Three generations of Brazilian jazz musicians celebrate Carnival in Aspen
What: Brazilian Carnival with Vinicius Gomes, Valtinho and Jamile
Where: JAS Cafe at Local Coffee House
When: Friday and Saturday, 7 and 9:15 p.m.
Tickets: Sold out
More info: Waitlist open at JazzAspenSnowmass.org
There is more to Brazilian music than bossa nova and samba. For a crash course on those deeper and wider recent pop traditions, pull up a seat and listen to guitarist Vinicius Gomes.
“Bossa nova is one face of the prism that is Brazilian music,” Gomes, who is leading a trio at the JAS Cafe at Local Coffee House this weekend, said in a recent phone interview from New York.
For this Mardi Gras weekend, Jazz Aspen Snowmass is hosting Gomes, percussionist Valtinho Anastacio and singer Jamile Ayres for four shows celebrating the sounds of the Brazilian Carnival tradition.
“We’re going to play a lot of well-known tunes and things that we love to play in the standard repertoire,” Gomes said.
The show is a feast for connoisseurs of the Brazilian and for anybody looking for a party-friendly soundtrack to toast Carnival. For Gomes and his bandmates, it is also a chance to open up some ears to the rich Brazilian tradition.
“Brazil is a special place musically and culturally because — apart from the U.S. and Cuba — it’s maybe the only place that has its own songbook,” he said.
Anybody who walks into a jazz club is going to know what a bossa nova is. But beyond that, the sounds of Carnival, of Brazilian jazz and of the deep Brazilian songbook are likely less familiar. A deep-dive on Brazilian sounds like sertanejo and forró are only an internet search away. Gomes wants to help listeners discover and appreciate songwriters like Milton Nascimento, who he calls the “Brazilian Gershwin,” and João Bosco and to fall in love with long-established popular music traditions of Brazil.
“For us I think it’s our duty as musicians — especially here in New York and the U.S. — to broaden the audience’s awareness,” he said.
Percussion and rhythm are so often what listeners associate with the Brazilian sound, but the melodies have often been equally as influential, Gomes noted.
“This post-bossa nova Brazilian music, these guys influenced the way Herbie (Hancock) composes and Wayne (Shorter) composes,” Gomes said, noting how many chords from the Brazilians trends of the ‘70s ended up in jazz fusion bands of the day like Weather Report.
Gomes arrived in the U.S. less than three years ago, settling in New York after studying music in his native Brazil — he was born and raised in São Paulo — and gaining his first international attention in Europe.
After studying music at the University of São Paulo, Gomes won a year-long residency in Basel, Switzerland in 2018. From there he got a post teaching music to undergraduates at New York University, which landed him in New York shortly before the pandemic. The timing turned out to have its creative advantages. The best jazz musicians in the city, Gomes noted, normally are out touring the world and hustling between jobs. The pandemic’s shutdown of the live music industry and international travel kept them in New York.
“There were no gigs,” he said. “But suddenly you had all these amazing musicians that are usually traveling all the time and they’re just here. So I started playing sessions with every musician that I always wanted to play with.”
Among them are the two who are joining him in Aspen for the new trio premiering at the JAS Cafe.
“We’re all from three generations of Brazilian music and we all converged here in New York,” Gomes explained.
Jamile Ayres is a young jazz vocalist who has recently been making the rounds in New York at taste-making jazz clubs like Birdland, Mezzrow and MInton’s.
Drummer Valtinho Anastacio, a fixture of the New York jazz club circuit for the past 35 years,
specializes in the percussion traditions of Brazil, playing instruments like the pandeiro, tamborim, caxixis and berimbau. He has played alongside with an earlier generation of jazz greats including pianist McCoy Tyner, with whom he played on two Grammy-winning albums in the early 1990s.
He and Gomes have been playing together frequently in recent years, though the Aspen shows are the first time these three have played together for an audience.
“It feels fresh and familiar at the same time,” Gomes said of the new group. “It’s super exciting. I’m happy to bring this music to Aspen. It’s going to be very special. There is so much for us to show and explore that is exciting.”
They lead a JAS Cafe lineup that is, after some pandemic-bred cancellations, hitting its stride this spring with a three-concert lineup starting with this Brazilian combo. The guitarist and singer Raul Midon headlines March 11 and 12, followed by the organ player Joey Defrancesco’s new trio with Anwar Marshall and Luas Brown on March 25 and 26. All of the shows will be hosted in the cozy confines of Local Coffee House, the sole venue for this winter’s JAS Cafe lineup.
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