Portland's classic bossa and Brazilian jazz band

Brasil Summerfest • New York City

August 3, 2019

This year (2019), Brasil Summerfest takes place from July 21-August 3, and I’ve been trying to fill my ears up with as much music as I can.

First up was the Amaro Freitas Trio at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. (I hadn’t been there in a while, so it was a new thing to go through the metal detector!) Freitas was on piano performing a set of original compositions with bassist Jean Elton and Hugo Medeiros on drums. I was struck by the young pianist’s astonishing energy and endurance; at times, he reminded me of Don Pullen. Freitas maximized the piano’s percussive characteristics; at one point, he pounded on the upper register to imitate agogo bells.

The music was dramatic and sometimes almost maniacal; chords ringing from the piano sounded like a possessed grandfather clock. Two back-to-back slower numbers provided a lyrical respite. I was reminded of another young Brazilian piano virtuoso, Andre Mehmari – while the two pianists differ greatly in style and approach, they both share a penchant for humor, tight trio synchronization, a fondness for through-composed sections, comfort with odd meters, and chops that could easily tackle any Chopin etude.

Freitas has two albums on Far Out Records.

The next day, I attempted to hear Minas- born singer-songwriter Tulipa Ruiz, who was performing with her guitarist brother. Unfortunately, due to an odd policy at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, I wasn’t able to hear very much — the ushers allowed only a couple listeners in at a time. When I was finally allowed to enter the hall, only two rock-influenced songs remained. Fortunately,  the beautiful Ruiz, clad in a metallic silver gown, was a generous and engaging performer. She was creative with her operatic voice, manipulating her vibrato in intriguing ways. At the end of the show, she walked through the audience, singing a wordless, three-note phrase.

On August 2, I went over to the Kitano (I hadn’t been there since they moved the music downstairs) to see the Duduka da Fonseca Quartet with Helio Alves on piano, Peter Washington on bass, and Scott Robinson on reeds (Duduka da Fonseca is one of the best Brazilian jazz drummers; he has an amazing group called Trio da Paz). I was really excited to hear this show especially because of Alves, who is always a real pleasure to hear. He plays with tremendous facility and precision. The quartet performed a set that included Milton Nascimento’s Vera Cruz, Joao Bosco’s Bala Com Bala, Jobim’s Portrait in Black and White, and two compositions by Dom Salvador: Maria (for his wife) and Gafieira. Fonseca also played a beautiful composition that he had written for his grandmother. The quartet played for a good hour and a half without losing energy, interest, or the attention of the audience.

Since the New York Botanical Garden is closed on Mondays. I used my Sunday to travel there to check out the Roberto Burle Marx exhibit, which today included a percussion and capoeira performance by Bronx Capoeira. The exhibit, which is on through September 29, features an outdoor installation including a walkway and fountain, placards imprinted with a selection of Brazilian poetry, various plants native to Brazil, and several paintings and sketches of Marx’s.

I had meant to go over to the River Cafe to hear the legendary 81-year-old pianist Dom Salvador at the River Cafe – he’s still there four nights a week. However, I will have to save this musical delight for a future trip.





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