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


Jovino duplo

Jovino Santos Neto on
his two new discs.

Daniella Thompson

4 October 2003

Jovino Santos Neto, always a busy musician, surpassed himself this year and released two discs almost simultaneously: Canto do Rio with his Quinteto and Serenata with mandolinist Mike Marshall. The former is an album of the pianist’s own compositions, while the latter is dedicated to the work of Jovino’s mestre, Hermeto Pascoal.

Both CDs offer an embarrassment of riches ranging in tone from the jazzy to the lyrical, and always suffused with deep brasilidade. Since there is no better critic than the artist himself, I invited Jovino to comment on each track. He fulfilled the task with admirable aplomb.

Canto do Rio

I wrote the music on Canto do Rio following the New Works: Creation and Presentation jazz composition award I received from Chamber Music America and the Doris Duke Foundation. The inspiration for the music comes from my hometown, Rio de Janeiro. The Quinteto explores all the musical influences that accumulated in the city through the centuries, including Native Brazilian, African, Portuguese, Arab, Eastern European, etc. The grooves are ancient, but the musical concept and the instrumentation are contemporary, reaching out both backward and forward in time to blend rhythmic energy with melodic lyricism.

1. Guanabara
This opening track refers to Guanabara Bay. The tune is a maracatu with a simple melody, which eventually transforms itself into a 7/4 groove. I arranged the theme for clarinet and soprano sax, with a lot of dialogue between the two instruments. A curious coincidence is the fact that Carlos Drummond de Andrade, one of the greatest Brazilian poets, wrote a poem called Canto do Rio em Sol, and the first word of his poem is “Guanabara”... I only found this out after our record was released. I hope that the opening cut will give the listener a good idea of the different colors and vibes of the record—intuitive melodies, layered arrangements and solid grooves featuring electric piano, bass drums, and more percussion than in all my previous releases.

2. Primavera em Flor (Springtime in Blossom)
This baião features our special guest, vocalist Flora McGill, doubling up a tricky melody along with alto and tenor saxophones. Halfway through the piece, the groove shifts to a xote, and the solos happen over this swinging pocket. For me, this tune is like a journey, passing through many different places and returning to its beginning. The ending was supposed to be a fade-out, but I was so pleased by what everyone played that I decided to keep it until the last second, when Flora sang the perfect note to the wacky chord I played on the accordion. I also greatly enjoyed Hans Teuber’s flute solo. It sounded like a bird, so I asked Jeff Busch to add some bird sounds at the beginning. This tune is a favorite in our live performances.

3. Pedra Branca (White Rock)
This one is dedicated to the Pico da Pedra Branca, the highest mountain in the city of Rio. At 3,400 ft., it towers over the Zona Oeste neighborhoods of Realengo and Bangu, where I grew up. This melody, an ascending scale in the key of G (or Sol), came to my inner ear one day last year, when I was walking in downtown Rio. I could tell right away that this was a very strong tune, so I quickly scribbled it on a scrap of paper. After returning to Seattle, I arranged it for the Quinteto, featuring Hans on soprano and our special guest Harvey Wainapel on tenor saxophone. The groove also hovers on the south side of a maracatu, which is one of my favorite Brazilian rhythms.

4. Guaratiba
In the Tupi-Guarani native Brazilian language, this means “a place with many birds.” This is a region in the extreme Zona Oeste of the city of Rio, where I spent many years as a child. The beaches and the mountains are so beautiful, and most of them are still protected. I wrote this choro as a melody without any rests, which made my admiration for Hans, Harvey, and our special guest Mike Marshall grow even more, as they played this tune impeccably. I originally thought of this tune as a difficult piece, and had hesitated including it in this project, but after we recorded it, I heard a lot of childlike simplicity in the mood and in the way the melody meanders around.

5. Sempre Sim (Always Yes)
This 7/4 theme has a hypnotic quality which I greatly enjoy. It’s based on a very simple bass pattern, with a very intuitive melody draped over it. I composed it originally for a promotional film about Cornish College of the Arts, where I teach in Seattle. I heard Flora McGill (who was a student) singing it then, and was convinced that we should also record it with her on this CD. The arrangement for the record came up a few minutes before we tracked it, and the very first take is the one on the CD. There is an element of almost chance encounters of ideas, as we all play together over the improvisation section. I had Hans and Harvey overdub some extra horn voices, and I really like the contrast between the layered horns and the sparse voice-Rhodes dialogue.

6. Batuki di Bangu
Here is another tribute to the Zona Oeste, or the Western zone of Rio where I spent many years of my life. Bangu today is known for housing one of Rio’s top security prisons, but for me it has always meant peaceful summer evenings, cobblestone streets, and a laid-back lifestyle. When I was a teenager, it was there that I first heard rock ’n roll, soul and R&B music. My first band was based there, and the local club became a focal point for Rio’s funk scene. These factors explain the groove aspect of this tune. I also enjoyed the rapid-fire interplay between Hans and Harvey on two alto saxes. During the percussion break, the listener can hear Pernambuco (former percussionist for Hermeto’s group) reciting a crazy text that Hermeto wrote for him about being beat up and ending up totally lost in the world. He would say this when we played a composition called “Surra.” I had the recording of his voice on tape from years ago, and asked Hermeto for his permission to use it, which he granted me. I believe that the effect is powerful... This theme was composed during the California Brazil Camp in 2002, one of my favorite events of the year.

7. Feira Livre (Street Market)
A common sight in most humble neighborhoods in Rio is the feira, or weekly street market. On the title track of Caboclo, our first CD, I used the sounds of the feira from Jabour, where I lived for 10 years when I was in Hermeto’s band. For this track, based on a blend of a forró groove with a blues form, I imagined a high-energy theme opened up in three voices: soprano sax (Harvey), flute (Hans), and Rhodes (me). Jeff Busch also plays a beautiful zabumba drum which he built himself. Chuck Deardorf plays a killer solo on the electric bass. I am proud that I asked him to bring it out, as he is mostly known for being a great acoustic bassist, but also rocks on the “plank” throughout this record. People have asked me why I did not focus on the more popular rhythms from Rio (samba, bossa nova, choro) for a record dedicated to the city. I say that this CD is dedicated not to Ipanema, Corcovado, and the Sugar Loaf, our postcards, but to the places beyond the tunnels, where hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the Northeast live and work. This is the region known as the Sertão Carioca, and this is where I’m from.

8. Ciranda
The ciranda is a children’s dance in Rio, but in Recife, Pernambuco it’s a popular dance for all ages. Its rhythm is a slow march. I composed this theme while I was teaching at Jazz Camp West in California. A lot of the themes in this record were written in the presence of students. This is a very inspiring situation for me. The first part, Chegada (Arrival) was scored for accordion, clarinet, flute, and bowed bass. The second part, Roda (The Circle) features the saxophones, plus electric piano, drums, and percussion.

9. Comichão (The Itch)
This frevo had been composed a while ago and it’s been a favorite with the band, but for this recording I added a shout chorus that added even more energy to a burning groove. Harvey played a great tenor solo, and Mark Ivester fired up the fast section at the end as only he can do.

10. Canto do Rio (Song of the River)
The title track for me is the most mysterious. We had already finished recording all the group tracks, and I felt like going into the studio by myself to record a solo piano passage. There was only a little bit of tape left in the reel (yes, we tracked all the songs to analog tape for maximum fatness and warmth of sound), so I turned off the studio lights and played this piece in one take. I stopped intuitively just a second before the tape ran off the spool... Then I took the recording home, wrote a melody over what I played, and asked Flora to sing it. She did it perfectly, and I also asked her to mention Oxumaré in some special passages, as a tribute to the Yoruba god/goddess of the rainbow, who lives in dark corners of rivers.

11. Imperador (Emperor)
This maxixe is a ghost track, and only those people who listen all the way to the end of the CD will hear it, a minute after the last “official” song ends. It’s a tribute to the street where I grew up (Rua do Imperador in Realengo), and to a band that used to rehearse upstairs on the corner of my street. They played many maxixes like this, and I have always enjoyed this style a lot.

Listen to music by Jovino Santos Neto.

Jovino Santos Neto Quinteto: Canto do Rio
(Liquid City Records LQC 34453; 2003) 66:46 min.

All compositions by Jovino Santos Neto

01. Guanabara
02. Primavera em Flor
03. Pedra Branca
04. Guaratiba
05. Sempre Sim
06. Batuki di Bangu
07. Feira Livre
08. Ciranda Chegada
09. Ciranda Roda
10. Comichão
11. Canto do Rio

Jovino Santos Neto: Rhodes piano, acoustic piano, accordion & flute
Hans Teuber: flute & saxophones
Chuck Deardorf: Electric & acoustic basses
Mark Ivester: drums
Jeff Busch: percussion

Special guests
Harvey Wainapel: clarinet & saxophones
Flora McGill: voice
Mike Marshall: mandolin
Pernambuco: sampled voice


Serenata | The Music of Hermeto Pascoal

For me, recording this project was a dream come true. I have always admired Mike Marshall, his talent and his total dedication to quality music of all styles. I could not imagine a better musician to share this recording with. His open-minded attitude and incredible mastery of a difficult instrument and of a musical language other than his original one are amazing to me. Besides, we have a natural affinity that includes our love of good food and wine. I can also speak on Hermeto’s behalf when I say that he was very impressed with Mike’s interpretation of his music. I look forward to many more collaborations of this type with Mike Marshall.

1. Sertão Alagoano (The Hinterland of Alagoas)
Hermeto wrote this beautiful valsa nordestina (northeastern waltz) back in 1980. Originally it only had a couple of chords, then he reharmonized it. In this recording, we play both versions, alternating between the simplicity and the complexity of the changes. If you look at the Serenata CD tray, the score for this tune is there, including a caricature Hermeto drew of myself, with arms outstretched. For me, this piece represents what we are hoping to show with the whole record, which is Hermeto’s lyrical and romantic side as a composer. Mike’s interpretation of the melody is very inspired. On the repetition, I improvised some lines around the theme. This tune was done in one take, as most of the record was.

2. Quanto Mais Longe, Mais Perto (The further apart we are, the closer we get)
This composition dates back from 1979, and I always remembered it as one of my favorites among the thousands Hermeto has written. We recorded the theme on mandolin and piano. Later I overdubbed the theme with the alto flute and left the solo section open, and then we found out that Hermeto would be in the Bay Area, and he agreed to play the bass flute. It worked just fine, especially with the very sensitive percussion that Aaron Johnston added to it. The theme of affinity between friends and how it withstands the test of time and distance also relates to how connected I feel to Hermeto’s music, even living far away from him geographically.

3. Serenata (Serenade)
This piece dates back many years, probably from before I joined Hermeto’s band in 1977. Heraldo do Monte recorded it on mandolin and cavaquinho in 1980 on a self-titled LP. Mike chose to perform it on guitar, and I incorporated some extra chords that Hermeto once added to the tune. In Brazil, the serenata is a tradition that dates back to the European troubadors, in which groups of musicians would take to the streets in the middle of the night, playing romantic music under the balconies of shy ladies. This is another deep waltz, and Hermeto knows very well how to infuse it with meaning and emotional presence.

4. July 17
This is taken from the Calendário do Som (Calendar of Sound), the book that Hermeto created by composing one tune a day for a whole year in 1996. It marks the date of Mike Marshall’s birthday. We did it as a xote or swinging baião. John Santos on the tantan and Michael Spiro on the triangle added the right amount of percussion, and we traded solos over the groove.

5. Saudades do Brasil (Modinha)
The modinha is another primeval song form, dating back many centuries to medieval Portugal. In Brazil, the form became very popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. Hermeto composed this one in the mid-’80s, cleverly changing the tonality of the song in an imperceptible way, using some modern chord changes, but without losing the essence and the spirit of the original form.

6. Hino da Princesa Eterna (Hymn for the Eternal Princess)
This composition is recent. It was written in 2000 and had its premiere in London in the same year, where I conducted a big band performing Hermeto’s works with himself as a soloist. This piece was written for just piano and a solo instrument. The princess in the title is Lady Di, who had recently passed away, and Hermeto decided to honor her in London. He has written several of these hinos or hymns, and he always mentions that when he grew up in Lagoa da Canoa, in the state of Alagoas, he would often stand by the door of the local church, listening to the women singing inside. To add to that ambiance, I overdubbed a harmonium part, on an instrument that Mike purchased just for this recording.

7. Os Guizos (The Bells)
The word guizo means a sleigh bell rather than a church bell. Hermeto recorded this piece with an orchestra and vocals by Googie Coppola in his 1971 recording, originally titled “Hermeto” and reissued later as “Brazilian Adventure.” This is a beautiful jazz ballad, and I consider it the jazziest of the pieces on this recording. Mike plays the steel-string guitar, and we both had fun exploring the changes, the space, and the mood of this piece.

8. Tertúlia
The word is an old one, meaning a gathering where music is played. Hermeto had this piece composed when I met him in 1977, and his Grupo did a version of it, titled “Crianças (Cuida de Lá),” with bottles in the Brasil Universo record we did for Som da Gente in 1985. Here we are again joined by Hermeto on melodica. This piece has two contrasting parts, one bright baião and a lament-like second part in a melodic minor mode, giving it a mysterious Eastern vibe. Aaron Johnston again added some beautiful percussion here.

9. Joyce
This waltz was composed in 1988 and dedicated to the singer/composer Joyce, who was visiting us at our rehearsal space in Hermeto’s house in Rio. Hermeto would often honor guests by composing some music for them when they visited us. Here Mike plays the nylon-string guitar, I added a subtle harmonium pad, and the vibe is again very lyrical and deep...

10. Roseando
This choro was composed in 1979, and it demonstrates how well Hermeto writes for the flute, an instrument that he totally masters. For me, it was a big challenge to record this on flute, and I also wrote a little flute chorus arrangement to accompany the solo section. I recorded it on three flutes and an alto flute. It came out so pretty that we decided to use it as an opening to the track.

11. Sept. 1
Another tune from the Calendário do Som. We did it as a swing waltz, shifting to a 6/8 afro groove during the piano solos. I really like the 4 over 3 feel of the fade-out section, and once again Aaron Johnston helped us out in a great way.

12. Floresta (Forest)
This is a beautiful tune that Hermeto wrote back in 1979, and we intended to do it as a duo. I recorded an intro on piano, and then we both felt that it should be just that, a solo piano track...

13. Santa Catarina
This waltz, dedicated to the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, was recorded by us (with Hermeto’s Group) on Lagoa da Canoa, Município de Arapiraca (Som da Gente, 1984). For this recording, we decided to start with a little improvised baroque duo, leading into the main theme. I also added some low harmonium lines as a counterpoint.

Listen to music by Jovino Santos Neto.

Mike Marshall & Jovino Santos Neto: Serenata | The Music of Hermeto Pascoal
(Adventure Music AM1001 2; 2003) 52:10 min.

All compositions by Hermeto Pascoal

01. Sertão Alagoano
02. Quanto Mais Longe, Mais Perto
03. Serenata
04. July 17
05. Saudades do Brasil [Modinha]
06. Hino da Princesa Eterna
07. Os Guizos
08. Tertúlia
09. Joyce
10. Roseando
11. Sept. 1
12. Floresta
13. Santa Catarina

Mike Marshall: mandolin, guitars & bozouki
Jovino Santos Neto: piano, flutes

John Santos: percussion
Michael Spiro: percussion
Aaron Johnston: percussion

Special guest
Hermeto Pascoal: bass flute, melodica


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