Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Diversity of Music in Sao Paulo

November 26, 2011

I have to do a very short post tonight as I was too busy at the race track in Interlagos and then went back into town and had a superb evening with a Brazilian musician, which I will write about tomorrow. But all of which meant that I have returned late and have no time to do the full post I intended. Suffice it to say that on my first full evening in Sao Paulo I walked through the streets of Pinheiros and Vila Madalena and went from one music place to another, and heard a HUGE variety of music.

From the solo guitar player singers in empty restaurants doing Brazilian music to the country duets in slightly crazier restaurant bars to the wild clubbing music piped into bars with clients spilling out into the streets to…. Take a breath… the crappy restaurant where I ate my crappy dinner simply because I was attracted to the pretty cool band that played all the rock standards – check out their Rolling Stones song on the video here… To finally returning to the Club CEM that I had visited last year and listening to several very interesting Brazilian traditional bands.

The Club CEM has a wonderful atmosphere of a loft, garage, venue. It is run by the pianist named Paulo, known under the stage name of Kannec. I jammed there last year with an interesting guitar player, but this year I returned anonymously and decided to listen to the evening’s musicians. It was a very, very open mic-like atmosphere but there had been several bands and singers booked in advance in an evening that appeared to be a showcase for local artists. All pretty much traditional acoustic music. But I just loved the vibe.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about the interesting young Brazilian who has been whipping up a whirlwind of talk around his just-released new CD.

How I Missed the Lua Nova, but Found the Club Cem and Discovered “The Kid”

November 8, 2010

I am sitting in a Starbucks in Sao Paulo and I’m in a huge rush to get to the airport. But I wanted to close off, end, finish this Sao Paulo tale, especially to draw to a conclusion the story of the Hunt for the Lua Nova bar and jam session.

Yes, this is a crazy story. I have just a very short time to write it before I go to the airport. So I will be as pithy as possible. Who could believe that in five days of efforts to find the Lua Nova, I actually ended up walking right into it and not realizing I was there, so I left and continued looking for it, and then found a completely different venue.

Here’s what happened: As you know from the previous posts, I have been hunting every day since arriving in Sao Paulo for the Lua Nova bar, where I had an all-night jam on the Sunday of the Formula One race last year. I almost thought it was a figment of my imagination as it no longer seemed to exist. In the end, I found what looked like the bar, but closed down.

So I gave up, or almost. Last night I returned, however, to the Artur Azevedo street and passed Finnegan’s and continued on toward where the Lua Nova used to be. Not long after passing the closed down Finnegan’s Pub, however, on the same sidewalk, I noticed a bar/restaurant, and I heard the distinct sound of some Brazilian music coming from inside. A few people stood outside smoking cigarettes, and I entered the bar to check out the music.

The place was pretty full of clients at tables all over the place, and at one table near the back sat a guy playing a classical guitar with some pretty bouncy Brazilian rhythms and he sang along. Another person played some kind of bongo drum. My immediate thought, my instantaneous feeling was that I had found another jam session with the same vibe as the Lua Nova. I moved in a little closer to take a look to see if maybe I might even recognize the guitar player/singer as one of the people from last year. Could it be, I wondered, if some of the musicians who had played at the Lua Nova jam had moved up the street to this bar to play, since it seemed the Lua Nova was closed.

Well, I did not recognize the musician. And I was keen to see if somehow the Lua Nova might have magically re-opened only on Sunday night. And Since there seemed only to be one musician here at the moment, I felt like I might really be intruding on this situation if I approached with my guitar. So I decided I would move on and look for the Lua Nova up the street, and if I still found it closed, I would continue deep into Vila Madalena to see if I could find another Sunday night jam. After all, if I had seen Lua Nova last year, and then in this bar near Finnegan’s there were people playing around a table like that, maybe there were more jams than I thought.

Up the street, same result at the former Lua Nova bar. All closed down, soon to be a paper shop. No luck, I had to accept that I would not have my jam session at the Lua Nova. But I decided I would continue into Vila Madalena, and then return to the bar near Finnegan’s to see if that jam had developed and maybe I could take part in it.

But as I entered Vila Madalena I passed a club where I had heard some great samba music last year, and had not entered to listen. This time, the front door was open, a man stood there with a guitar case, and from within I heard some sublime guitar music. I poked my head inside to see if it was someone playing live music. There were several other people at the entrance, and they asked me if I liked the guitar music. I said I did, and I asked if it was live.

“No, he’s long dead,” they said. “It’s just a recording.”

We got to talking. They saw my guitar, they asked me about me, my music, etc., and I asked them about the club. I have to keep this short, remember, so let me conclude quickly. Brazil, as Vanessa said in the previous post, is an open mic.

Bit by bit, things pieced together, and I found myself inside this venue, which I learned was called Club CEM, and which has existed 8 years., It is owned and run by a guy named Paulo Kannec, who is also a pianist. It is only for Brazilian music, and the club was now closed for the night. But since they LOVE music, and they were curious and open, Paulo invited me in to show me around his club. It has a high-ceiling, it is a kind of loft-like place, but it has a cute little stage of wood and on it a piano, amplifiers, microphones, spotlights. I loved it, and Paulo was keen to hear my music.

So he invited me to play, and he invited the guitarist to play along with me. So that’s how I ended up playing in one of the coolest clubs in Vila Madalena last night, doing my song Borderline, doing Crazy Love and doing Just Like A Woman. And the guitar player played a seven string classical guitar along with me. Just our private concert and jam session together. He played a little of his own stuff, but we had to stop because the club was closed, after all, and they had to clean the floor.

The guitar player was Joao Nepomueceno, and I really liked his style. We exchanged contact information and will see each other when he comes to Paris in June.

But I also met a piano player named Pedro. And he is the one who made the DVD of the guitar music that had attracted me to poke my head in in the first place. We discussed that music, and he told me that it was a Brazilian guitar player from the 40s and 50s, who is one of Brazil’s best kept secrets. A genius guitar player named, Garoto, which means, “The Kid.” He was called “The Kid” as a nickname because he was playing professional since the age of 8, but he was too young of course to play in bars…and they called him “The Kid.” The music on the DVD was apparently produced by Egberto Gismonte, and the DVD has images on it that Pedro had put together. In any case, I look forward to listening to it on the flight back to Paris, as Pedro decided to give me the DVD!

I left the Club CEM feeling like I was walking on the clouds again. But that was in my head. My feet, on the other hand, were a bloodbath of blisters from all the walking I had done over the previous five nights. I decided I would walk back past that bar near Finnegan’s where I had heard the guitarist. But as I walked along and realized I had another perhaps 3 kilometers walk to go, and my feet were in a horrendous pain, I decided that I should take a cab, return to the hotel, my mission was accomplished.

It was only this morning when I awoke that I found a comment on my previous post from a woman named Vania, whom I had met at the Lua Nova last year. She had been the only person there who had really spoken any good English, and she was the one who filled me in on what was happening there that night.

Vania sent a comment to my post, and also an email to my personal email address. It turned out that I had been right about the Lua Nova. It had been closed down, and I had found it. What I did not realize, however, was that the bar I walked into last night was in fact, the new location of the Lua Nova, and the man I had seen and heard was playing in what was the beginning of the Sunday night jam. It turned out that Vania had seen me enter the bar, had recognized me, but I had left the place too soon for her to grab me. Had I passed back that way after the Club CEM, I would certainly have had my jam at the Lua Nova again, all night long.

The moral? Never give up. I should have pushed myself onwards after the Club CEM. But at least I got a good story out of it!!! And at least the jam session still exists, and at least my feelings about the open arms of Brazilian musicians has been reinforced. What a musical country! Hope I return next year, and if I do, I will play the jam at the Lua Nova, or at least contact Vania to find out where it is next year, if it has again moved. As she said, “Different location, same music!”

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