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Brazilian Piano Man Overcomes Stroke and Shines Anew in New York

Brazilian pianist/composer Aloísio AguiarHe was born to a traditional upper-middle-class family in Rio. Like just about everybody else in his world, he had musical education and studied piano. But he went to college and became an architect. Getting a good education was the natural thing to do.

It is easy to see the architect within Aloísio Aguiar. The way he organizes, decorates and displays things in his little apartment, the charm of the perfect hat for the season, the eye for detail and shapes. It’s there all right. But this is all the architecture left in him. It was what was supposed to be the hobby that took over his life.

A born musician, Aloísio simply could not do anything else. After introduction to music with classical training, he met chorinho and then he knew what he was going to be doing for the rest of his life.

It was the time of the golden years of bossa nova and Ipanema, its birth place, was full of jam sessions. Aloísio was not much different from any other musician of his generation and began his career playing Brazilian Jazz at the Beco das Garrafas, a dead end street that gathered young musicians who became the most important names of Brazilian music.

By 1970 Aloísio, then 24, had established himself among the community of musicians, one of the top favorite pianists for people like Milton Nascimento, Gal Costa, Naná Vasconcelos, Leny Andrade, and many others. By 1973 he became arranger and keyboardist for Gilberto Gil’s band, recording several albums, all major successes.

It was in 1975 that Aloísio Aguiar came to the United States. In LA he recorded with Cal Tjader, Airto and Flora Purim and Jon Lucien and he was the musical director for Caldera and Redbone. That lasted two years and in 1977 the young musician arrived in New York. It was love at first sight, easy to understand coming from an authentic Carioca, as people from Rio de Janeiro are called.

From then on it was a snow-slip of great performances with the greatest names going through his life, such as Chet Baker, Paquito D’Rivera, Olatunji, Herbie Mann, Ron Carter, to name a few. Aloísio takes pride telling about his involvement with Adela Dalto, not only playing for her, but also arranging her music for concerts and recordings.

The good arranger is a product of the good composer. The music he creates is rich and unique. Aloísio has recorded three CDs, “Child of the Universe,” “To Jobim With Love” and “King of Hearts,” all showing the quality of the artist.

He has performed in New York at the River Café, Water Club, Park Meridien and St. Regis, Village Gate, Blue Note, Sweet, Basil, Birdland, Bradley’s and many more.

Few years ago life gave him what probably was the first big moment when he had to face his own health vulnerabilities. Aloísio had a stroke and was paralyzed for a while. Slowly but steadily he started moving again.

His friends were happy to see him back in the crowd, but very few believed that Aloísio would have the strength to bring the musician back to life, after having both hands entirely paralyzed. But he did.

He eagerly did all the exercises with the physical therapist and, most important, he never believed he would have to give up his piano. After all, it was part of him, it was life itself. The hands started responding and Aloísio practiced.

He practiced in the silence of his room, he practiced in the basement of Brazil Grill, he practiced everywhere. He taught himself new ways of playing, the right hand doing part of the left hand’s job and one day it was all there, the ability to play the scales and harmonies which, as a God given talent, Aloísio Aguiar does so well, with his own very personal mark. A miracle, yes. A miracle of love for music combined with hard work and the awareness that music is what his life is all about.

Well, not quite. Family plays a very important role in this man’s life. Aloísio has two daughters, Joana, who is living in Brazil, and Marina, a college student in Pennsylvania. He adores them, and always takes time to go on special trips where they cherish each other, mutual discoveries and adventures in foreign lands.

For the first semester of 2007, Aloísio is booked to play with Airto Moreira at SESC Rio, a jazz program in Rio de Janeiro that features international musicians once a month.

The Carioca Aloísio became international, so it is in this category that he is participating. But even after all the years as a New Yorker, Aloísio Aguiar is more Carioca than ever.

Aloísio Aguiar has been playing solo piano every Wednesday & Thursday and with a trio every Friday & Saturday at Via Brasil (34W 46th St, bet. 5th and 6th Ave.), from 7 to 11 pm.
For more, visit:
http://community.webtv.net/aloisioaguiar

Clara Angelica Porto is a Brazilian bilingual journalist living in New York.  She went to school in Brazil and at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  Clara is presently working as the English writer for The Brasilians, a monthly newspaper in Manhattan.  Comments welcome at clara.angelica@gmail.com.

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