REVIEW: SEXTETO ZONA SUL/PANORAMA DO BRASIL at Stonnington Jazz, 8pm 17 May 2014 at Chapel Off Chapel
Brazilian choro (pronounced shoro) and maxixi (mashishi) were new to me, so I was hoping that the music would be accompanied by some explanations of the musical forms. I was not disappointed. The Chapel Off Chapel space was packed to hear Doug de Vries as an engaging advocate for the intricate and rhythmically strong choro regionale that he explained was gaining ground in Melbourne as well as being popular across the world.
The line-up for Sexteto Zona Sul was Doug de Vries (mandolin, tenor guitar), Ken Murray (guitar), Adam May (cavaquinho), Asha Henfry (flute, alto flute), Corey King (7-string guitar) and Al Kerr (pandeiro). The cavaquinho is a small stringed instrument with four wire or gut strings, similar perhaps to a ukulele. The pandeiro is a hand frame drum popular in Brazil. It can be tuned, and the rim holds metal jingles (platinelas) that are cupped, creating a crisper, drier and less sustained tone than on the tambourine.
The “sextet of the southern zone” treated us to choro sambas, maxixi — which de Vries said was an older form of choro that had a longer history of development than jazz — and tributes to Brazilian musicians, such as Yamanda Costa, who will be performing in Adelaide in July.
This was music requiring great skill from nimble-fingered players with impeccable timing and virtuosity. Sexteto Zona Sul delivered. Highlights of this set were the laid back choro piece Passatiempo (by Pixinguinha, I think), Moomba Maxixi (based on a dance so suggestive it was banned) featuring two cavanquinhos, Now Is the Time played in a quartet with flute and seven-string guitar and a mandolin and guitar duet for Samba pro Rapha (Yamandu Costa), a tribute to Raphael Rabello. And then there was my favourite for the set, a tribute to Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer by Mauricio Carrilho, in which all instruments stepped in and out, the varied-timbre strings combining beautifully with slow flute.
Sexteto Zona Sul is a talented ensemble and clearly one not to miss.
Next up was Panorama Do Brasil led by Al Kerr on drums and pandeiro, with Asha Henfry (flute, alto flute), Al Parsons (trombone), Matt Boden (piano) and Jorge Albuquerque (bass), plus special guest Doug de Vries (guitar).
Beforehand I’d read that Panorama do Brasil finds inspiration in Brazilian music with influences from the arid interior, the Amazonian basin, and the streets of Rio and Salvador.
Whereas in the first set I found myself marvelling at the finesse and dexterity of the players, in the second set I was grabbed and carried from the opening Canto Pra Oxum onwards. This music seemed to have a stronger vibe, with more propulsion and was, I think, more akin to the jazz with which I was familiar. Matt Boden’s piano contributed to this drive.
Alto flute vibrato, trombone and piano combined to great effect in the slow, drumless ballad Amparo, and sustained notes from flute and ‘bone complemented the playing of de Vries on guitar. Boden’s varied dynamics added a lot.
Parsons’ trombone was a treat in Wardrobophone, and the duet (or duel) between de Vries on guitar and Kerr on pandeiro in Num Pagode Em and Plana Hina almost stole the set. Not quite. Doug de Vries did that in a solo during the Baden Powell-inspired Afro-Sambas suite — it was superb. Risco featured Boden in an expression-filled solo and ended with flute and trombone in beautiful accord. Capocira de Carlos had Parsons digging in deep and Kerr’s jazz tune 5am Hendrix on TV was a great way to wrap up the set.
The set ended about 11pm after starting soon after 8pm, with a relatively short interval. As I left for home I was thinking that we had enjoyed a whole lot of talent and a whole lot of music in that time.