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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.

Jamming With Bruno Santos in Sao Paulo

November 27, 2011

Bruno Santos

Bruno Santos

One of the most rewarding aspects of my musical adventures around the world is the building up of a musical web of friends and fellow musicians – particularly the latter – especially those of the peripatetic kind like me. That is to say, meeting a musician at an open mic in Paris who I subsequently run into in Singapore or Tokyo or Shanghai or, as with this weekend, in Sao Paulo.

I’ve recounted on this blog such meetings as all of those mentioned above – most recently One Bourbon One Beer at the open mic in Tokyo – and a new twist was added to that sort of tale this weekend when I met up with Bruno Santos over the last couple of nights here in Sao Paulo. As we spent time together talking about our various projects and jamming (and I also interviewed Bruno for my open mic film) we learned that we had more connections than we thought, aside from those in Paris where we met at Earle’s open mic at the Lizard Lounge in 2008.

Bruno is a Brazilian now based in Sao Paulo, and with two Brazilian parents. But he grew up around the world, and has lived on every continent except Antarctica and in such notable places as Australia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, England and Los Angeles – where he studied music – and a stint travelling around Europe playing music in open mics, which was when we met. As we spoke, we discovered we had both played in some of the same places in Singapore as well, notably the Crazy Elephant, where we had met some of the same people, like its jam organizer, John Chee.

As it turns out, Bruno, who is 25, has just begun to break out in a big way musically and in the media in Brazil. We had communicated periodically over Facebook since we met three years ago, but this was the first time we met again, and I happened to step back into his world at a very exciting moment: All of the major Brazilian newspapers, popular magazines and trade magazines – such as Billboard in Brazil – are writing big feature stories about Bruno and his self-produced album. He has also made appearances on national television.

Why all the attention? Well, it’s a very interesting story, and the music is damned good too. Basically, Bruno decided to return to live in Sao Paulo – and study at a prestigious business shool, by the way – to rebuild his roots in the native country in which he spent so little time of his life. But he also had this project going for a while for the solo album, entitled, “Time To Tell,” which he recorded in Rio, and partly in London and Sao Paulo.

The album is recorded entirely in English, as Bruno’s English is impeccable, since he grew around the world with his diplomat father and violinist mother, attending international schools. But the real catch, the real story behind the album, which has been exciting the media, is that Bruno did absolutely everything all by himself: He recorded the album with his own recording equipment, he wrote the lyrics and music to the 12 songs, and above all he plays all the instruments – beautifully – from the acoustic and electric guitars to the electric and fretless bass guitars, the drums, whistles, harmonica and other percussion, and even the back-up vocals to his fresh and melodious lead vocals.

But the personal side does not stop there: He had the CDs manufactured so professionally that there is virtually no difference in aspect to a CD from any of the majors. Of course, he credits an art director and designer and a photographer too, and although he did the engineering – he studied sounding engineering in London – and the digital editing and the mixing, he also credits someone helping him with that as well. Bruno found distributors for the physical product of the CD, and it is available around the world, and of course, in the top shops in Brazil.

His apartment near the famous Paulista avenue is rich in instruments, microphones, two drum sets, and a very clever studio in the room that is supposed to be the bedroom – you can see where his priorities lie.

So after a meal with Bruno and his friend Pati – pronounced Patchy in Portuguese – the first night, last night after my day at the racetrack, we got down to doing a little jamming together, both with cover songs and our own compositions. And Bruno gave me a lesson on using looping machines, which made me start to itch for that gadget for the first time.

All in all, it was a fantastic and unique sort of experience for me in Sao Paulo, as I had heretofore been condemned only to walking the streets looking for a jam – and now here I was with a bona fide Brazilian musician at his home, jamming. Well, let me take that back for a minute, Bruno is above all a bona fide international musician with Brazilian roots. And that is exactly what you take away from the music, some South American rhythms and feel to it, some jazz sound, some classic singer-songwriter feel and sound, interesting lyrics and great guitar and sense of time. Oh, and his voice is great on the falsettos too.

You can hear some of his music on his web site and also on Bruno’s SoundCloud space.

Anyway we might join up for a jam tonight in Pinheiros at the Sunday night jam I intend to go to, with other bona fide Brazilian musicians…. Let you know tomorrow or the next day when I return to Paris.

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