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Brazzil - Music - June 2004

Music: Passion and Glory of Brizzi of Brazil

Composer Aldo Brizzi wrote the music for Brizzi do Brasil, an album
of songs written for Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Teresa
Salgueiro, Carlinhos Brown and many other illustrious Brazilian
guests. Brizzi reveals how the idea for the project came into
being and how, over a course of four years, it became a reality.

Aldo Brizzi


Picture The original idea that inspired this recording was to write a musical based on the libretto of the Mexican poet Francisco Serrano, a story about Orpheus who descends into hell, and who, instead of meeting Eurydice, encounters Alice in Wonderland.

I prepared four demo songs for the project's producers, but these were a bit removed from the usual projects for which I'm known. I proposed the idea to Alan Foix, director of a studio in Paris, which received subvention from the Ministry of French Culture, and he became enthusiastic about the project.

From him I obtained space and support to record some pieces. It was during the World Cup in France, and the presence of many Brazilian artists in Paris helped.

I recorded the first two pieces with Margareth Menezes and Olodum, who were contacted in Salvador by Luciana, who later that year became my wife. Her enthusiasm in seeing me write music connected to popular artists of her country was contagious, and it was her who contacted and convinced both Margareth and João Jorge, Olodum's manager.

Nonetheless, the project's general concept wasn't yet clear. In Rome I met up with an old friend, Deborah Cohen, who at the time was Gilberto Gil's tour manager.

It was to become a decisive meeting: Deborah surprised me with her acute perception of the project's potential: a recording of songs for illustrious guests. In that period not even I imagined how far the project could go.

Deborah put me in contact with Ala dos Namorados, and we recorded with them, in December, in Paris. And there the first phase came to an end. Alain Foix lost his position as director, his successor didn't want to continue the project and I found myself with three pieces recorded without knowing what to do with them.

But the solution was there in hiding. Francesco Sardella, the sound technician that I'd invited to do the recording in Paris and who'd mixed my previous record The Labyrinth Trial, was launching a small independent label of his own, and became passionate about the project, putting his studio at our disposal for further recording.

During that time, Augusto de Campos, a poet among the most deep and creative that Brazil has ever given us, wrote an article in the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo entitled "Brizzi do Brasil" (Brizzi of Brazil, a wordplay on my name and "breezes" of Brazil), about my album recorded with Sardella.

He wrote about my previous work (pieces of contemporary music which incorporated the region's African Latin-American rhythms), and then happily informed me that that he would continue writing songs and would collaborate with me on the project.

I also decided to do something with Arnaldo Antunes, whom I then met many times in São Paulo. The initial outcome was a bit vague. He left me some recordings of poetry read with his beautiful and very particular voice.

The idea of a collage came to me: fragments of rhythms recorded with Olodum in Paris, the voice of Arnaldo treated electronically and the addition of a very rare and impressive instrument, the contrabass sax, recorded by a contemporary music ace, Daniel Kientzy.

That was the birth of "Abraça o Meu Abraço" (Hug My Hug), recorded at Francesco's recording studio in his pink house in Monsano, complete with park and swimming pool, tucked away in the hills of the Marche region of Italy.

Choice Guests

Now the idea of a recording of songs written for special guests was taking shape and while thinking with Deborah and Luciana about possible alchemies of invited guests, I began to explore the concept a little more deeply: a homage to the Brazilian language and a reflection of the rhythms and moods of three regions: Europe, Africa and America, but with a contemporary outlook.

I wrote new songs that I recorded at the studio as demos with young voices. Among the many young singers who participated in the demos, talent stood out: Graça Reis, from Bahia and rich in talent, and who now sings the entire repertoire of the record in live concerts with invited guests.

Deborah introduced me to Tom Zé, whom I met in São Paulo, and there was such a spark that after just a few minutes of conversation he wasn't just willing to participate in the record, but wrote to David Byrne: "Please, listen to it." Byrne's reply was "I love it, but…."

Thus began the long sequence of unconditional compliments from record labels, always accompanied by polite refusal and some fear of getting involved with the record. So the recording was initially financed only by Franceso Sardella's studio and myself.

Since we were in demo mode, we weren't able to render the quality that we had in our heads for the finished product, perhaps this negatively influenced the decisions of the record company people.

Deborah spoke to Gilberto Gil about my project. I met him in his beautiful house in Salvador, and his detailed comments made one realize he'd listened carefully to all the pieces. He had already made his choice: he wanted to record "Meninas de Programa."

In Salvador I also met Virginia Rodrigues, with whom I've later shared many moments of friendship. Virginia accepted my proposal to record "Velada ou Revelada", but she asked to also record "Cats", a tribute to her mentor Caetano.

In the meantime, we thought about some other names that could participate and complete the record. Deborah contacted some Portuguese-speaking Africans, but nothing panned out.

Various times that summer in Salvador I met Caetano, whom I'd known since 1994, and with whom I'd exchanged many opinions about music and art during summers in Salvador.

In 1994, I gave a provocative conference about him in a temple of contemporary music: the Ferienkurse of Darmstadt in Germany. At the time I was Director of the Ferienkurse Ensemble. That conference was a means to signal the world that knew me best that I was widening my horizons.

The choice of Caetano wasn't by chance; it was him with his music and poetry that made me realize that a song could be at once a contemporary creation and well beyond immediate commercial considerations.

In his house in Rio Vermelho we listened to everything that was finished for the record and to the demos. He liked Ala dos Namorados' rendition of "Este Era um Gato" very much. Later, while listening to "Mistério de Afrodite," Caetano began to improvise vocally, and this provoked an immediate desire to record these improvisations for the project.

It was a moment of incredible emotion in the golden light of sunset on the very sea that the song described and whose shores are the principal subject of the record. And if it's the longest track on the record, that is due to him. We had decided previously to cut out a section, but the demo contained the complete version.

On listening to the final version, Caetano found a discrepancy between the edited text and the final version and asked for an explanation. His comment was, "Don't cut it, it's beautiful!"

Gilberto Gil was recorded in Paris at the studios of GRM-Radio France (another temple of contemporary music), which were made available through the kind intervention of its director Daniel Teruggi, and François Donato. Gil was in Paris for the "Percpan" at Le Villette.

He arrived punctually and dedicated all the time necessary to record with absolute seriousness and total dedication to the music. It was one of the most intense moments in the story of the recording. Later, thanks to the generosity of Cid Campos who offered his studio and his competence as a technician, beyond his talent as a musician, we recorded Tom Zé and Augusto de Campos in São Paulo.

Meanwhile, an idea was born and consolidated: to compose music for a Brazilian poem most admired by Caetano: "ão" by Augusto de Campos. We invited both of them to record it together.

For thirty years there'd been an intertwining of profound artistic interests between the two artists that manifested in the form of lyrics Caetano had composed music for and recorded, and various articles Augusto had written on Caetano.

In "Balanço da Bossa," Augusto speaks of the MPB (Música Popular Brasileira) of the sixties, and dedicates space and his predictions of glory and grandeur to a then very young Caetano.

In his book Verdade Tropical, Caetano dedicates an entire chapter to Augusto. My emotion for having participated in that encounter is still great: for the first time the two voices appeared together in a recording and with a poem symbolic of Brazilian language and music.

Shock and Scandal

There are also some lyrics in the album that are less demanding, for example "Toi," a simple love song with strong erotic content. Due to the lyrical content, Luciana thought it had to be a woman to sing it. I sent a sample of "Toi" to various Brazilian and African singers.

After they'd heard it, they all disappeared, shocked. I then spoke with Carlinhos Brown, who exclaimed, "I'll do it, I'll do everything, vocals, backing vocals, vocal percussion…" And hearing the result, once again one has to give credit to Carlinhos' intuition.

To complete the record some parts were still missing, such as who would sing "Mistério de Afrodite".

In Rome I met Deborah again; this time she was accompanying Caetano's tour. I spoke of the unrealistic hope I was carrying in my heart, a hope that seemed far away and unobtainable, which was the idea that Teresa Salgueiro, Madredeus' vocalist, would be an ideal participant. There was no response from Deborah.

The next morning we were sitting at a bar in the Piazza Santa Maria. She was reading a newspaper and discovered that Madredeus was in Rome for a concert. She immediately contacted their agent and explained the recording project. We were invited to the concert.

At dinner, we spoke with Teresa and an immediate understanding and bond formed amongst us. I told her about "Ondas," and in her sweet and well educated manner, she thanked me for the invitation and accepted happily, saying simply "é muito bonita" ("it's very pretty").

To be in the studio with Teresa is a joy and emotionally intense. She sings from memory, knows the music in all its details and searches for the most suitable nuances with simplicity and marvelous dedication. And, not satisfied with the results, she asked to re-record what she'd already done. Another journey to Lisbon and another surprise in seeing the profound depth, even greater than before, achieved in her interpretation.

Time passed, the project took form, but I still didn't know what record labels would be interested. Zeca Baleiro called me. He was in Salvador, and invited me to his concert. Afterwards at dinner we spoke about my record, and by the end of dinner, he entered into the list of invited artists. Immediately thereafter he sent me lyrics on the theme of exile.

In that period I was recording percussive music for Georg Brintrup's film Tambores e Deuses. It was yet another technical-acoustic adventure with Francesco Sardella. We were recording in a neighborhood at the extreme outskirts of Salvador, o Bairro da Paz, in the open, with a portable ProTools system set up in the trunk of my car. The only source of electricity was a nearby bar.

The only things around were dirt streets, dust, passing trucks and bicycles, curious children and a sky of intense blue. The recording was for the film, but I had an idea: why not use samples of rhythms inspired by American hip-hop to intensify the feelings of protest and revolt, and bring those to the melancholy ballad I'd composed for the beautiful text of Zeca Baleiro?

Caetano also recorded in Salvador, in a laid back atmosphere, telling stories and joking around with Arto Lindsay, Jorge Mautner and Antonio Riserio, who accompanied the recording. I was in awe of the intelligence with which he was able to "declaim" the song of "ão," and of the smoothness with which he intoned the vocals for "Mistério de Afrodite".

Ready, But No Takers

By now four years had passed and we felt the record had its definite form. But a key element was still missing: to someone to release the record! We made contacts in many countries, but no one gave us a clear, decisive answer.

During a visit to São Paulo to record the orchestrations for Zeca Baleiro's new record, my wife Luciana, who by now had abandoned the secure profession of an architect to open an artistic production company, sought advice from Bruno Boulay, a Frenchman who is very involved in the Brazilian and African recording industries.

Luciana wrote to the record companies Bruno suggested, called them, spoke to them and spoke to them again. In a week three positive responses came through, and the recording was released in Brazil. In the meantime, Matteo Silva Cappelletti replied expressing interest for his Italian label Amiata. And with Luciana's great surprise, he didn't only write that he knew me, but that we'd studied together at the Conservatory of Milan!

That is how this adventure that no one at the beginning believed in was able to see the light of day. Meanwhile, I prepared the repertoire of the record for live concerts with a newly formed group from Bahia featuring the singer Graça Reis, and Alex Mesquita, whose contribution on guitar was fundamental for the record.

The group is called Aço do Açúcar, and besides the launch of Brizzi do Brasil they want to continue an independent career with music that I'll compose specifically for them. In the promotional concerts and tours surprises may come up, as has already happened in the showcases presented in Salvador, Brazil, where some of the invited guests appeared and sang the songs I wrote for them.

Aldo Brizzi is an Italian composer and conductor who lives in Salvador, state of Bahia. You can contact him emailing his publicist at mark@worldisc.net.

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