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Se tem alguém que vive - literalmente - de música, é Carlos Malta. Autodidata, toca todos os tipos de saxofone e flautas. Ex-músico de Hermeto Pascoal, arranjador e compositor, criou os grupos Coreto Urbano e Pife Muderno. Agora, ele lança o CD Tudo Coreto, pelo selo Rádio MEC, ao lado dos músicos do Coreto Urbano. "O grupo nasceu em 94 e um dos objetivos era dar asas à minha veia de arranjador, possibilitando explorar os instrumentos de forma incomum", conta Malta. Para alcançar esse resultado, foram reunidos instrumentistas com trabalhos solidificados em orquestra sinfônica: Eliezer Rodrigues, Lulu Pereira, Carlos Vega, André Boxexa, Rodolfo Cardoso, Nelson de Oliveira, Oscar Bolão, Sérgio de Jesus e Dirceu Leite. "Para eles foi muito interessante, pois ao contrário das orquestras, onde ficam esperando sua vez para tocar, no grupo trabalham o tempo todo!", brinca, destacando que a banda é a única no mundo com esta formação.
Em Tudo Coreto, cada uma das dez músicas tem uma sonoridade específica e, sem convidados, é um trabalho que mostra a realidade do grupo. Salva dos 21, por exemplo, é para Malta o "portrait" do Coreto Urbano. "Ela é a que mais revela a versatilidade da banda, pois passa pelo maxixe, funk, polca, frevo... Já Lamentos (Pixinguinha/Vinícius de Moraes) valoriza o ataque da nota, onde o que parece apenas um instrumento, é na verdade tuba e trombone baixo. E Luz do Sol (Caetano Veloso) tem uma melodia delineada com sax soprano", detalha.
Malta conta que todas as músicas do disco fazem parte da primeira leva de arranjos do Coreto Urbano. "Salva dos 21 foi a primeira música que compus para a banda; para Folia em Formosa fiz arranjos para diferentes formações; Barrigada já havia sido gravada no disco com o Pife Muderno", enumera. O CD ainda tem Até Amanhã (Noel Rosa), Arrastão (Edu Lobo/Vinícius de Moraes), Baião de Lacan (Guinga/Aldir Blanc) e Ladeira da Preguiça (Gilberto Gil).
Não há definição mais perfeita para a música do Coreto Urbano do que a do próprio Carlos Malta: "Sempre em movimento, com os ingredientes em ebulição". Depois de oito anos de formação, o grupo finalmente chega ao primeiro CD, "Tudo coreto". Enxutíssimo em suas dez músicas, o CD é uma viagem pela criatividade dos também dez músicos. Ainda paira sob a música brasileira aquela idéia de que instrumental não prende o ouvinte. Para contradizer o preconceito, aí estão Malta e seu grupo, que através da realidade de seu som trabalhado de forma pura e sem altas tecnologias de estúdio - o CD foi gravado no velho estúdio da rádio MEC, onde a acústica é o equipamento mais importante -, seduz os ouvidos mais desacostumados ao instrumental.
Gravado no estúdio sinfônico da Rádio MEC, "Tudo coreto" é o primeiro CD de Malta com o Coreto Urbano, mas o sétimo de sua carreira. "O primeiro foi Rainbow, gravado na Suíça em 94, e que está esgotado", destaca ele, que tocou 12 anos com Hermeto Paschoal. "Em 93 parti para carreira solo. Foi minha 'puberdade musical', eu desenvolvia trabalhos para várias vertentes e chegou uma hora que eu precisava registrar aquilo tudo, senão iria enlouquecer", exagera. Malta brinca, dizendo que fez então o contrário de todo artista: lançou uma coletânea para depois lançar as obras separadamente. "Foi o disco Escultor do Vento, de 97. Tem músicas do Pife, de Pixinguinha e duas do Coreto, que resolvi regravar pois faziam parte do repertório da banda, que são Luz do Sol e Rua da Guia", revela.
Satisfeito por estar incluído no cast da Rádio MEC - "eles dão apoio à cultura baseada na arte, e não no comércio" -, Malta diz que o show de lançamento do CD deve acontecer no final de março, no Bar do Tom. Enquanto isso, vai tocando a pré-produção do novo CD do Pife Muderno. "Vamos gravar e lançar ainda este ano", garante o musicaholic.
Working within a wall of woodwinds, switching from baritone sax to piccolo, from soprano sax to alto flute, performing solo, without benefit of accompanying musicians, the young musician on stage in the dark recital hall was assured and comfortable, no doubt aware that his technical command was considerably better than any of his contemporaries. I was witnessing an almost schizophrenic duality: on up-tempo, overtly rhythmic numbers, the musician's tone was indomitable, coarse, threatening, fierce, and there was a feeling of pushing things to the edge; on ballads the tonal quality became sensual, tender, sumptuous, with an expansive sound and delivery that created a cloud I could sink into and float away on. Talk about being relaxed! It was 1992, and I was in Rio at CIGAM (Curso Ian Guest de Aperfeiçoamento Musical). It was an epiphany, a performance experience that has remained etched in my memory.
Now every time I write or say something about Carlos Malta, I find myself consciously holding back accolades. But he is undoubtedly one of the world's fastest and most imaginatively advanced improvisers, with a vision that streaks ahead of his flying fingers, throwing out whirlwinds of ideas in prodigal handfuls—beautiful melodic lines, cliff-hanging climaxes, startling tonal devices, the whole held together by a colossal drive. An exciting tone colorist and obvious master of extended techniques, Malta's open ears and senses led him early on to experiment with an ever-widening circle of possibilities, to abandon notions that the flute has only one basic tone quality and is capable of producing only one note at a time, and to radically expand the instrument's sonic resources, its sound envelope.
Not only is Malta an undisputed master of the flute family (including ethnic fifes, Japanese shakuhachi and Chinese di-zi), he virtually brought the soprano sax into prominence in Brazil as a distinctive solo instrument. And there is little argument about his similar accomplishments on alto and tenor, or to the categorical statement that Malta is Brazil's premier baritone saxophone player, in a class of his own, omnipotent, and unchallenged in terms of sheer tonal quality, ability to improvise, and rhythmic drive. A virtuoso and an innovator, Malta has extended the range of the often-cumbersome instrument upwards into the high harmonic sphere and freed it of its stigmatized position in the sax family while loosing none of its substance or grandeur.
Malta's early apprenticeship with Hermeto Pascoal's O Grupo was an important developmental period for him as a leading soloist, and it passed on his first acclaim as one of Brazil's greatest solo virtuosi—a reputation his effortless improvisations and omnipresence as an arranger or session musician on literally hundreds of record dates and tours sustains with consummate ease. Says Malta, "During my time with Hermeto, I had the chance to listen to him on woodwinds, and his best lesson was 'create your own sound.' I mean, for a kid like me who never got any solos on recordings, I was ready to listen and to practice. I was ready to go." O Grupo was also where Malta embraced the influences of other significant soloists and innovators and established the patterns that nurtured his sophisticated conceptual development as a composer and arranger.
By any yardstick, Carlos Malta's career has been overall an astonishing as well as a personally rewarding one. There is little doubt that Malta is an important figure in Brazilian music as well as one of the most exciting musical personalities ever recorded. But a far more important index to the validity of an artist's work than the opinions of reviewers and critics, favorable or unfavorable, is the judgment of his peers. Former bandmate Jovino Santos Neto told me, "Malta is a unique player in a world where so many horn players sound alike. It's very hard to find saxophonists who play the entire family of reeds, from soprano to baritone and even harder for them to keep their signature sound with all the variations in timbre among these horns. Malta is also a virtuoso flautist who has taught me a lot about the essence of the instrument. I worked closely with Carlos for ten years, and he was consistently brilliant in the handling of his vast arsenal of instruments. Additionally, he has a strong stage presence, and his own fine recordings attest to the quality of his musicianship."
Malta speaks Portuguese, French, and English fluently, but his communication often transcends language—something I discovered almost ten years ago at CIGAM. I spoke with Malta shortly after his group Pife Muderno returned to Brazil from their performance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and just before he left to perform with Gilberto Gil and Lenine in Paris. I was charmed by his ease and generosity, his humility, and by his enthusiasm for musical life in general. We discussed his numerous projects, his instruments, and sonorous architecture.
Brazzil — How was New Orleans?
Malta — It was incredible. We arrived on the 28th of April, and (Marcos) Suzano, Bolão, and I conducted a panel discussion where we talked about Brazilian rhythms and the traditions and transformations of Brazilian musical culture. The day after that, we played the festival and hosted another panel. The next day, another panel and a performance in Congo Square. Between all that, we performed at night at Café Brasil. People were just crazy about us! Everywhere Pife Muderno has been, we've received emphatic responses. In Venezuela, the people loved us, and the journalists at PercPan (Panorama Percussivo Mundial) in Salvador got so excited that we were invited to the Paris edition. We're going to Japan in August. It's a very import year for Pife Muderno.
I know the critics went crazy with the CD. O Dia, Jornal do Brasil, and O Globo cited it as best release of last year. Can you talk a little about the other players and your harmonic concept for the group?
The concept I had in mind when I formed the group was to construct a harmonic field of flutes and pit it against a harmonic wall of percussion. The banda de pífanos is the family of sound with which Pife Muderno is primarily associated. We are, however, a modern band, a band built up in the center of the city. We have a classical flautist, Andréa (Ernest Dias), an orchestral player with a huge reputation; Bolão, a multi-dimensionalist and a kind of partner of mine who performs in both Coreto Urbano and Pife Muderno. There is Marcos Suzano, who brings the pimenta, the seasoning from Rio with his pandeiro, which is not a very common instrument in a banda de pífanos, but one of the secrets of Pife Muderno. And then we have the authentic seasoning from Campina Grande, Paraíba, on zabumba, the guy who makes all the difference, Durval. If you can think of Suzano's pandeiros as a bass instrument and Durval's zabumba as a piano—he plays low and medium frequencies on the top skin of the zabumba and high frequencies on the lower skin—we've got piano, bass, and drums. This is the whole idea behind the group. When you listen to the tuning, the drums are really connected to the flutes in a harmonic context. Suzano really plays the bass line and Durval gets the (sings), which is the piano, the piano part! And this is the mix of Pife Muderno. We blend in bass flutes, alto flutes, Chinese and Indian flutes, and fifes from Caruaru, Brazil, with this rhythm section and come up with some very subtle harmonies.
I know Alain Marion from his work with Pierre Boulez's high-powered Ensemble InterContemporain. You dedicated the Pife Muderno CD to him. What is your connection to Marion?
Alain Marion was a French contemporary, classical flautist, one of the finest to pass over this earth. I first met him when he came to the International Flute Festival sponsored by Associação Brasileira de Flautistas here in Rio. They had invited me to perform the Villa-Lobos piece "Assobio a Jato" (Jet Whistle), which is a very difficult piece. Incidentally, this piece is recorded on my Rainbow CD. Alain Marion just got crazy with my playing. It was wonderful to listen to the standing ovation he initiated. He called my work a "bridge from earth to heaven." The things he said about how you play and what you think about when you play resonated with my own ideas. And for some reason he went completely crazy with the sound of the Brazilian fife. I was introduced to Jean-Pierre Rampal through Alain. They were like father and son. We formed a remarkable bond, and then suddenly, he died from a heart attack while on tour in South Korea. He was about 66 years old, which was too young for me. I was finishing the Pife Muderno CD at the time, and the dedication was my way of showing homage to him and connecting the French and Brazilian flute. Lately, I've been working with a friend who lives in Paris on a project called Maison du Pife. It's an association sponsored by the city of Paris whose objective is the exchange of artists between France and Brazil.
You formed both Pife Muderno and Coreto Urbano in 1994. Why undertake so much at one time? How could you possibly manage two groups that were so different?
Yes, they are twins, born in '94. Coreto Urbano, one week in a cultural center here in Rio, and the next week, Pife Muderno. After leaving Hermeto's band, I was having a hard time. I was playing, but as we say, playing for survival. A lot of people still don't know that I am writing my own music and leading my own groups. They think that I still play with Hermeto, but he hasn't made any group recordings since Festa dos Deuses. He's playing everything himself on his new CD, Eu e Eles. Those years with Hermeto were crazy times, and I left with a sense of respect for my first impressions and the insight to sculpt with my ears, not with my eyes. But I had no group to perform my own work, to hear how it sounded. Coreto Urbano was originally a way to develop my pencil, to write arrangements.
In spirit, Coreto Urbano is a revival of those little bands from past times, when we had those gazebos, the coretos, before we had computers and TV's, when people could sit in the square and listen to music, when there were no cinemas and everything happened at the coreto. That was entertainment, and this is the spirit of Coreto Urbano. But to that sound from the gazebos, to that brass and percussion music, I've brought a Gil Evans harmonic concept. As you can hear on "Luz do Sol" and "Bagunçando o Meu Coreto" from the Jeitinho Brasileiro CD, these are very, very hard arrangements, especially "Bagunçando o Meu Coreto." The lines are really challenging for the players. And this is a piano-less band and bass-less band. I mean, there are only seven people blowing, and it sounds like a huge band. It's very hard for any musician to get in the kind of shape that these players are in and to gel on that level, but all the players in Coreto Urbano are orchestral musicians who came to explore fresh ideas and to improvise. We're planning to record a CD, just Coreto Urbano, during the second half of this year.
When I listen to Coreto Urbano on the Jeitinho Brasileiro CD, I hear your mentor's influence. How much has Hermeto Pascoal's unique harmonic approach influenced your writing and arranging?
I can say that just about everything I've approached in the harmonic field, I developed with Hermeto. The group would meet with him in the afternoon and we would write arrangements and compose together. We could see all the time how he was creating—right under our noses—how simple he made it seem, and how strong he was, always showing lots of respect for our contributions. Many aspects of my arranging and composing were developed just by observing him. Being with Hermeto was an intensive experience for me, so sometimes my sound has whispers of someone who was educated by him. You know, there is a big difference between being educated at GIT (Guitar Institute of Technology) or Berklee (College of Music) and by Hermeto Pascoal.
Was it your work with Hermeto that helped you develop your multi-horn capacities?
A lot. A lot, of course. When I came to Hermeto, I was playing flute, piccolo, and soprano sax. The next thing I knew, I was playing tenor, and then during a trip to Paris, I took up alto and baritone at the same time. Baritone was really weird in the beginning. I was getting a lot of back pains, because it is such a heavy instrument. It's much heavier than tenor, and your position has nothing to do with it. With the tenor you can get a comfortable position by resting the instrument on your leg, but baritone, no chance, man. You have to hold that horse in your hands. So there I was with seven instruments in front of me, and, of course, the first thing Hermeto wrote was a "do-or-die" piece for baritone called "Arapuá." It was amazing how I started to...had to develop. I had to learn, because I was usually the player responsible for exposing his themes on saxophones and flutes, and I often had to invent ways of playing pieces that seemed unplayable. But that experience taught me to trust my playing anywhere, anytime. It's because I've played very, very hard lines, that I know the value, the real value, of every single note. Hermeto is a muse and a really generous person who trusted me as his porta voz. He always appreciated my Brazilian way, this jeitinho Brasileiro that I suggest in my playing. And to Hermeto, a man who can perform amazingly on any instrument, this is very important. He told me, "Hey, kid, come on, play these things." (laughs) Very nice.
Do you use circular breathing?
Yes, sometimes you can't cut a note. Hermeto's music has many passages where I had to use circular breathing. Even on the flute, and it is a very serious thing to do on the flute. On saxophone and clarinet or double reed instruments, it's difficult, but on flute, it's really hard. There is no resistance for the air column, so you have to create it inside your body to make it work. Very funny, but the sensation is very nice. I like the sensation. Feels like you're going to die! (laughs)
Hermeto wrote many different horn parts for you within the same arrangement, so you not only had to learn the parts, you also had to learn how to drop one horn and pick up another one quickly. Did that take lots of extra work or did it come naturally?
That was some challenge! After playing the saxophone for some time, the muscles of the mouth hurt from the reed and mouthpiece, so I had to learn how to manage. Some of those albums, like Só Não Toca Quem Não Quer...changing from baritone to piccolo flute, for example, is a crazy switch. The reference is so large. But it was something that I wanted to learn. Now when I go into the studio and I'm asked to play flutes and saxophones on the same recording, I always say, "Let's do the saxophones first." And they flip. "Really! Are you sure?" Developing on diverse instruments has brought me to the core of what's happening with my music now.
How do you keep in good shape on so many instruments?
When I have to concentrate on a particular instrument for a concert, I keep that instrument close by. Even if I'm watching TV, I'll have the instrument in my hands and be practicing some fingerings, without disturbing anyone, you know? I'll get a soprano sax mouthpiece out and play some notes and do some tonguing just to exercise the muscles. Or, for example, if I'm working on the computer writing arrangements, I'll have an instrument next to me, just to practice some ideas or to build up the embouchure. That's the key to managing a better sound faster. It's just knowing what you have to do, so you're not uncomfortable when performing.
Does the key have anything to do with a particular kind of reed?
You might find this a little curious, but I use plastic reeds on all my saxophones. You know, those crappy things everyone hates? They are the only ones that allow me to switch from one instrument to another. Because the climate here is so warm and wet, a good bamboo reed in the morning looks like a potato chip by the afternoon. It's impossible, impossible! But like an angel from North Carolina, a saxophone player came to visit us. He had a nice sound, so I asked him what kind of reed he was using. He told me, "This is a plastic reed." I said, "Oh, man, tell me about it." Now I have sound for a week, for a month, for a year, and no more problems. I had to learn how to bring out that good sound, but I already had it in my head.
Who did you listen to in order to develop that sound? Who were your inspirations?
You know, I fell in love with soprano sax after hearing Wayne Shorter's Native Dancer. Shorter became a very strong reference point for me. Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) and Thijs Van Leer (Focus) were also strong influences. You know, not long ago, I was a special guest at a recording session for a group from Holland and Thijs Van Leer was also invited. Thijs Van Leer! It was very funny, because he was one of my heroes. The Banda de Pífanos de Caruaru, definitely is a strong influence. My other heroes are the classical flautists, Rampal and Marion, and I love Copinha, Nicolino Cópia. If Altamiro Carrilho is the Pelé of the flute, then Copinha is the Garrincha1. Yeah, Copinha was amazing. Copinha was the flautist on all the Brazilian bossa nova recordings. The bossa nova style asked for a cool sound; Copinha had that cool sound.
But Altamiro Carrilho is the player with the most individual sound. I used to listen to him when I was a kid. There was a TV show Altamiro used to play on with his little band, which had a tuba and an accordion played by Hermeto Pascoal. Yeah, man, Hermeto used to play with Altamiro Carrilho's little band on TV. So funny. They wore little hats, those caps and dressed in marching band uniforms. I always watched it. And later on, the tune "Primeiro Amor" was used as an overture for one of the soap operas here and Altamiro Carrilho played it. Every night I would wait up until ten o'clock just to hear that fucking tune. I had to listen to the flute before I could go to sleep. (laughs) Last month, I was called to do a recording of that famous Pixinguinha and Benedito Lacerda duet "Um a Zero." I played tenor sax and Altamiro played flute. It was incredible. Dino Sete Cordas looked at me and said, "Pixinguinha is standing right beside you, man." (laughs)
Do you recall a point in your life when you knew you were going to be a musician?
Oh yeah, I had been complaining a lot after reading a magazine article titled "Leve Sua Vida na Flauta." That was an expression here a long time ago that meant an easy way of life, like a playboy's. The article told about the mysteries of the flute, with pictures of Gilberto Gil, Hermeto Pascoal, Jeremy Steig, and Jean-Pierre Rampal. It's amazing, because at this point, I've met all the guys that were mentioned. Right now, I'm working with Gilberto Gil. We're performing this weekend in Paris and next week here in Rio. We were talking just yesterday about how strong the fife culture is here, and he told me that after hearing the Banda de Pífanos de Caruaru, he knew they had to appear on his album Expresso 2222. The first track on the album is "Pipoca Moderna." But that's getting ahead of my story. I read that article and got completely crazy about becoming a flautist, so my grandmother, who knew nothing about music, bought me a Yamaha blockflöte, a recorder. But it was kind of boring, because the article showed the big flutes. "I want one of those," I told her. "I want a silver one." She said, "Hey, you've got to practice first. It's very expensive to buy a flute. You'll just leave it lying around." I said, "Oh, no! I want to practice. I want to be a musician." So I waited three years, just looking in the store windows, standing there looking and wishing. It was something like platonic love. Then one day I dragged my father to one of the stores. It was the 6th of September, 1975. I remember the day. I told him, "You're not leaving until you buy me this flute." The guy in the store told my father that I knew how to play, because I had picked up the flute and played (imitates rapid passage) right there in the store. My father bought me a very good French flute, a Louis Lot, which was a wish come true.
Do you like the Haynes flute?
I've played Haynes flutes and felt very good vibrations. I've also played on a Marigeaux. Andréa plays on a Marigeaux; they're very good. Odette (Ernest Dias) also has a Louis Lot with a golden embouchure plate. Oh, man, is that an amazing flute. Sometimes you can take a Japanese flute and find a lot of sound initially, but after a while you get bored with it, because its sound can only be pushed so far. I have two American flutes. My bass flute is an Armstrong, and my second C flute is a Gemeinhardt. I also have a rare piccolo with a C-foot. A friend of mine, a very old man, who has since passed away, had an instrument shop in São Paulo, and when I found it there I said, "Oh, man, this is mine!"
Carlos, how do you feel about playing flute with electronic effects?
You know, I have a friend who uses a lot of effects on flute, and I've tried some things at his house. He's from Switzerland and uses a kind of digital delay and some pedals for solo concerts. Very nice. I think it's very interesting. When you have this touch for electronics and some ideas to develop during a solo concert, electronic effects are useful. But we have to be conscious of exaggerated colors, the exaggerated use of effects. It should just be a question of having another key on the instrument. Something that attracts me more is a kind of chamber constructed from various materials, like metal, wood, and leather. Each material in the walls of this chamber would present its own timbral characteristics, and players would go into this chamber and generate and respond to the inventory of sound possibilities. In 1993, when the cellist Daniel Pezzotti and I were working on the Rainbow project, we gave a concert in Curitiba, and the producer constructed two huge wooden pyramids on the stage. Microphones were placed inside the pyramids, and we went inside these structures to make sound explorations. It was wild! These pyramids were tuned (sings a perfect 5th), like surdos. No one could see us, and we did crazy things inside these sound installations. Sometimes adding some electronics, like a delay or a good reverb or some echo makes for a nice ambience, but I like the structural idea more. I'm more unplugged.
Speaking of structural ideas, can you tell me a little about the recording of "Camaleão" on the Jeitinho Brasileiro CD?
You remember Hermeto's tune "Cannon" that sounds like it had been written in a tunnel, like a time tunnel? Well, my idea to record in the tunnel was to create one of the longest soprano saxes in the world and to create chameleonic images by playing underground, under Corcovado, you know? Rebouças tunnel runs underneath Cristo Redentor (the stature of Christ the Redeemer) and connects the south side of Rio (Lagoa) to the north side (Rio Comprido). It's very, very Carioca. I called my friend and we took a portable DAT unit and a pair microphones into the tunnel. It's about two miles long, so the lows get really, really low. There was no traffic, because we went the night they clean the tunnel. When I got to the mouth of the tunnel, the supervisor ran over and started giving me hell, "Hey, man, what do you think you're doing? What are you thinking about?! I suppose you'll bring a whole orchestra down here tomorrow night and throw a big party. What are you thinking?!" It was a crazy scene, but we recorded it there, man, at two o'clock in the morning.
This year you've got another set of twins: Pixinguinha Alma e Corpo and Pimenta. Those arrangements for string quartet just penetrate and expand—the quintessence of musical ecstasy!
Yes, it's beautiful, just a beautiful thing, the works of Pixinguinha arranged for saxes, flute, and piccolo with string quartet. Pixinguinha Alma e Corpo, is a poem, a poem. I wrote the arrangements in 1997 for the Pixinguinha centennial and always wanted to record them. They're highly unusual in the Pixinguinha tradition where we have so many recordings, but always in the same choro atmosphere, like you're playing outside on the veranda, on the balcony. But these arrangements transform Pixinguinha's music into something for the concert hall with an erudite atmosphere, or chamber music quality. And Pimenta is an homage to Elis Regina. That was her nickname, an homage for Pimentinha. It's a memoir of tunes eternalized by Elis, like Jobim's "Chovendo na Roseira" and "Águas de Março," Milton Nascimento's "Cais" and "Nada Será Como Antes," Edu Lobo's "Upa Neguinho," Gilberto Gil's "Ladeira da Preguiça," and João Bosco's "Bala com Bala." The production has a very nice, live atmosphere. I just performed the project last night at a spot here in Rio called Arte Sumária with Tríade, a group that plays on the recording.
I should tell you that I'm partial to baião anyway, but "Nada Será Como Antes" with Tríade is burning! The 12-string sounds like a sitar and that extended flute solo...haunting!
Yes, Tríade is an excellent trio from Rio composed of Dalmo C. Mota, berimbaus and 6 and 12-string guitars; Augusto Mattoso, double bass; and Luiz Sobral, drums. The group's name means triad, or 3-tone chord.
Carlos, a couple of months ago you mentioned a project with the Alto Xingu Indians? How did that come about?
The idea was Ana's, my wife. We were in Brasília, and she suggested that we see the Memorial dos Povos Indígenas (Memorial of the Indigenous People). It's (Oscar) Niemeyer's architecture and breathtaking. We met Sandra Wellington there, the English girl who directs the memorial and who is a close friend of Aritana, one of Brazil's most important Indian chiefs. Somehow the idea of recording and producing a concert evolved and everyone got crazy with the idea. So we had this gathering there in Brasília. The Indians brought their flutes, their sacred flutes, the Jakuí and the Takuara, very holy objects. Music is sacred to them. Their existence is connected to the universe through music. They celebrate the morning, the sun, the mid day, the sunset. They celebrate the moon and the birds. Music is supernatural, and flute blowing is used as a mediator between the human and spirit worlds. Playing their flutes invokes the presence of the spirits and makes those powers accessible to the people. Whoever carries music inside himself is a kind of magic person. Our concepts of virtuoso musicians mean nothing to them. A flawless performance of Chopin means nothing to the Indians.
We played together, bass flute with the sacred flutes. I was improvising on their harmonic fields, and an amazing bond was created. The whole thing was just magic, one of the greatest experiences of my life. We recorded the main song of the Kuarup and also the main song of the Yawareté, the celebration of the birds2. Yeah, man! We could tell at the time, there in Brasília, right after the session, that we had captured something magical with exquisite musical color, full of spirit, full of heart. It was completely new to our ears, something as strong as those Bulgarian voices. The chief told us, "No one has ever had permission before to put a microphone up to the mouth of the singer during the Kuarup." Yeah, man, this is a religious ceremony, a very strong ceremony. It was really special for all of us. The Indians will have a CD, with all copyrights going to the Kuarup Foundation, which is very important, because they have been taken advantage of so often by people who go there taking pictures, making books, and a lot of money, with the Indians receive nothing. That's exploitation!
You seem to have a full plate, so I'm wondering what next?
In July, I will be performing an homage to Charlie Parker here in Rio, which is a genuinely gratifying project for me. It is a challenge, but I love playing his solos note-for-note on my Selmer alto. What a player! What an innovator! He built up a solid wall of sound like Pixinguinha...roses, thousands of roses coming from his horn.
Carlos, what are your views on the current trends and future of instrumental music?
I think everything that has good intentions and good direction is important. It's also important for new labels and new producers to come out and for alternative ways of selling records to develop. Because in the end, what is most important for us is to have recognition for our work. We need multinational companies here that have some concept of our music. I saw Roy Hargrove at the Village Vanguard at the beginning of his career, his first concert in New York. He was so nervous, man, but his producer was sitting next to us saying, "Roy is a big jazz star." And that's it, man. That's the thing we need here in Brazil, the same spirit, the same respect, like the trends in the United States and Japan. And I'm quite sure, as Tom Jobim once said, "The best way for the Brazilian musician is the door of the airport." But just to get out and close the door, no. I like to come back, and I like to tell my friends here what's going on. I think this is a maxim, a good phrase once you come back. I'd like to build up something here similar to what I saw and felt in New Orleans, in New York, in Tokyo, in Los Angeles. I've never seen anything like that festival in New Orleans—thirteen stages working simultaneously. You couldn't hear sound bleeding from one stage to another, and it was an open-air venue, like a fairground where they have horse races. It was amazing, the control of the air they had. There were no sound wars between the different performance spaces. The sound just went. Rio has a lot of places like that, but we haven't developed them yet. There are so many things to build up here. We need to use those models and good influences to support festivals here. And it's nice because we're a young country.
Carlos, thank you very much for allowing me to take so much of your time. It was an honor and a pleasure to talk with you.
Enjoy the sounds!
1. Mané Garrincha was Brazil's (some say the world's) second best soccer player ever, right after Pelé. He died a couple of years ago after a long period of heavy drinking and was possibly the last great representative of romantic soccer. Garrincha reached the climax of his career in 1962, in Chile, where Brazil won its second World Cup without Pelé, who had been injured during the first match. Some say Garrincha won the cup for Brazil. Garrincha's position practically doesn't exist in today's soccer: right wing forward. Pelé was a scorer (center forward) in the beginning of his career, but later became an advanced mid-fielder, a position that in Portuguese is called ponta de lança (spear head). Pelé and Garrincha never played for the same team (except on Brazil's national team). Pelé played for Santos (from São Paulo state) and Garrincha for Botafogo (Rio).
2. The Kuarup is a ritual rarely performed, that celebrates life, and is reserved only for chiefs and warriors. It is the highest tribute the Xingu Indians will bestow upon a person.