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Music: Passion and Glory of Brizzi of Brazil

 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.

by: Aldo
Brizzi

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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