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


It’s oh so sweet to be able to say “I told you so.”

A Modernidade da Tradição is released for the third time,
and now they’re finally listening.

Daniella Thompson

16 July 2008


On 9 November 1997, I had a life-changing experience at Rasputin Music in Berkeley. It was there that a CD by an unknown singer called Marcos Sacramento caught my eye. What piqued my interest was the title: A Modernidade da Tradição. Flipping to the back cover, I was equally intrigued by the song selection, which offered unusual pairings of classic sambas with contemporary MPB. And although I had never heard of the vocalist, the musicians involved—Mauricio Carrilho on musical direction, arrangements & guitar and Marcos Suzano on percussion—put a stamp of quality on the enterprise.

I bought the CD along with four others. It wasn’t the first one I listened to that day, but it’s certainly the one that I played most often in the days, months, and years to come. Even before listening to the music, I reported to my favorite listserv at the time, Saudades do Brasil: “As yet unheard. The title was irresistible to me. Contains songs by Noel Rosa, Assis Valente, Nelson Cavaquinho, Ataulfo Alves, Paulinho, Chico, Caetano, and other immortals. Arranged by Mauricio Carrilho (Buda Musique).”

When I finally put the disc in the CD player, the promise of the cover was not only fulfilled. It was transformative. No singer since João Gilberto had affected me as much as this obscure Sacramento. I fired off another e-mail to Saudades do Brasil, touting a great discovery and recommending immediate purchase. Bostonian musician David Rumpler, an experienced Brazil hand, responded positively. He mentioned his attempts to track Sacramento down in Rio, and told me about the original edition of A Modernidade da Tradição, released by the defunct Saci in 1994, and about Sacramento’s participation in the album Estácio e Flamengo. (See the Marcos Sacramento Discography.)

Shortly after this auspicious beginning, I departed on a long winter trip spanning several continents and culminating with several weeks in Brazil. Before leaving home, I had been able to secure another copy of the Buda release and proudly presented it to my Brazilian host. In fact, as soon as I set foot in the host’s apartment, I insisted on playing the CD. Little was I prepared for what was to come. The host pronounced dismissively that Sacramento “sings like Chico Buarque.” Why? Because the first track includes Chico’s “A Volta do Malandro” in a medley with the classic samba “Largo da Lapa” (Wilson Batista/Marino Pinto).

That was the beginning of the end for that friendship. A few years later, when I offered to buy that rare copy back from my host, he refused. I’ll always suspect that the refusal emerged out of sheer meanness.

The year 1998 was devoted to scouring the earth for every scrap of music ever recorded by Marcos Sacramento. When Rodney Mello, editor of Brazzil, invited me to write for the magazine, I tracked down Sacramento through mutual connections. The result was the article “Magic Marcos.” Later came a website, more articles, disc reviews, and radio programs.

Years passed, A Modernidade da Tradição kept its permanent place on my desert-island list, but few others knew about it or about its singer.

Eventually, Sacramento started releasing discs on Biscoito Fino, and the Brazilian press finally discovered him in 2004. Four years later, his reputation secured by Memorável Samba and Sacramentos, the time was finally right to reissue his earlier pearl, which had long ago gone out of print both in Brazil and in Europe.

This time around, there’s far more splash. Take as an example Julio Daio Borges’ review in Digestivo Cultural published two days ago:

What can you say about the best other than that it is simply “the best”? Perhaps, to vary it, we can say that Marcos Sacramento was already “perfect” when he started, in 1994, with A Modernidade da Tradição, reissued now by Biscoito Fino. In the wave of Chico Buarque covers (even the composer can’t stand it anymore), Sacramento unseats all others with probably the definitive interpretation of “A Volta do Malandro,” which he aptly attaches to “Largo da Lapa” by Wilson Batista. [...] A Modernidade da Tradição lends itself to repeated (and varied) listening sessions, at a time when hardly any release can stand up to a few turns on the Victrola.

In comments under the review, two Johnny-come-latelys vie for the honor of being called Sacramento’s No. 1 fan.

And so it goes.

Here’s a review written by Aquiles Rique Reis, of the famed vocal group MPB4. It will appear in various Brazilian newspapers this weekend:

A voice, a guitar, and a thousand percussions

A Modernidade da Tradição, a CD of Marcos Sacramento made in partnership with the guitar of Mauricio Carrilho and the percussion of Marcos Suzano, is in reality the reissue of the work recorded by the trio in September 1994, musically produced by Carrilho and Maurício Tapajós less than a year before the latter’s death.

For Tapajós I open a parenthesis: in the middle of his indefatigable battle for music and musicians, Maurício died—great composer (“Mudando de Conversa” with Hermínio Bello de Carvalho; “Tô Voltando” and “Pesadelo” with Paulo Cesar Pinheiro); director of shows (Elis Regina’s Transversal do Tempo); militant and leader distinguished in the struggles for the rights of authors and workers (director of the Sindicato dos Músicos do Rio de Janeiro and president of AMAR—Associação de Músicos, Arranjadores e Regentes), and producer of talents that the industry was not hearing. Full of saudade, I close the parenthesis.

Reissued by Biscoito Fino, A Modernidade da Tradição is a singer, a guitarist, a percussionist and their sonorities.

Marcos Sacramento is an interpreter apart. His fine tuning has swing; his breathing is one with the rhythmic divisions, always of very good taste; his vibrato, used with parsimony and knowhow, accentuates the emotion that is always present in every phrase he sings. A Singer!

Marcos Suzano is the most perfect translation of the modern instrumentalist. He relies on traditional percussions to create instigating modernities and intense batuques. His pandeiro is transformed into a bateria. In his hands, the moringa echoes like a drum. From his snare drum comes a loud call that gathers everyone. The triangle transforms into a thousand sounds geometrically opposed to all that is square. From the berimbau comes the toque that, along with the tantã, gives a Brazilian flavor to the black soul of the rhythm.

Mauricio Carrilho continues as the album’s musical director and the arranger whose harmonies possess what the CD carries in its title, tradition and modernity, and who makes use of his vast guitar to enrich what Sacramento sings. Each of his six strings unites under the support of the instrumentalist’s fingers to create chords that could have been originally created by the composers as they can have been inverted and remade by him to the flavor of his creativity.

The repertoire is the CD’s forte. It has the mark of someone who knows Brazilian music and is intimate with it. The choice of little-known sambas by Noel Rosa (“Pela Décima Vez”), Paulinho da Viola & Sergio Natureza (“Vela no Breu”), Wilson Batista & Marino Pinto (“Largo da Lapa”), and Nelson Cavaquinho & Guilherme Brito (“Mulher Sem Alma”); of songs that still haven’t received the attention they merit, “A Volta do Malandro” (Chico Buarque) and “Genipapo Absoluto” (Caetano Veloso); or of the classics “Meu Moreno Fez Bobagem” (Assis Valente), “Canto das Três Raças” (Mauro Duarte & Paulo Cesar Pinheiro), and “Lábios Que Beijei” (J. Cascata & Leonel Azevedo) confirms it.

Impressive how Sacramento sings “Canto das Três Raças,” immortalized by Clara Nunes. Carrilho’s arrangement is simple and brilliant. Suzano’s percussion enters, with only pandeiro and moringa. The guitar intones the song created by Paulo Pinheiro. Sacramento approaches this first song. The guitar vibrates as if it were praying for exaltation. The snare drum calls out the thousand hands of Suzano beating delicately and emotionally on everything that makes sound and that is within his reach. The voice doubled in the low register carries the song to the end. Emotion!

Another thing: the voice and guitar alone are more than sufficient to pull forth some silly tears from anyone who hears Sacramento sing the dolorous verses that Guilherme Brito created for the sad melody of Nelson Cavaquinho. And yet another: the guitar marks. The pandeiro beats. The voice intones the brilliance of “Vela no Breu.”

A singer whose personality demonstrates that everything he sings comes to light with meaning and soul, Marcos Sacramento is what Caetano says when concluding “Genipapo Absoluto”:

Pois minha mãe é minha voz
Como será que isso era
Este som/ Que hoje sim
Gera sóis dói em dós.

Aquiles Rique Reis, musician and vocalist of MPB4

A Modernidade da Tradição
(Biscoito Fino BF 841; reissue of the 1994 CD) 2008

Listen to this album on radio

01. A Volta do Malandro (Chico Buarque)
      Largo da Lapa (Wilson Batista/Marino Pinto)
02. Pela Décima Vez (Noel Rosa)
      Fez Bobagem (Assis Valente)
03. Mulher Sem Alma (Nelson Cavaquinho/Guilherme de Brito)
04. Morena (Mauricio Carrilho/Paulo Cesar Pinheiro)
05. Olhar Brasileiro (Eduardo Dusek/Luís Carlos Góes)
06. Canto das Três Raças (Mauro Duarte/Paulo Cesar Pinheiro)
07. Lábios que Beijei (J. Cascata/Leonel Azevedo)
08. Vela no Breu (Paulinho da Viola/Sergio Natureza)
09. Dos Prazeres das Canções (Pericles Cavalcanti)
      Genipapo Absoluto (Caetano Veloso)
10. Infidelidade (Ataulfo Alves)
11. Apoteose do Samba (Mano Décio da Viola/Silas de Oliveira)


Copyright © 2008 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.