:: These reviews were originally published
:: in Daniella Thompson on Brazil.


 

An Italian modernist in
the land of the palms

Aldo Brizzi makes fusions,
with a little help from his friends.

Daniella Thompson

26 February 2003


Aldo Brizzi & Augusto de Campos

Objeto de conquista dos turistas
só pra contar aos amigos
aventuras tropicais
amores tão perto, tão longe
[...]

[from “Meninas de Programa”]

Aldo Brizzi isn’t your typical contemporary Italian composer. Anyone who worked with both Giacinto Scelsi and Ennio Morricone is bound to raise eyebrows. But Brizzi goes further. He’s currently launching Brizzi do Brasil, a Brazilian disc of popular songs peformed by the likes of Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Tom Zé, Carlinhos Brown, Arnaldo Antunes, Margareth Menezes, Zeca Baleiro, Virgínia Rodrigues, and Olodum.

The embracing of Brazil by Brizzi and of Brizzi by Brazil (and particularly by Bahia, where he lives part of the year) transcends the pop world. For years now, he’s been championed by the eminent poet/essayist Augusto de Campos, co-author of Balanço da Bossa, the book that marked an era. Campos is one of the poets whose verse Brizzi set to music. Another is the Mexican Francisco Serrano, who contributed lyrics to four songs in Brizzi do Brasil. Yet three of the disc’s twelve songs carry the composer’s own Portuguese verse, as in the quotation above, or in “Cat’s,” a tribute to Bahia, Brazil, and, not least, Caetano:

Dorival
João
Gil
Cat’s
heróis da solidão
inspiração da
paixão

Cat’s
nomes
Cat’s
cores

leão
fogo, água, ar

Olodum
Mangueira
É Brasil
América do sul
É total Carnaval

coração em preto
e branco
rio vermelho
explosão

começa no fim
acaba no início

“Cat’s” is an ethereal aria sung by Virgínia Rodrigues to the accompaniment of acoustic guitars, viola, contrabass, percussion, programmed piano & electric guitars, and sampled tracks. The very next number, “O Amor,” is a stripped-down, repetitively insistent rock song of the kind we might hear from Suely Mesquita and Rodrigo Campello. Here Margareth Menezes reveals shades of interpretation we haven’t heard before, assisted by Arnaldo Antunes and accompanied by percussion, bass, electronics, and samples.

“Cat’s” and “O Amor"” give a good idea about the nature of Brizzi do Brasil. My curiosity piqued, I asked the composer how his love affair with Brazil came into being.

DT: How did Brazilian music begin to figure in your work?

Aldo Brizzi: It was in the early ’90s. I heard Olodum in Salvador and was impressed with the potential in their polyrhythms and the strength of the sound of their percussion. Earlier, my interest in popular music had been centered on Mexico, where I traveled extensively around that time.

As a composer, I was looking for something coming from the spontaneous world of popular music that could enrich the contemporary minimalist language. Then I met Caetano Veloso and Carlinhos Brown. Caetano was a reference of high quality mixed with spontaneous communication, a great example of contemporaneity.

DT: Are your Brizzi do Brasil compositions an element apart from your other work, or have you been incorporating Brazilian elements into other compositions (not necessarily songs)?

AB: Yes, my first CD, The Labyrinth Trial (Rara Records, 1998), is an instrumental album where acoustic instruments are mixed with electronics. All on the base of Afro-Latin-American rhythms, above all Brazilian and Cuban. After that I wrote a piece for 11 instruments and electronics, Barravento, based on the rhythms and melodies of candomblé. It premiered in a festival of contemporary music in France. In these last few years, all my pieces are fused.

DT: What prompted you to move to Brazil, and what have you been doing there?

AB: I married a Brazilian architect, and in these last four years I was visiting professor of composition at the Federal University of Bahia, wrote music for films, prepared arrangements for orchestra of works by Arnaldo Antunes and Zeca Baleiro, and founded the percussion group Terra em Transe—a mix of candomblé and popular Brazilian music in a contemporary language setting. This group performed at PercPan and twice toured Europe. My latest project brings together Afro-Brazilian percussion, the Indian singer Neela Baghwat, the Lapp singer Wimme Saari, and the French flute group Trio d’Argent.

Recently we founded the group Aço do Açucar [the alliterative name was taken from Augusto de Campos’ poem “Ão”] to perform the repertoire of Brizzi do Brasil. We are doing concerts here in Salvador, with special guests such as Caetano Veloso, Margareth Menezes, Arnaldo Antunes, Zeca Baleiro, and Virgínia Rodrigues. In March we tour Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Recife, and then, I hope, Europe and USA. This new group includes Graça Reis (vocals); Alex Mesquita (guitars); Michelle Abu and Luizinho do Gêge (percussion); and myself on electronics and keybords.

Electronics and keybords abound in Brizzi do Brasil, as does percussion, both live and sampled. The repertoire is refreshingly varied, fusing the popular and the erudite in a rare amalgam of beauty (another composer mining a similar vein but with different results is Chico Mello, a Brazilian living in Europe). Here we find “Meninas de Programa,” a staccato story of sexual tourism and exploitation; “Mistério de Afrodite,” a tender fado-habanera full of longing; “Toi,” a phallic reggae; “Velada ou Revelada,” whose free-form soaring voices waft us into a cathedral invaded by Bahian street percussion; and “Ão,” a play of syllables intoned by Caetano Veloso in a quasi-religious incantation accompanied by piano, bass, and electronics and intermixed with a recitation by Augusto de Campos over João Gilberto-style guitar:

[...]
aço do açucar
joão do tom

o
ão
do
om

The final track, “Este Era un Gato,” sums up the disc, fusing the sounds of pre-classical opera and jazz in a bilingual (Spanish and English) nonsense poem delivered in the angelic counter-tenor of Nuno Guerreiro to the accompaniment of guitar, piano, G flute, and synthesizer. What could be lovelier?



Aldo Brizzi: Brizzi do Brasil
(Eldorado 278408; 2002) 50:31 min.

01. Meninas de Programa (Aldo Brizzi)—Gilberto Gil
02. Mistério de Afrodite (Aldo Brizzi)—Teresa Salgueiro & Caetano Veloso
03. Exílio (Aldo Brizzi/Zeca Baleiro)—Zeca Baleiro
04. Cat’s (Aldo Brizzi)—Virgínia Rodrigues
05. O Amor (Aldo Brizzi/Francisco Serrano)—Margareth Menezes & Arnaldo Antunes
06. Toi (Aldo Brizzi/Barbara Toy)—Carlinhos Brown
07. Ondas (Aldo Brizzi/Tuzé de Abreu)—Teresa Salgueiro & Zeca Baleiro
08. Ão (Aldo Brizzi/Augusto de Campos)—Caetano Veloso & Augusto de Campos
09. Velada ou Revelada (Aldo Brizzi/Francisco Serrano)—Virgínia Rodrigues, Nuno Guerreiro & Olodum
10. Abraça o Meu Abraço (Aldo Brizzi/Arnaldo Antunes)—Arnaldo Antunes
11. Down, Down, Down (Aldo Brizzi/Francisco Serrano)—Tom Zé
12. Este Era un Gato (Aldo Brizzi/Francisco Serrano)—Ala dos Namorados

 


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