --- concert with Rafael Ferrari (bandolim) and friends. Playing Brazilian music - choros of Pixinguinha, sambas of Noel Rosa, as well musica gaúcha - milonga, vaneira and chamamé.

August 8 --- concert with Luizinho Santos (reeds) and friends, playing Brazilian popular contemporary music.

August 10 ---- solo and duo with Mimo Ferreira (percussion), playing my tunes, sambas, maracatú, and grooving open loose!

After some pretty chaotic hours in the office und upstairs, in my place, chasing the working internet connection, frenetically finishing some tunes and basically stretching thin between all the chores, it was a blessed moment to drop into the classroom situation of an hour of Portuguese under the tutelage of José, truly one of the nicest guys I ever met.

Afterwards Luizinho Santos picked me up and we went to his place to rehearse a bit. He and his wife Bethy Krieger, who is a pianist herself, were wonderful hosts, and I amused myself watching their dog Mel (Honey) jump around in excitement - new face, new smell…

We looked at some tunes Luizinho suggested, by Hermeto Pascoal and Egberto Gismonti. I stoically avoided playing thier admittedly brilliant music up until now, but it's fun now, in this context, to check it out. I also forced 2 new tunes of mine on Luizinho, and plan to come up with some more for the next rehearsal.


Continuing introducing the people working at the institute - here is Claus Herzer, the Brazilian of German descent, the man who solves the office problems just as well as the technical mishaps which do occur with certain regularity. Very nice, relaxed and helpful.

Another nice guy working in the organisation is Felipe Ritter. He has established the morning routine of learning each day a word of Russian from me. So far so good...

And here are 2 of the private security people who guard the entrance of the Institute day and night. Here it is quite necessary…

Dienstag, 19. Juli 2011

19 July

A somewhat lazy beginning of the day was quickly changed up, as Mimo Ferreira called saying he could give me a pandeiro lesson I asked for.
I jumped at the oppotunity, practicing some before. We also played a bit in duo again and made plans for further reheasals and lessons.
Here you can visit Mimo's blog.
There you can see also his wife Carolinne Caramão, a singer and composer. She invited me to record with her a tune, Baião, in trio with Mimo - nice...

I start to put some videos of the musicians gauchos I'm finding out about.
Here is a clip of the very known and important musician from Rio Grande de Sul Pirisca Grecco.

Mimo told me of this Uruguayan music called candombe, which is played with 3 tambores drums. This genre is quite popular here, among others coming from the neigboring countries.
Here is an audio of the band with the famous Uruguayan pianist Hugo Fattorusso.

here is Gilberto Monteiro, a gaiteiro of the highest class, playing a milonga, one of the most popular genres down here.
(I learned so far one milonga, "Em cima do laço" and hope to play it with Rafael Ferrari and friends on August 5th.)

18 July

It's raining again, grey skies and high humidity - just a pure dream of a weather… Rafael cancelled the rehearsal (flu), the storm capped the electricity for a few hours, and I've found out that Melanie, my nice neighbor and friend, who is taking care of my plants, in a throw of creative "initiative" managed to erase the code for playing messages on my answering machine - exactly the kind of news I needed today…
On the other hand, I finally found the reader for the unpopular format xD card for the photo camera, now I can put the pictures here as well.

Here is the view in front of the Goethe Institut. Not bad, right?

Here are José Fernandez, my teacher of Portuguese, Rosa Vidal the lovely librarian and Adair Gass, the second in command, so to speak, who is taking care of many issues and problems in formidable way.

Here is Adrian Kuessmann, the chief of the language department.

and Mônica Schreiner, who provides the logistical solutions for the cultural program here, just like Adair Gass.

here again, this time together with Teresa, the good spirit of the house; she makes sure that it's clean and orderly everywhere, including my space. She brought me a few times some amazingly tasty avocados from her own garden.

Eric Guerreiro Dos Santos, the young man who takes care of the technical issues in the office, and is a very nice and helpful person to boot...

Tonight I will go to the concert of Arthur Hornig, the young cellist from Berlin who joined me here on the 6th floor. He is playing tonight in the San Pedro Theater, the main joint for all the things classy in Porto Alegre. If I have more energy, I'll drop by In Sano Pub, where Luizinho Santos plays in the 18 piece big band on Mondays.
The concert was a bit of a disapointment - the ensemble playing Villa-Lobos Stravinsky and Schostakovitch was really bad and provincial in the worst sense of the word. The cellist Arthur Hornig is very good, and I take off the imaginary hat to him for dealing so well and graciously with the situation.
Theater Sao Pedro is more then 150 years and is one of those wonderful theaters which manage to be grand and intimate at the same time.

Sonntag, 17. Juli 2011

16 July

A rainy day, spent mostly practicing pandeiro - one instrument I really love dearly and want to learn to play properly since a long time. Yesterday Mimo showed me some good exercises and I was practicing for hours, also using the DVD of Marcos Suzano. 
In the early evening Diego Dos Santos and his friend Gustavo, who had his birthday, picked me up and we went to a great churrascaria on Avenida Ipiranga, one of the principal streets of the city. The quality and quantity of the meat was truly amazing. Also amazing was the fact that these guys - later two more joined us - who have a quartet of free improvised music, happen to be real fans.

Diego brought 7 (!) of my CD's to sign, wow! He works in the bank, but his heart is in the music, especially hard core improvised stuff. His knowledge is very impressive. We talked about whole lot of subjects, both musical and not, closing up the restaurant 6 hours later.I will jam with their quartet here a bit later and we might record it too.

In the taxi on the way home, the decision was made to stop by at the Van Gough bar in the Cidade Baixa. It's a wonderful place, which apparently fills up at around 4 in the morning, serving as a meeting point for all kinds of the night worshipers.
I got back to the Goethe Institut around 6 am, still full of meats, cerveja and many musical themes we talked about for 10 hours...
15 July

The day started rather chaotically - still some problems with the internet upstairs, trying to get in touch with different musicians I heard of and generally attempting to organize my schedule and activities for the weeks to came.
The afternoon piano lesson I gave to my Portuguese teacher José was a mixed bag - him being really rusty after a long break from the instrument, and myself rusty as an advice giving "authority"...
The second part of the day was dedicated to Mimo Ferreira - the scheduled rehearsal at 4 pm turned into a protracted waiting with intermittent updates on his whereabouts, culminating in his arriving 2 hours later - a very Brazilian thing indeed. was well worth waiting for - the minute we started playing, it just clicked in a pretty huge way. Mimo is an open, strong and attentive player, grooves as hell and is not a stickler to the "etiquette" of any given tradition in a narrow sense.
We really had great fun. After a short repose, we met up at the MEME, a great cultural center. Up until a year ago it was a Casa de Santo, a place where the popular Brazilian religious cult Umbanda is practiced. The five current owners turned it into a lovely space combining a bistro, patio and practice+performance space. During the daytime the are classes of aerobics, pilates and all things bodily. In the evenings it turns into bohemian meeting point with occasional performance events.
Mimo and I kicked off the proceedings by playing my tune Itapo. We really were flying there, and the audience erupted with the loudest, most enthusiastic show of appreciation. Afterwards we enjoyed a number of wonderful dance performances, culminating in a collective trance dance, evoking the spirits of the house in it's previous function - a truly Brazilian manifestation of pride, strength and spiritual beauty.

Donnerstag, 14. Juli 2011

Just came back from this wonderful concert, which took place in the huge hall of the State Federal University. The trio included two musicians I knew of way before - the pianist Paulo Braga and the great percussionist Marcos Suzano, who is considered to be one of the greatest players and innovators in his field. I got a DVD of his on the subject of pandeiro, which I sometimes check out, and, of course, I've been listening to his playing on countless records for over 15 years.
Mimo Ferreira, my new connection in the scene, a percussionist himself, informed me a day before about this event and got me a free ticket. He and his lovely wife are the nicest people one is likely to meet. After the concert was over, they dragged me to the backstage and introduced to absolutely everyone. Suddenly there I was, chatting with Suzano about his visit to Moscow a few years back, to Lui Coimbra about the advantages of Sao Paulo versus Rio de Janeiro, and excepting vague suggestions of a number of other musicians to get together and jam. Knowing that probably not much will come of it does not diminish my momentarily pleasure; I really dig the natural ease and friendliness of the people here - right off the bat there are hugs, little kisses a la France, pats on the back etc. It's easy going and soulful at the same time. Once again I am reminded, why I am here.
Mimo Ferreira will come to Goethe Institut tomorrow and we will jam together. Afterwards we will go to the MEME, a cultural center for the modern dance and music, where an evening program called "Improvised Space" will take place. Mimo said that we just might end up playing something there as well, let's see…

Slowly the word about my stay here gets around. Today two guys who were at our workshop here last year, called up, to express their appreciation for my music and to invite me to the birthday party on Saturday. Needless to say, I happily accepted.
July 13

Today started with me sleeping in too long after the hang last night, only to be surprised by the fact that things are moving right along, as far as internet in my place upstairs goes - the main cable has been put in, and tomorrow, if all things go right, I will finally have a stable net connection here.

In the afternoon José Fernandez and I started our exchange program - today I had an hour of conversational Portuguese, and tomorrow José will be the lucky recepient of my knowledge of handling the piano (once again, having this upright piano here in the pad is "paying off" manyfold). Friday we got another installment of Portuguese.
If we really stick to this regiment, I just might improve my Portuguese by the time I'd have to leave…oh well…

Afterwards, feeling an intense need to escape the premises of the Institute, I hopped on the bus going to the center and walked into the MARGS museum on Praça da Alfándego, a square with a park, which seems to be permanently under construction. I let myself to be lured by the fact that the selected works from the international Biennale Sao Paulo were being shown. The disappoinment was pretty big and reminded me of the repeated feeling of discomfort and almost irritation I had in a number of museums in Sao Paulo and elsewhere in Brazil. Not only the level of conceptual awareness seems generally to be rather behind the main trends in Europe and USA, but also the haphazard manner to place the works jumps right out at you. Obviously, this generalisation is not totally fair, but I seem to have bad luck, so far. Well, Porto Alegre might be a provincial town as far as modern art goes, but they sure know how to play their regional music - and that's what makes me one happy customer!

After the visit of museum, I quickly went through the famous Mercado, the central market, which occupies an old rectangular edifice. The colorful picture of hundreds of vendors, selling everything the regional and national food industries have to offer, somehow has put me in a more balanced state of mind again.
Tomorror evening, another visit to Parangolé is planned - a well known older Maestro, Professor Darcy Alvez holds the court there on Thursdays, and I was told to check him out, which I'll be happy to oblige.

Mittwoch, 13. Juli 2011

July 12

The meeting with Luizinho was very nice. He is into doing a concert with me and a couple of his friends. We talked about the local scene, the difficulties to make it here, about the Brazilian music and it's roots and many other subjects. He and his wife, who is a pianist herself, are about to open a new performance space here, even with a grand piano. If they are on schedule, I'll get to check out the place before leaving Porto Alegre.

The evening started with the visit to Parangolé, where Rafael Ferrari and Samuel Costa were joined this time by Max (violão de sete cordas) and Reloginho (Pandeiro). I met both of them in Parangolé last year. The music was not quite as hot as last week, but still very very good. I am slowly starting to recognize the tunes - I've been looking at some of the famous choros by Pixinguina, trying to learn by memory all those cascades of notes (something I haven't subjected myself to in quite a while…) They also played, at my request, a Milonga by Bebeto Alves, the tune Rafael and I will play in August, I hope. I must admit, it is not easy to pick up all these new genres and run with them, but I wil try.

Afterwards, we went to a very nice relatively new place called "Boteco Tchê", the "in" musical club of Musica Gaucha in town. We caught the end tail of the promotional event for the upcoming annual Moenda - a huge Festival of regional music, taking place in the interior, a city called Santo Antonio da Patrulha. Even the star of accordion (gaita) Borghetinho was there, giving TV interviews and enjoying being in the midst of it all. Wonderful, familiar atmosphere, different groups playing the kind of music I normally don't hear. The influence of the neighboring Argentina and Uruguay are very apparent in this music. Great hang, but too many beers...

Dienstag, 12. Juli 2011

July 11

Had the first musical meeting with Rafael Ferrari. We played for a few hours, checking out what's possible, which way we could go. The fact that I have an upright piano installed right in my pad turns out to be a blessing - to heat up the hall downstairs is not so easy or cheap and should be saved for some "special" occasions.
Obviously, the way I play Brazilian music is not exactly traditional; Rafael is great in that he is open for all of the madness. At the same time he is afraid that it'll be difficult to find a percussion player, open for everything. I hope we'll find 2-3 musicians to join us for this project.
Meanwhile, I suddenly have homework - got to figure out how to play Milonga, finish 2-3 of my tunes, polish "Noites Cariacas", a true evergreen of choro music - among other things. We meet again on Wednesday, and I'd better be ready!

Tomorrow I'm meeting Luizinho in the afternoon, and going to Parangolé again - should be great, again!
July 8

I activated yesterday 2 contacts from the last visit - the jazz sax player Luizinho Santos and pianist and composer Dunia Elias.
I am meeting the latter any minute now, and having a coffee tommorow with Luizinho. I am very curious to hear from him about the local jazz scene and see what we possibly could do together.

Another good connection is the head of the language department here in Goethe-Institut, Adrian Kissmann. Not only did he help me a couple of times in the matters of internet etc., but he also invited me tomorrow to go at midday to a good place to have Feijoada, a national Brazilian dish which I like a lot (when prepared delicately) and hear a Roda de Samba.
He will also explain to me some intricate details about the local transport system - grabbing the right "ônibus" (a normal bus) or "lotaçao" (mini bus) is not the most self-evident thing.
July 7-8

These 2 days were consumed more by the "domestic" issues - since I am the first one who will stay 6 weeks long in this appartement, there are a few basic things missing, be it in the kitchen or what not.
Also, I am being plauged by the problems with the internet connection - it turned out to be very weak up here. But some major efforts are being made to solve it all; I hope next week will bring the much needed solution - an ethernet cable brought all the way up to the 6th floor where I reside…

Adair Gass organized for me a possibility to take some lessons of Portuguese, in exchange to some piano lessons, right here in my pad!
That's great, because I badly need some help in this departement! It also could prove to be the first instance of the "cultural exchange" which I am here for.
If I manage to nail Feijão to give me some lessons of pandeiro, I'll be quite content. We are exchanging emails to that extent, but it might demand some patience on my part…
July 6

The evening in Parangole turned to be way more impressive, musically, then I expected.
I got there in good time, walking for at least an hour through the early evening city.
The proceedings look pretty much the same as in any similar place in Brazil - the musicians sit at and around the table, which is often covered with various instruments (especially percussion). The core of the band was there already, including Rafael, with whom I went on catching up right up to the moment the music started.
Since I was sitting at the table at that moment, I kind of got "stuck" right up there - every time I tried to make space for incoming musicians, everybody literarely insisted that I stay put.
Once I got comfortable with the situation, I enjoyed the special privellege enormously! It's quite something else, sitting inside this incredibly tight group - I ended up sitting squeezed in 3-man percussion section - and feeling all the vibes! The pandeiro player to my right was incredible. His name is Guilherme Feijão; he also played a number of other small percussion instruments, equally well. The way everyone loves and lives their tradition is something to love and (almost) envy.
Since each of the choro tunes consists of countless notes in the melody, it makes me really feel humble, how many of those pieces they have in their heads and souls.
The freedom, with which they interprete those "old" tunes, reminds me of the best examples of jazz music. Wonderful!!

Dienstag, 5. Juli 2011

Well, here I am in Porto Alegre, after a mere skip and a jump of the trans-atlantic crossing, the whole body still pleasantly swimming. I was prepared to be hit hard by the "coldest winter since a long time"; instead, I get treated to clear blue sky and plenty of sun - that's the kind of winter I'll take any day...
The director of the local Goethe-Institut, Reinhard Sauer, is still on vacation, but his wonderful team - Adair Gass, Claus Herzer and Mônica Schreiner - took me immediately under their wings. It feels like home of sorts - great! The first ideas about the contents of my stay here are being discussed, I suddenly have various invitations to attend concerts and events. There is quite a bit going on here - Goethe -Institut is hosting a week-long "Cello Meeting", plus single concerts and workshops.
As announced, in the evening I'll go to Parangolé - tommorow more about it.

Montag, 4. Juli 2011

(since my flight to Sao Paulo has been redirected, I got now a couple of extra hours to check out how this whole blogging thing works...)

and here are both Rafael and Samuel in quartet
in the Show Bandolim Campeiro

Here is Samuel Costa in his element...

Few hours more and I'll start the 20-hour journey to Porto Alegre. Should I not be totally wiped out upon the arrival, I'll make sure to go to the lovely Bar Parangolé in Cidade Baixa (the Lower City) - Rafael Ferrari, an excellent bandolím player and a great guy, reminded me yesterday per email about the Roda de Choro, a fantastic  band playing there every Tuesday. It also includes the brlliant accordion player Samuel Costa, better known as Samuca; he impressed me a whole lot the last time I caught him in this joint, which combines a simple restaurant, a bar and a cultural space of sorts all in one. The room where the band plays is pretty small, always crowded and lively. The music played is a mixture of popular choros and more local genres of gaucho music.