Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

World Travel 2012 Pithy Wrap Up Part I: Brazil

December 1, 2012

I left everyone hanging at just the worst moment, and I’m really sorry that you all lost sleep over it! I had just arrived in Sao Paulo for the last leg of my 20 country and every continent – except Africa and Antarctica – tour of 2012 and I wrote more details of my magical musical adventure in Austin, Texas. And then, suddenly, the man vanishes. As if eaten by the criminals of Sao Paulo. Where is the musical adventure of the Brazilian city of the samba and bossa nova and all that jazz?

Well, time just became too much with me. First, the reason this report is so late is that I had a two-day travel back from Sao Paulo via New York’s JFK airport, where I spent 11 hours working on my stories for my final work-related event of the year. That also consisted of two night flights. So I was really out of commission as far as this blog and music go, for days. Then upon my return, I had to sleep away Wednesday day in order to have the energy to play a gig on Wednesday night that suddenly materialized when I received a phone call as I arrived in the bus at the Sao Paul airport. That will be the subject of tomorrow’s blog item, that gig.

So I will return the final leg of my world open mic, open jam musical adventure. In fact, Sao Paulo ended on a down note on the final night. In the four years of this adventure readers of this blog will have noticed that I found only one true open jam session in Sao Paulo, and it takes place on the Sunday night and goes all night long. It has been one of the best open jam experiences I have ever had, and it is largely bossa nova and other Brazilian forms of music, played by professional and amateur musicians sitting all together around a table in a bar all night long. People join the jam as they please, drop out when they want, then return again.

This year, after I contacted one of my friends who takes part in the jam to find out if it was still taking place at the same location, I learned that in fact, no, it wasn’t. I had missed the jam two years ago after it had moved to a new location and I had not known how to find the new one. This time, I was told the jam had moved again and that on Sunday night, it would take place at around 8 PM in two different places, starting in one place and then moving to the other at around 22:00. Well, I had a load of work to do for the racing job I do, since the title was decided and it required a lot more writing than usual.

So I could only make it to the second location of the jam. I went out to dinner with my friend, the musician Bruno Santos, and after the meal he drove me over to the second location of the jam. We got there after midnight. We could see from the car that there were only two people in the place – one man with a guitar, and someone else. It was a bar in Vila Madalena, but it was clearly, clearly not a huge success, this jam. I asked Bruno to please just drive me back to my hotel, which was near his apartment. My thought was that if the jam DID get going, it would clearly take a couple of hours, and I did not want to risk staying up all night for what might not be so great.

Open mics and open jams are not a big part of the culture in Sao Paulo. I heard back from my friend that she had gone to the first place and stayed longer and it had been quite a success. She then went on to the second place, and I have to tell her still why I did not show up.

Okay. Now. I do not want my faithful – or even unfaithful – readers of this blog to think that my worldwide open mic and open jam adventure ended on a failure. In fact, I there is a complete other part to this year’s adventure, which I have mentioned several times on this blog, and in that area, the visit to Sao Paulo was a huge success. My goal this year, one of my projects, was to record myself on my little Roland R26 recorder playing music in every country I visited, playing with a local musician. This I succeeded at: 20 countries, including France (although I have to get back to that part in tomorrow’s post), and Brazil was no exception.

The first day I was there, on the Thursday, I went to the aforesaid Bruno’s apartment and we played music for hours. It represented the only break from work I have had for 3 weeks – aside from the open mics in Austin – and together we played my songs, with me on vocals and guitar, and Bruno accompanying on guitar, keyboards and drums. He also sang some of his songs. The part we recorded on the Roland was with me playing my song and singing and playing my guitar, and Bruno playing drums.

Unlike in any of the other countries where I recorded, however, this little experiment turned out to be massively productive, as we chose to play a song that I wrote recently, but for which there was still a question mark hanging over it as to whether I had truly found the right structure. Bruno listened to me play it a couple of times, then he played along. Then he said immediately that he thought he detected a problem. We discussed it, and while my first reaction was that I did not want to write more lyrics to it, my second reaction was that I suddenly realized I did NOT have to write more lyrics, but just change the order of the lyrics and parts of the song. So we did it again, with me changing the structural order but using exactly the same lyrics, verses, chorus and bridge. It worked better than ever.

Now, this was all possible because Bruno Santos – who was born in Brazil but grew up on just about every continent except the really cold one – is one kick-ass musician. I wrote extensively about him and his album last year, and he continues to develop his music and musicianship – the keyboards being a recent addition – and I predict a brilliant career for this guy. In fact, I know that his self-made album – where he plays all instruments and produced the thing himself – is selling steadily and has had huge media attention in Brazil.

So the long and short of this long and involved, if late, report, is that the Brazil weekend went beautifully in terms of me playing music in Brazil, and I COULD have played in that last Sunday night jam. But I decided for once that I had achieved enough, and needed sleep more than anything else in an effort at preparing for the coming two nights of sleep on the flights and days in the airports. I left Brazil walking on the clouds – literally – especially after that telephone call offering me the gig in Paris as soon as I arrived. More on my delight over that one, in tomorrow’s post.

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