Dimensions Innumerable

Dimensions Innumerable

Writing about Jaques Morelenbaum is like writing about the ocean. Writing about any aspect involves inevitably writing about most of the others: Morelenbaum the composer, arranger, musical director, pianist, bass player, vocalist, percussionist, cellist, producer… Few Brazilian artists have realized the ideal of true polyartistry as completely as Jaques Morelenbaum.

The uncontested provable “facts” about Morelenbaum, the names of artists whose work he has contributed to over the past quarter-century fill hundreds of pages, constituting a compendium by which we can grasp the historical implications of popular Brazilian music (MPB) and calibrate its progress.

Morelenbaum’s early biography follows an uncommon pattern, even for a bright young musician from a musical family. Born in 1954 in Rio de Janeiro, one of the greatest orchestrators in MPB attended an introductory course in music at age three and spent many of his childhood afternoons following rehearsals at the Teatro Municipal where his father was the conductor and musical director and his uncle a violist in the opera orchestra. Morelenbaum studied cello, chamber music, instrumental and choral conducting, vocal technique, composition, and music analysis in Brazil before attending the New England Conservatory of Music where he held the first cello chair in the Conservatory’s Symphony Orchestra and studied under Madaleine Foley, a disciple of Pablo Casals.

During the seventies, Morelenbaum’s music followed this same remarkable pattern. Teetering between the worlds of popular and orchestral music, he overcame an artistic dilemma and brought the cello into the experimental rock group A Barca do Sol where he synthesized and experimented with material, form, structure, and popular Brazilian rhythms. The result was a coupling eclecticism that redefined the leading edge in such a way that the preceding wave of progressive rock was rendered passé. By his twentieth year, Morelenbaum was more or less fully developed as a composer, orchestrator, and cellist, showing remarkable gifts of sophistication and maturity in the composition of complex melodies and arrangements. Devising harmonic structures that were continually shifting and refining around the soloist or singer, never conflicting with their sense of vital spontaneity, Morelenbaum deployed instruments to bring out a richness of tone in textures that spiraled outward activating expressivity.

By the mid-eighties Morelenbaum had embarked on an extensive collaborative venture with Egberto Gismonti that included compositions for small ensemble, ballet, and film. A cursory listen to the recordings from this association will sufficethese are works to hear and not read about. From 1991 onward, Morelenbaum became an ongoing collaborator with pioneer of techno-pop Ryuichi Sakamoto as well as Caetano Veloso’s closest collaborator, an inseparable colleague and friend. Today Morelenbaum remains in a constant state of activity frequently involved in several projects at the same time. His influence extends well beyond the field of popular music where his arrangements for artists like Daniela Mercury, Marisa Monte, Skank, Carlinhos Brown, Gabriel O Pensador, Elba Ramalho, Fernanda Abreu, Geraldo Azevedo, Gal Costa, Grupo Fundo de Quintal, and Titãs, to name just a few, has delighted both public and critics despite the plethora of disparate styles among these artists.

This fall, Quarteto Jobim-Morelenbaum, still another venture in Morelenbaum’s “encyclopedias,” will tour the United States in conjunction with the release of their first CD on Velas Records. The Quarteto is an impeccable chamber music ensemble that formed shortly after the death of Antônio Carlos Jobim on December 8, 1994, when the composer’s grandson Daniel (piano and voice), joined Jobim’s son Paulo (guitar and voice), Paula Morelenbaum (voice), and Jaques Morelenbaum (cello)three members of Nova Banda, the group that had accompanied Jobim all over the world for nearly ten years. Exploring acoustically the beauty of Jobim’s melodies and the sophistication of his harmonic structure, the Quarteto pays homage to the most influential composer of Brazilian popular music.

The thirteen track repertoire of their debut CD, without intending to be chronological, embraces twelve classics written by Tom Jobim (alone and in partnership) from before, during, and after bossa nova, one of the most radical movements in Brazilian popular music. Highlights include the sambas “A Felicidade” and “Eu e o Meu Amor/Lamento no Morro” from the film Orfeu da Conceição (Black Orpheus); the bossa novas “Água de Beber” and “Meditação”; “O Boto,” from the nationalistic phase of Jobim’s career when he was looking to Villa-Lobos for inspiration; and the instrumental “Mantiqueira Range” by Paulo Jobim and Ronaldo Bastos. Arranged by Jaques Morelenbaum and exquisitely performed by the musicians who knew Tom Jobim and his music intimately, Quarteto Jobim-Morelenbaum’s debut CD won’t remedy the void left by the maestro’s passing. It will, however, to paraphrase Caetano Veloso, reassure Tom’s fans that his work has been left in excellent hands.

I spoke with Jaques Morelenbaum after a performance and under pressure to finish a promised arrangement for David Byrne before he could go to sleep. In the midst of this pandemonium, I found him charming, articulate, and humble, not to mention a little tired.

BrazzilCan you tell me a little about your parents and their influence on your musical career?

Jaques Morelenbaum—My father is a conductor, violinist and viola player; my mother is a pianist and piano teacher. This is the environment into which I was born. For many, many years, my father worked at the opera house in Rio, so a big part of my childhood was spent going to the Municipal Theater in Rio and listening to his concerts. He is also a teacher at the University of Rio de Janeiro where I studied counterpoint with him, not as much as I would have liked, but for a few months. I tried to study with him at home, but we were always too busy. He is a great musician and has had a tremendous impact on my love for music, inspiring me to “go for it.”

Brazzil—Your cello teacher, Madaleine Foley, was a pupil of Pablo Casals, and I’m wondering if you have come to prefer the Casals sound more than someone like Rostropovich?

J.M.—To be honest, I don’t think I have a preference. I admire both cellists so much. I think both of those great musicians have so much to offer us and were extremely important for my development as a musician. I like each of their sounds, so I can’t say that I prefer one over the other. But for me, the experience of having contact with someone who has studied with Casals was so emotional and such a stimulus in terms of developing a relationship with the instrument and how I felt about being a musician. A few years ago, Mr. Rostropovich was in Rio while I was playing in the Opera House Orchestra, and I had the opportunity to play under him; it was another emotional experience. We played the Villa-Lobos Bachianas No. 1 and No. 5 , and it was marvelous.

Brazzil—In 1974 you worked under Leonard Bernstein. What did you find distinctive about Bernstein? What were your initial impressions of the man.

J.M.—This was a great experience also. I was conducted by him at Tanglewood, and although this was such a long time ago, I will never forget the strength this man conveyed and how much he drew from our souls. We were about 130 young musicians, and there have been very few times in my life when I have played with so much guts. It was amazing. He was jumping in the pit and pulling everything out of us. Amazing! Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to develop a personal relationship with him, but it was remarkable just to rehearse and play in the orchestra with him. He was a sea of inspiration.

Brazzil—If you could work with any conductor, past or present, who would it be?

J.M.—Wow! Well, I have a lot of preferences, you know? But I can’t avoid mentioning how great an experience it would be to be conducted by two cellistsArturo Toscanini and Villa-Lobos. I would be very curious to work under Villa-Lobos.

Brazzil—Because your primary instrument is the cello and because of your numerous composing activities, comparisons to Villa-Lobos have been drawn. What are your feelings about these analogies?

J.M.—Well, a comparison like that makes me happy enough, but I am not aware of any. As a youth, I was inspired by and mirrored myself on Villa-Lobos. When I was 12 years old and decided to study the cello, I was already aware and proud that such a musiciana great Brazilian composer and musicianplayed the cello and had dedicated a few of his great compositions to the instrument. I learn a lot from him all the time, his melodies, his motives, in terms of Brazilian color and Brazilian culture, everything that is part of my life. He is still helping me and pushing me all the time. I love music and have been lucky enough to work closely with so many great musicians that it is a great honor if someone refers to me this way, but… Wow, Villa-Lobos is too big, and I feel that I have a long way to go.

Brazzil—Were you planning to become an orchestral cellist?

J.M.—No, to tell you the truth, I never planned to be any one kind of musician. My plan was to try everything. I never could concentrate on only one aspect of music because I needed and I loved with the same intensity to play, to write, to conduct, to listen, you know? And also, with reference to styles or directions and in terms of musical thought, I never wanted to be tied to only one vision. You know? My ideas were always very, very widespread. I was always thinking as a human being in the 20th century who could take in everything or almost everything or a lot of the very important things happening in the world. I never wanted to stay on just one side. Maybe it’s too megalomania, but these are still my interests.

Brazzil—Was adapting the cello to the rock medium of the experimental band A Barca do Sol an artistic border?

J.M.—It was a turning point in my life because I was born in an environment of classical musicians, opera, theater, ballet, and symphonic concerts. As a teenager, I used to play for many years in an early music group, a Renaissance group. My experience was Baroque, Renaissance, and Romantic. This was a lot of culture that I had inherited from Europe, from the Old World. But I was born in Brazil and from an early age, I had been very curious and interested in Brazilian culture and in the Brazilian roots. I was becoming more interested in improvisation and also writing. I had always been more interested in creating new works than in just interpreting pieces that had been written before my time. So finally, I found a way of expressing myself in those terms. A Barca do Sol was a way of realizing my aspirations. We were young people in our twenties, full of dreams. A few music critics called us progressive rock, but I don’t think it was exactly. I don’t think a name has been created for the music we were doing. We had a lot of influences, and we tried to melt them together. Maybe we were more sons of the tropicalistas than progressive rockers.

Brazzil -What was the connection with A Barca do Sol and Egberto Gismonti?

J.M.—I met A Barca do Sol through Gismonti while attending the Seventh International Course of Music in Curitiba during the summer of 1974. I had gone there to study with Gismonti who was my idol at that point. He was teaching in the Música Popular Brasileira chair, and that’s where I met the trio that became A Barca do Sol: Nando Carneiro, Marcelo Costa, who has also played with Caetano for many years, and Muri Costa, his brother.1

Marcelo and I have been playing together since A Barca do Sol. He plays on the Quarteto CD. We met through Gismonti, and in the same year Gismonti produced our first album. I said that we were sons of Tropicália, but I think Gismonti’s musical language was an even stronger influence on us. You know, he was our master, our teacher, and we were big fans of his. In 1988, he invited me to join his group. I worked with him for five years. Música de Sobrevivência was the last recording I made with him.

Brazzil—A beautiful and transitional recording. He seems to be more interested now in writing for orchestra.

J.M.—One of the elements of Egberto’s style throughout his career, has always been the changing instrumentation of his ensembles, so each record that he releases has a different flavor. The musicians who play with him, in some ways, influence the music, and they are always excellent musicians. As a matter of fact, my last experience with Gismonti was conducting one of his concerts in Salvador Bahia in 1997. He invited me to conduct the Symphonic Orchestra of Bahia. And I had a lot of fun because we were playing some of the repertoire that I had played with him as a cellist. And at that time, he was still working with the same group I had worked with: Zeca Assumpção on bass and Nando Carneiro playing guitars and synthesizers. But I was playing the orchestra instead of the celloa very interesting experience.

Brazzil—Did you ever record a duet of Astor Piazzolla’s music with Gismonti?

J.M.—No, no this is misinformation. I took part in a recording, along with a lot of musicians…

Brazzil—Piazzollando for Kuarup?

J.M.—Right. It was an homage to Piazzolla who had been in a coma for almost one year. Mario de Aratanha, the man that created Kuarup and a big Piazzolla fan, invited a few friends to record Piazzolla’s music. Egberto arranged a cello trio in which I played, and I arranged Piazzolla’s Four Seasons for the Villa-Lobos Woodwind Quintet, a cello trio, and double bass played by Zeca Assumpção. Also, Henrique Cazes wrote an arrangement as did Zeca Assumpção. I don’t have any complete duet recordings with Gismonti, but among the records I made with him there are a few duets recorded. One is very special for me because he recorded live during my first tour with him in Hamburg. It was included on one of his studio recordings and released in Brazil. I think is was called Amazonas.

Brazzil—Wasn’t Piazzolla part of a show you recorded with Caetano and Chico Buarque?

J.M.—Right. I was playing with Antônio Carlos Jobim, and we took part in a TV show that was hosted by Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso called Chico & Caetano. This was a concert TV show that aired, if I’m not mistaken, every two weeks, maybe it was once a month. They used to invite other musicians to take part in the show. And on our night they had invited Piazzolla and Tom Jobim. This was, in fact, the first time I ever met Caetano personally. At the end Caetano and Chico joined us and we played together. It was a wonderful night.

Brazzil—Didn’t you join Caetano’s band in 1991 after recording on Circuladô?

J.M.—Caetano invited me to collaborate with him on the studio album Circuladô, which was produced by Arto Lindsay. I wrote an arrangement for “Itapuã” and played on the title song, “Circuladô de Fulô.” And the next year, while he was promoting this album, he invited me to be a guest with his concert tour. So in March, 1992, if I’m not mistaken, I began to actually play with him live. After a few months, the concert was recorded live, and I produced the Circuladô Vivo recording together with Caetano.

Brazzil—What kind of adjustments did you have to make to give the cello a “voice” and fit it with the amplification and percussion of Caetano’s band?

J.M.—Well, I had been used to this situation for almost twenty years. In A Barca do Sol, I was interested in experimenting with cello amplification and was playing with electric guitars, electric bass, and drums. When I started to play with Caetano, I was trying to explore the pure sound of the cello itself, no special amplification or effects. I was playing a classical cello within that musical fabric, that musical texture, so it was not a matter of adjustment. At that time, however, it was still technically difficult to amplify the cello.

Brazzil—Prenda Minha has been celebrated for the Gil Evans sound of the arrangements. Was this a collaborative idea?

J.M.—Yeah, for sure. Well, this was very specific. We were on tour in Europe with the show Fina Estampa when the Miles Davis/Gil Evans collection was released, and our engineer bought this collection and brought it into the bus. And the next day, in the next city, the rest of the crew, everybody, bought the collection. It became a great subject of conversation for the month-long European tour. Every couple of days, a different city, and always listening to all those wonderful records. And one of them received our special attention. It was the record called Quiet Nights, which is a Jobim title, right? The beginning track of this record curiously is titled “Song No. 2,” which is the Brazilian folk song, “Prenda Minha,” a folk song from the south of Brazil, from Rio Grande do Sul, the southern-most state in Brazil. It has a brilliant arrangement and the musical result is amazing, but we thought it was funny the way “Song No. 2” was credited to Gil Evans and Miles Davis. On the other hand, bossa nova, which is such an important style for Brazilian music history, has so many influences from cool jazz.

That collection defines so much what cool jazz is, and Caetano’s concept was to return or give back all those influences with a record, which would be called Livro. So for this record, Caetano asked Luiz Brasil, Marcelo Martins, and me to think about the cool jazz atmosphere, especially of the Gil Evans atmosphere. He wanted to specifically blend the street music of Bahia with the cool jazz/Gil Evans atmosphere. The main idea was inspired by this happening, “Prenda Minha” played by Miles Davis and arranged by Gil Evans. I tried, especially on this song, to get as close as I could to the Gil Evans atmosphere and to blend it with Brazilian percussion.

Brazzil—You have collaborated with Ryuichi Sakamoto on numerous projects. Did you meet him through Caetano?

J.M.—Right, right. We were releasing the Circuladô album in New York and Ryuichi had collaborated on this record, so he went to see our show and Caetano introduced me to him.

Brazzil—I’m wondering if you especially enjoy working with Sakamoto because of the way he intermingles the fields of music, technology, and the visual arts?

J.M.—This attracts me a lot, but this is not the main point of attraction. I admire him very, very, very much as a composer and an interpreter. He is a great musician. I especially enjoy playing the cello with him because his music is so romantic and gives plenty of space for improvisation. I have been playing with him since 1993, and we always have a lot of fun. Furthermore, I’m a sound track fan, and I especially admire his compositions for cinema. He’s a great person and it’s a great experience to play this music.

Brazzil—I confess, I’m a big fan of your compositions for cinema. Central do Brasil is an exquisite sound track. But I know a lot of Brazilians who don’t like the film because it’s honest and shows a side of Brazil they don’t want the rest of the world to see. Can you comment on that?

J.M.—Well, I don’t agree with this view or maybe I didn’t connect with the film in this way. A few people think this movie is one-sided because it doesn’t show the whole spectrum of Brazilian reality. It shows our reality only through a prism, but they miss that. But my personal opinion, from the first time I saw the movie while editing on the computer, is that it is full of emotion and touches me deeply. The whole family concept, the search for the father, the search for one’s origins, and the search for Brazil, for the roots of culture moved me tremendously, enough for me to think about this movie as a great one.

Brazzil—Was it harder to find an aural parallel for that environment or more of a challenge to match your vision to the director’s on this film than it had been with your other scores for film?

J.M.—Well, it’s hard to say because each movie is a completely different story. Every director has a different approach for the way he wants a composer to combine image with sound. Walter Salles has very specific tastes in music, so Antônio Pinto and I had to work hard to achieve the desired results. It was a very demanding experience, but other movies I have collaborated on were also very demanding. It’s not simple to write music for movies, but it is a challenge that I love.

Brazzil—Before beginning your orchestrations for Orfeu do Carnaval did you study the original film?

J.M.—No, as a matter of fact, I didn’t study it, but I knew it. To tell you the truth, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but when I was invited to take part in this production, I didn’t have time to blink. It was one of those projects they want completed yesterday.

Brazzil—It has been said that the American cinema is simply a grand scale video game and that the screenwriters are like people who operate thrill rides at amusement parks. Would you comment on this?

J.M.—Well, I think there are those kinds of movies, but not only those. You cannot say American cinema is this or that. There are so many extremes. I think the American movie industry is very powerful, and this allows for all those extremes. Besides, there are so many different tastes in film. I have fun watching those fast-frame movies, you know? They’re not my main interest, but when I see a movie like that, of course, I’m very impressed with all the technology and especially the sound, which is my main interest. Nonetheless, there is also a faction of directors in the States who are creating very deep cinema too, for sure.

Brazzil—I understand that you judged the Brazilian Film Festival in 1991. What were you required to do?

J.M.—It was a great experience to be involved in a film festival, but it was very hard to judge. The festival organization brought in one specialist for each area, and I was there to specifically judge music. But I also enjoyed being able to comment on the literary and cinematic elements. My personal concern, however, was the composition of the sound track, not so much the music editing, but, of course, that influences judgment.

Brazzil—Also, you were a judge of harmony for the escolas de samba at the Sambódromo. What does a harmony judge watch or listen for, and how could you remain fair, given your affiliation with Mangueira?

J.M.—Yeah, well, it’s not a day-by-day connection, but I have an emotional connection with Mangueira. This was something that I accepted for the fun of it. Carnaval is a big party.

Brazzil—But the escolas de samba take this very seriously, no?

J.M.—For sure, and I tried to be as serious as I could be. I know how much love is involved in this kind of competition. On the other hand, when I was invited, it was kind of funny because what they call harmony doesn’t have anything directly to do with music. It has to do with statics, the philosophical meaning of harmony, not specifically musical harmony. The judge of harmony is concerned with the choreography, the quality of the melody, the quality of the percussion players, the bateria, and this also involves the grace and the shine of a performance. So being an artist, being a musician, I felt that I had enough sensibility to judge these elements. I’m not a Carnaval specialist, you know? But I couldn’t let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch this parade closely slip by. It was a job that was at times very easy and at others very difficult. Writing notes saying that one escola is better than the another is stressful. But overall, I had a lot of fun.

Brazzil—Can you tell me about your project with Mangueira’s bateria at the Free Jazz Festival?

J.M.—Before the Free Jazz Festival, there was a cultural project called Samba em Concerto. And this project gathered six names from Brazilian instrumental music together with small groups from the escolas de samba. There was a night for Rafael Rabelo with, I think, the Salgueiro drum section. There was a night for Toninho Horta, the guitar player. There was a night for, I’m not sure, but maybe Gilson Peranzzetta and another group. And I was lucky enough to have my night with the group from Mangueira. I say I was lucky enough because every Brazilian has a soccer team and an escola de samba, and my choices from childhood have always been Flamengo and Mangueira. I attribute this, nowadays when I’m forty-six years old and looking back, to being the first Brazilian in my family.

My grandparents all came from Europe. My father and his parents were born in Poland. He came to Brazil when he was three years old. My mother’s parents came from Bessarabia in Russia, so I was the first generation from Brazil. And Mangueira is possibly the most traditional, the oldest escola de samba, and this has a very special affinity for the Brazilian people. But coming back to this project, I invited Luiz Brasil who was already playing with me in Caetano’s band, and we played the concert together with ten percussionists from Mangueira.

My night was very successful, and the organizer of the project, who was also the organizer of the Free Jazz Festival, invited me to play the jazz festival. I invited Zeca Assumpção to join us, and it was an amazing experience. Those guys from the escola have a completely different kind of musical development. They were children brought up in an escola de samba environment, and that’s completely different from the environment in which I was brought up, you know?

Brazzil—Did you need to rehearse a lot?

J.M.—We didn’t have time, to tell you the truth. Between the invitation and the performance, we had time for two rehearsals. But I think that was enough because I had rehearsed with guitar and bass a few times. And the samba musicians are very intuitive and expressive. They have a lot of intuition as well as a conductor. This conductor, luckily for me, was a very good one. So two rehearsals were enough to give us a lot of pleasure. It was a great experience to mix the music I play with “the real McCoy” of samba.

Brazzil—That’s a very American phrase.

J.M.—Yeah, I learned it from Antônio Carlos Jobim. That’s how I got the meaning, you know?

Brazzil—Didn’t you first work with Jobim in 1982 as a cellist on the sound track for Gabriela?

J.M.—Well, that’s true, but that was not very personal work with him. He had already composed the music and recorded the basic tracks when I came in as a session player. This was my first direct experience with his music, but not with him. I first played with him as a member of Nova Banda at a rehearsal in his house in ’85. As a matter of fact, the rehearsal was in December of ’84, and my first concert with Tom Jobim was in March ’85. It was at Carnegie Hall, which made it two emotional experiences at one time. I was playing Carnegie Hall, and I was playing with Antônio Carlos Jobim. Unforgettable!

Brazzil—Was he as much a teacher as a friend and colleague?

J.M.—He was one of the greatest teachers without ever intending to be. He was a great man, a great thinker, a man of great thoughts. Because of that, he was a great teacher.

Brazzil—Can you remember anything specific that you learned from him?

J.M.—Wow… (laughs) It’s very hard to be specific with a man like that. I learned how music can achieve a grand perspective. I learned about economy of language. I learned how one can say so much with so few elements. So, I think, I learned about life with him. There are so many, many stories from ten years of being together, playing together, having so much fun.

Brazzil—Can you talk a little about how Quarteto Jobim-Morelenbaum emerged from Nova Banda?

J.M.—A few years before the end of Nova Banda, Paulo (Jobim) and Paula (Morelenbaum) and I began playing a series of concerts, just the three of us. And this was a consequence of being neighbors in our country houses. Right after I began playing with Tom, I rented a summerhouse up in the mountains above Rio in a place called Poço Fundo. Both Tom and Paulo Jobim had summerhouses there, and I used to rent a house. At that time in my life, I had more free time, so I used to go up there to search for inspiration, to relax and enjoy the natural surroundings.

During the summer time, when we went to the mountains, we played every day just as we had when we were in Rio. We were neighbors, and this music we played was so strong for us that it was only natural we should get together every day to play. We were a big family, you know? We were there playing volleyball, playing music, eating, and swimming. And after some time, the three of us began to do some concerts. We didn’t have a name. It was just a trioPaulo Jobim, Paula Morelenbaum, and Jaques Morelenbaum. This was around ’91, ’92. We didn’t use percussion or piano. When Tom Jobim passed away and a tribute concert was organized in New York, the three of us were invited to play. Paulo suggested bringing his son Daniel to play the piano, and I suggested adding a percussionist and invited Marcelo Costa. That was our first official performance as Quarteto Jobim-Morelenbaum. I think Paulo created the name when the concert organizer asked him what it was. Following that performance, we toured Europe and Brazil before recording our first album.

Brazzil—When the Quarteto tours the United States will you be playing the repertoire on the CD?

J.M.—Yes, we are still promoting this album, so we are going to play the CD repertoire, but we are also going to add other pieces. During the five years or more we have been playing together, we have played close to 100 compositions by Antônio Carlos Jobim and also a few by Paulo Jobim. Our repertoire is vast. We have a lot of good material to choose from to add to the CD repertoire.

Brazzil—What are the Quarteto’s plans for its next recording?

J.M.—We’re not sure. We have to study that. Everybody has been very busy, aside from working with the quartet. There are initial thoughts, a lot of ideas, but we haven’t decided which direction to take. There is an eternal desire to play Jobim’s music. It’s part of our lives and we love it, but there is also interest in playing other Brazilian composers like Dorival Caymmi, maybe Edu Lobo. Time will tell us.

Brazzil—Did you say time or Tom?

J.M.—Time. Maybe, Tom. (laughs) I don’t know.

Brazzil—When can we expect the Jaques Morelenbaum solo album?

J.M.—I am planning to release my own record, but I don’t know when I’m going to be able to do it. I have this idea about doing a record where I can show all my musical interests. I’d love to do a record where I can have a few tracks with the orchestra, so I can show and develop my writing interests, and a few other tracks acting as a cellist and improviser. But what has been happening is that I’ve been called to work with so many great artists that I haven’t found enough free time to dedicate to my own project. But I’m very patient, and the time will come, for sure. I hope it comes soon.

Brazzil—So many artists and groups have received the Morelenbaum touch, and there is such a difference; for example, between Geraldo Azevedo and Gabriel O Pensador. Are there any precautions you take to capture an artist’s sound and avoid a “Morelenbaum” stamp?

J.M.—No. I really enjoy the flexibility and the challenge. Arranging, for me, is like playing. Adjusting my work to so many different styles is something that I have fun with. I think that everything I do will bring in a little bit of my personal taste, but I also think that people invite me to work with them because they appreciate my tastes and because I don’t bear any prejudice toward any kind of music. The main thing is that I feel very, very lucky to be able to collaborate with so many fine musicians. I just like good music and have been lucky enough to make a lot of it.

Brazzil—Jaques, thank you so much for allowing me to take so much of your time.

J.M.—It was a pleasure.

A Felicidade
(Tom Jobim/Vinícius de Moraes)

Tristeza não tem fim
Felicidade sim
Tristeza não tem fim
Felicidade sim

A felicidade é como a gota
De orvalho numa pétala de flor
Brilha tranqüila
Depois de leve oscila
E cai como uma lágrima de amor

A felicidade do pobre parece
A grande ilusão do carnaval
A gente trabalha o ano inteiro
Por um momento de sonho
Pra fazer a fantasia
De rei ou de pirata ou jardineira
Pra tudo se acabar na quarta-feira

Tristeza não tem fim
Felicidade sim
Tristeza não tem fim
Felicidade sim

A felicidade é como a pluma
Que o vento vai levando pelo ar
Voa tão leve
Mas tem a vida breve
Precisa que haja vento sem parar

A minha felicidade está sonhando
Nos olhos da minha namorada
É como esta noite passando passando
Em busca da madrugada
Falem baixo por favor
Pra que ela acorde alegre com o dia
Oferecendo beiaw6kx de amor

A felicidade é uma coisa boa
E tão delicada também
Tem flores e amores de todas as cores
E ninhos de passarinhos
Tudo de bom ela tem
E é por ela ser assim tão delicada
Que eu trato sempre dela muito bem


Sadness has no end
Happiness yes
Sadness has no end
Happiness yes

Happiness is like a drop
Of dew on a flower petal
It shines tranquilly
Then lightly oscillates
And falls like a tear of love

The happiness of the poor seems to be
The great illusion of Carnaval
People work all year long
For just a moment to dream
To make the costume
Of king or pirate or of gardener
But everything ends on Wednesday

Sadness has no end
Happiness yes
Sadness has no end
Happiness yes

Happiness is like a feather
The wind carries through the air
It flies so lightly
But has a brief life
It needs a wind without end

My happiness is dreaming
Of the eyes of my sweetheart
Like the night passing, passing
In search of the dawn
Speak softly please
She needs to awaken happily with the day
Offering kisses of love

Happiness is a good thing
And so delicate
She has loves and flowers of all colors
And birds’ nests
She is everything sunny
And because she is so delicate
I cherish her


(Tom Jobim)

Um cantinho, um violão
Esse amor essa canção
Pra fazer feliz a quem se ama

Muita calma pra pensar
E ter tempo pra sonhar
Da janela vê-se o Corcovado
O Redentor que lindo
Quero a vida sempre assim
Com você perto de mim
Até o apagar a velha chama

E eu que era triste
Descrente desse mundo
Ao encontrar você
Eu conheci
O que é felicidade, meu amor


A cozy spot, a guitar
This love, this song
To bring joy to those we love

Much calm to think
And have time to dream
Corcovado seen from the window
The Redeemer, how beautiful
I want life always like this
With you near me
Until the fire dies

And I was sad
Skeptical of this world
Finding you
I found
What happiness is, my love


(Tom Jobim/Newton Mendonça)

Quando eu vou cantar
Você não deixa
E sempre vem a mesma queixa
Diz que eu desafino
Que eu não sei cantar
Você é tão bonita
Mas tua beleza
Também pode se enganar

Se você disser que eu desafino amor
Saiba que isto em mim
Provoca imensa dor
Só privilegiados têm ouvido
igual ao seu
Eu possuo apenas o que Deus me deu

Se você insiste em classificar
Meu comportamento de anti-musical
Eu mesmo mentindo devo argumentar
Que isso é bossa nova, que isso é
muito natural
O que você não sabe nem se quer pressente
É que os desafinados
também têm um coração
Fotografei você na minha Rolleiflex
Revelou-se a sua enorme ingratidão

Só não poderá falar assim do meu amor
Este é maior que você pode encontrar
Você com a sua música esqueceu o principal
Que no peito dos desafinados
No fundo do peito também bate calado
Que no peito dos desafinados
Também bate um coração

Out of Tune

When I try to sing
You stop me
And always with the same complaint
You say that I am out of tune
That I don’t know how to sing
You are so beautiful
But your beauty
Can deceive

If you tell me that I’m out of tune
You should know that
It causes me great pain
Only privileged people have hearing
equal to yours
And I have only what God gave me

If you insist on categorizing
My behavior as anti-musical
Even if I lied I should argue
That this is bossa nova and this is
very natural
What you don’t know, nor can you guess
Is that those who sing out of tune
also have a heart
I photographed you with my Rolleiflex
It revealed your enormous ingratitude

You cannot talk this way about my love
It is the highest that you can find
You with your music, forget the essential
In the heart of those who sing out of tune
Deep in the breast, a heart also beats softly
In the heart of those out of tune
A heart is also beating

Selected Discography: By September 1999, the discography of Jaques Morelenbaum exceeded 400 titles. Following is an extremely abridged listing of his recorded output reflecting my personal favorites: Key to Morelenbaum’s participation: Arr.-arranger, Cb.-contrabass, Comp.-composer, Cond.-conductor, Pfte.-piano, Prod.-producer, Vlc.-cello, Voc.-vocals.

Title Artist Label Date
A Barca do Sol A Barca do Sol Continental 1974
(Arr., Prod., Vlc., Voc.)
Durante o Verão A Barca do Sol Continental 1976
(Arr., Comp., Pfte., Prod., Vlc., Voc.)
Orós Fagner CBS 1977
Clube da Esquina 2 Milton Nascimento EMI 1978
Gabriela Tom Jobim RCA 1982
(Vlc.) (Sound Track)
Anima Milton Nascimento Ariola 1982
Cavalo de Pau Alceu Valença Ariola 1982
(Arr., Vlc.)
O Grande Circo Místico Chico Buarque & Edu Lobo Som Livre 1983
Boca Livre Boca Livre PolyGram 1983
Luz das Estrelas Elis Regina Som Livre 1983
Gagabirô João Bosco Barclay 1984
Mutirão da Vida Xangai Kuarup 1984
(Arr., Prod., Vlc.)
Cazuza-Exagerado Cazuza Som Livre 1985
O Tempo e o Vento Tom Jobim Som Livre 1985
(Arr., Cond., Vlc.)
Encontros e Despedidas Milton Nascimento Polydor 1985
Dezembros Maria Bethânia BMG 1986
(Cond., Vlc.)
Passarim Tom Jobim and Nova Banda Verve 1987
(Arr., Cond., Prod.,Vlc.)
A Floresta do Amazonas João Carlos Assis Brasil Kuarup 1987
(Arr., Vlc.)
Trem Caipira Egberto Gismonti EMI 1987
Dança da Meia Lua Chico Buarque & Edu Lobo Som Livre 1988
Feixe de Luz Egberto Gismonti EMI 1988
Cuidado Lobão RCA 1988
(Arr., Vlc.)
Memória da Pele Maria Bethânia PolyGram 1989
Plural Gal Costa Milan Sur 1989
Djavan Djavan CBS 1989
(Arr., Vlc.)
Elomar em Concerto Elomar Kuarup 1990
(Arr., Cond., Prod., Vlc.)
Estrebucha Baby Zizi Possi PolyGram 1989
(Arr., Pfte., Vlc.)
Olhos Negros Jonny Alf BMG 1990
25 Anos Maria Bethânia PolyGram 1990
Zona de Fronteira João Bosco Sony 1991
É Aí que Quebra a Rocha Grupo Fundo de Quintal RGE 1991
Cidadão Moraes Moreira Sony 1991
Os Grãos Paralamas do Sucesso EMI 1991
Outras Caras Leila Pinheiro PolyGram 1991
Piazzollando Quinteto Villa-Lobos/Rio Cello Trio Kuarup 1991
(Arr., Cond., Prod., Vlc.)
Todos os Tons Rafael Rabello BMG 1991
Circuladô Caetano Veloso PolyGram 1991
(Arr., Vlc.)
Bem-te-vi Galo Preto Leblon 1992
Circuladô Vivo Caetano Veloso PolyGram 1992
(Arr., Prod., Vlc., Voc.)
Renata Arruda Renata Arruda Warner/MZP 1993
Do Fundo do Meu Coração Fafá de Belém BMG/Ariola 1993
Paratodos Chico Buarque BMG/Ariola 1993
Delírio Carioca Guinga Velas 1993
Songbook Vinícus de Moraes Various Lumiar 1993
(Arr., Vlc.)
Little Buddha Ryuichi Sakamoto Life Records 1993
(Vlc.) (Sound Track)
Música de Sobrevivência Egberto Gismonti ECM 1993
Songbook Dorival Caymmi Various Lumiar 1994
(Arr., Vlc., Voc.)
Songbook Carlos Lira Various Lumiar 1994
Antônio Brasileiro Tom Jobim Sony 1994
(Arr., Prod., Vlc., Voc.)
Delírios de Orfeu Joyce NEC 1994
Songbook Edu Lobo Various Lumiar 1994
(Arr., Vlc.)
Fina Estampa Caetano Veloso PolyGram 1994
(Arr., Cond., Prod., Vlc.)
Fina Estampa Ao Vivo Caetano Veloso PolyGram 1994
(Arr., Cond., Prod., Vlc.)
Mina d’ Água do Meu Canto Gal Costa BMG 1995
(Arr., Cond., Prod., Vlc., Voc.)
Da Lata Fernanda Abreu EMI 1995
(Arr., Cond., Vlc.)
Relíquias Luis Melodia EMI 1995
(Arr., Vlc.)
O Quatrilho Morelenbaum/Veloso Natasha 1995
(Arr.,Comp., Cond., Pfte., Prod., Vlc.) (Sound Track)
Ilha Brasil Joyce Blue Note/World Pacific 1996
(Arr., Vlc.)
Red Hot+Rio Various Red Hot 1996
(Prod., Vlc.)
Tieta do Agreste Caetano Veloso Natasha 1996
(Arr., Cond., Pfte., Prod., Vlc.) (Sound Track)
Astor Piazzolla-El Tango Gidon Kremer Nonesuch 1997
VivaNoel Ivan Lins Velas 1997
(Arr., Cond., Vlc.)
Titãs Acústico Titãs WEA 1997
Livro Caetano Veloso PolyGram 1997
(Arr., Cond., Prod., Vlc., Voc.)
Omelete Man Carlinhos Brown EMI 1998
(Arr., Cond., Pfte., Vlc.)
Moro no Brasil Farofa Carioca PolyGram 1998
Central do Brasil Morelenbaum/Pinto Milan 1998
(Arr., Comp., Cond., Prod.) (Sound Track)
De Volta ao Planeta Jota Quest Chaos 1998
(Arr., Cond.)
Siderado Skank Sony 1998
(Arr., Cond.)
Prenda Minha Caetano Veloso PolyGram 1998
(Arr., Cond., Prod., Vlc., Voc.)
Suite Leopoldina Guinga Velas 1999
Quarteto Jobim-Morelenbaum Quarteto Jobim-Morelenbaum Velas 1999
(Arr., Vlc.)
Memórias, Crônicas e Declarações de Amor Marisa Monte EMI/Phonomotor 1999
(Arr., Vlc.)
Solar Elba Ramalho BMG 1999
(Arr., Cond., Vlc.)
Life Opera by Ryuichi Sakamoto WEA/Japan 1999
(Vlc., Voc.)
Songbook Chico Buarque Various Lumiar 1999
(Arr., Vlc.)
Orfeu do Carnaval Veloso, Bonfá, Jobim & Moraes Natasha 1999
(Arr., Cond., Prod.)  (Sound Track)
Na Esquina João Bosco Sony Music 2000
(Arr., Cond., Prod., Vlc.)

1. Members of A Barca do Sol: Nando Carneiro—guitar & vocals, Muri Costa – guitar & vocals, Jaques Morelenbaum—cello, Beto Rezende—percussion & electric guitar, Marcelo Costa—drums & percussion, Marcelo Bernardes/David Ganc—flute, Stull/Alain Pierre—bass.

* Flute and bass personnel changed between the first and second album.

Web sites of interest:

Thalia Productions

Velas Records

Bruce Gilman, music editor for Brazzil, received his Masters degree in music from California Institute of the Arts. He leads the Brazilian jazz ensemble Axé and plays cuíca for escola de samba MILA. You can reach him through his e-mail: cuica@interworld.net

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