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


Sardines, samba, choro, jazz

Pagode Jazz Sardinha’s Club straddles the genres.

Daniella Thompson

4 September 2004

If Brazilian jazz has ever been haunted by a stigma, bossa nova is its name. Too often—especially outside Brazil—the two are assumed to be one, the former inseparable from the latter. Pagode Jazz Sardinha’s Club’s recent disc gives the lie to this myth once again, offering jazz based on traditional samba, as well as on other hard-driving native and imported genres. Everything but bossa nova.

The band’s approach has always been eclectic (read about its formation). In its latest album, Sardinhas, this group of crack musicians blends straight-ahead and Latin jazz, funk, rap, samba, soul, gafieira, and choro in a format that is thoroughly contemporary yet displays strong ties to urban musical traditions of the past.

The mix is made possible by the group’s versatile lineup, which includes Rodrigo Lessa on bandolim, banjo, cavaquinho & guitars; Bernardo Bosísio on guitar; Eduardo Neves on saxophones, flutes & piccolo; Roberto Marques on trombone & bombardino; Edson Menezes on bass; Xande Figueiredo on drums; and Marcos Esguleba on percussions.

As in their first, eponymous album, the repertoire here is heavily based on compositions by founding band members Lessa and Neves. The disc opens on a danceable gafieira note with “Chave de Cadeia,” followed by funky Latin jazz in “Clube Savana.” Next there’s a star appearance by sambista Zeca Pagodinho in the band’s signature tune, “Pagode Jazz Sardinha’s Club,” which is augmented with rap interventions hurled forth in that rounded, oily, black carioca inflection. The lyrics live very much in the present, enumerating the hardships of contemporary life.

Pagode Jazz Sardinha’s Club
(Rodrigo Lessa/Eduardo Neves/
Mauro Aguiar)

Entrego a alma de bandeja
a quem quiser pechinchar
Não vou ficar no ora veja
atrás de colher-de-chá
Biscate e bico tá bom?
Se tá!
Tá pra lá de bom. Tô lá!
Se eu perco o fio da meada
o fim do mês me destrói.
Eu não nasci pra rei, sou rato,
e nessa é o rei que me rói.
Difícil é ter que bancar
Sem pestanejar
Se dói.
Perdoa amor
Se empenho o meu coração
É que eu não tenho um tostão
E a prestação me enforcou.
Vendo assim
Nosso amor
Parece que não tem fim
No fundo é calça de brim
Em banca de camelô.
Tô batalhando algum trocado
enquanto o mar não dá pé
Até cortando um bom dobrado
ando passando o boné.
Cansei de caraminguá
Pois é...
Vou terceirizar a fé.
No meu pagode até sardinha
de balcão manda jazz
Quem não pode entrar na minha
mete a mão pelos pés
Tem que se globalizar demais
E tem que suar por dez.
Desculpe amor
Se eu fico aqui com você
Tô me arriscando a perder
Um trampo que já pintou.
Tanto amor
Carece de Marketing
E ando freelance de mim,
Nosso romance acabou.

Pagode Jazz Sardinha’s Club
(Translation: Daniella Thompson/
Guido Assao)

I’m handing my soul on a tray to
anyone who wants to haggle;
I won’t do it
the easy way.
Will an odd job do?
Will it?!
It’ll do, and how. I’m game!
If I lose my way, the end
of the month will get me.
I wasn’t born to be king, I’m a rat,
and it’s the king who gnaws me.
What’s tough is playing
The hero
Without blinking;
It hurts like hell.
Forgive me, love,
If I pawn my heart.
It’s just that I’m penniless,
And the debts have choked me.
Seen like this,
Our love
Has no end in sight.
At bottom it’s blue jeans
On a street vendor’s stall.
I’m struggling for loose change
while the sea gives no toehold;
Even doing double my best,
I end up passing the hat.
No more knick-knacks;
I’ll farm out the faith.
In my pagode even sardines
from the counter play jazz.1
He who can’t follow me
gets mixed-up;
He has to become globalized
And sweat for ten.
Excuse me, love.
If I stay here with you,
I’m risking the loss of
A promised job.
So much love
Demands marketing.
I’m freelancing myself;
Our romance is over.

1. The authors were inspired to
compose this song while seated
at a bar in central Rio’s Beco
das Sardinhas, an area known
for the quality of the sardines offered
at its botecos.

The samba-choro “Samba Castiço” reties the link to the past, albeit in a thoroughly modern way. Helping keep time are Paulão 7 Cordas on seven-string guitar and Celsinho Silva on pandeiro and tamborim, while flute and trombone take turns with the melodic lines.

The next track is a surprise: flute and muted trombone introduce the preamble to Chico Buarque’s “Joana Francesa.” A tenor sax launches into the melody ever so tenderly, with a riposte from the trombone. Now comes a pure jazz improv on the electric guitar before the sax returns. Bandolins and flute intervene. The sax lets it all fade out. Chico has never sounded so jazzy.

From the mellow to the agitated: “José do Egito” (he of the coat of many colors) is a rousing jazz-choro with exclamatory vocal chorus and frenetic passages interspersed with spoken passages (from the Bible?). And back to the mellow, in the choro-rhythmed “O Dia em que Ela Chegou,” co-authored by Roberto Marques and Eduardo Neves, who play a three-way dialog with the bandolim.

Famed percussionist Esguleba takes center stage in his brief but energetic samba “Suíngue Envolvente,” complete with voice, whistles, and no fewer than fourteen percussion instruments. Equally famous percussionist Trambique joins as special guest. These two make enough noise to sound like a full-fledged escola de samba’s bateria. This is followed by a long and jazzy ska called “Gente de Ilha” and dedicated not to Jamaicans but to residents of Ilha do Governador in Rio de Janeiro. The theme and improvisations are divided between alto sax and trombone, which at times come together in a counterpoint. Midway, a ripple of bateria moves across, to remind us that this is Brazilian music.

“Maxixe, Neném!!!” is the delightful title of an equally delightful maxixe—a real one, although composed by living musicians. It provides the opprtunity to show off mothballed instruments like the bombardino and the banjo. In contrast, the bouncy “Chorinho de Gafieira” is a real oldie (the only one on this disc) by trombonist and bandleader Astor Silva (1922–1968). These two sandwich “Choro Transgênico,” a hovering meditation for alto sax and trombone with strong assistance from an insistent cuíca.

The penultimate track is a medley of three well-known Zeca Pagodinho sambas, with the guest participations of Paulão, Trambique, Osvaldo Cavalo (tamborim), and a rowdy chorus. Ex-Sardinha Lula Galvão joins his former bandmates on the final number, the funky “Olhos d’Além Mar.” When the hour is over, you know you’ve been somewhere.

Pagode Jazz Sardinha’s Club: Sardinhas
(Independent 109.805/Rob Digital; 2004) 62:46 min.

01. Chave de Cadeia (Rodrigo Lessa)
02. Clube Savana (Eduardo Neves/Rodrigo Lessa)
03. Pagode Jazz Sardinha’s Club (Eduardo Neves/Rodrigo Lessa/Mauro Aguiar)
04. Samba Castiço (Eduardo Neves/Rodrigo Lessa)
05. Joana Francesa (Chico Buarque)
06. José do Egito (Eduardo Neves/Rodrigo Lessa)
07. O Dia em que Ela Chegou (Roberto Marques/Eduardo Neves)
08. Suíngue Envolvente (Marcos Esguleba)
09. Gente de Ilha (Eduardo Neves/Rodrigo Lessa)
10. Maxixe, Neném!!! (Eduardo Neves/Roberto Marques/Rodrigo Lessa)
11. Choro Transgênico (Eduardo Neves/Rodrigo Lessa)
12. Chorinho de Gafieira (Astor Silva)
13. Não Sou Mais Disso (Jorge Aragão/Zeca Pagodinho)
      Faixa Amarela (Jessé Pai/Luiz Carlos/Beto Gago/Zeca Pagodinho)
      O Feijão de Dona Neném (Arlindo Cruz/Zeca Pagodinho)
14. Olhos d’Além Mar (Rodrigo Lessa/Eduardo Neves)


Copyright © 2004–2008 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.