Jurerê Jazz Joys
By Roberto Muggiati
Jurerê is a strip of fancy houses by the sea on the northern tip of the island of Florianópolis. Its size and shape are more or less the same as Leblon, Rio de Janeiro, and Jurerê is just as chic – no wonder they call themselves Jurerê International. On this merry month of May, Jurerê scored yet another point: it hosted the year’s largest and best Jazz Festival in Brazil. From April 29 to May 18, local, national and international talent paraded their music in six main stages, from plush music halls to open air stages by the beach and by the lagoon or in the nightclub ambiance of the hotel Il Campanario. On April 30 – Unesco’s International Jazz Day – surprised by-standers were greeted by free shows along the city’s bus terminals.
Mastermind and organizer of the event, Abel Silva, 41, born in Brusque, Santa Catarina, started the event modestly, five years ago, but learned his lesson along the way. The reason for the festival’s upsurge in 2015 was mainly emotional: Abel was deeply touched by the death of his father last January, two months short of his 100th birthday. Son of a second marriage, for the most part of Abel’s life theirs was a difficult relationship and they only reconciled fully in the father’s final days. Also, Abel got his showbiz DNA from his father, José Silva, who used to own, between 1960 and 1985, Brusque’s foremost (and only) cabaret, bearing the suggestive name of Vale do Paraíso (Paradise Valley). Can you imagine the kind of talent it takes to run a successful nightclub in a provincial town among the hard-working and church-going people of Itajaí Valley?
Jazz and landscape are a perfect combination. Think of festivals like Montreux, by Lake Geneva, or Verona with its Roman arena. Jurerê is such a place and it inspired Abel Silva: “The placid view outside and the restlessness inside myself – this clash brought about the idea of a new space where people could connect themselves with music and nature.”
In the early morning of Friday, May 15th I took a flight Rio-Florianópolis for the festival’s last weekend. There were two shows at Jurerê Open Shopping that night. I was pleased to meet once again my friends of Na Tocaia, from my hometown Curitiba: Glauco Sölter (bass), Mário Conde (guitar) and Endrigo Bettega (drums). Two days earlier they had accompanied the great trombone master Raul de Souza. After Na Tocaia’s tough and jazzy presentation, the stage was taken by mercurial gaúcho trumpetist Jorginho do Trompete. With a host of friends, he revisited some hard bop classics and played a beautiful ballad jazzmen have imported from the movies, Invitation. Glauco Sölter was back in action on Saturday at the same stage with his sophisticated Mano a Mano Trio, featuring him on bass, Sérgio Albach (clarinet, bass clarinet) and Vina Lacerda (percussion). Curitiba and Albach were also present with the 20-piece Wind Band (Orquestra à Base de Sopro), which accompanied keyboard-guitar master and composer Egberto Gismonti.
Saturday was the night of one of Jurerê’s Jazz main stars, Madeleine Peyroux. I met her in the afternoon by the pool of Il Campanario and gave her a copy of my book New Jazz: Back to the Future. Published in 1999, it already featured a profile of her, then only 25, with a full page picture, in the chapter “The New Divas”. This “jazz lady with a Proustian name,” as I wrote with my autograph, insisted on having a picture with me. “But we’ll take a better one after the show, when I have the make-up on,” she added.
The 900-seat imposing Teatro Ademir Rosa was filled to the brim as Madeleine gave a faultless performance for nearly two hours. She has finally cast off her “ghost of yesterday” – Billie Holiday’s influence – and assumed her own voice and persona. Playing acoustic guitar, and a ukulele with guitar strings, she sang softly accompanied by John Herrington (guitar) and Barak Mori (bass). The usual repertoire seemed to receive a new life in this enchanted night: Careless Love, Getting’ Some Fun Out of Life, her homage to Piaf (La Vie en Rose) and to Josephine Baker (J’ai Deux Amours), a Jobim in Portuguese (Água de beber) and the signature closing, Dance to Me End of Love. Who could ask for anything more?
Backstage I bumped into Madeleine, who said: “Oh, now for our official photograph!” We sat around a big bowl of ice full of wine bottles and toasted with champagne our newborn friendship. The talk went on, from her early days as street musician in Paris (“Do you know there is an annual meeting of street musicians somewhere in Europe in camping tents like gypsies?”) to the state of jazz in these stormy days we are living. Later on, drinking wine at a bistro called La Cave, she asked what I though of Ornette Coleman. I told her that his free jazz had driven improvised music into a blind alley, just as James Joyce’s Ulysses did with literature. She got mad at me: “How dare you say that? You haven’t read Ulysses! Nobody has read Ulysses!” I shot at her: “That’s up to you to decide, little girl . . . .” imposing my seniority over her. (Madeleine turned 41 last April 19 – “one day before the birthday of that awful little man, Hitler!”) It was nearly three in the morning when we drove back from downtown Florianópolis to Jurerê. I went straight to bed. Only the next day I learned about the sequence of the facts. Madeleine and her bassist, Barak Mori – who had gotten to Brazil after a 38-hour sleepless plane odyssey from Israel through Rome – urged Abel to take them to some exotic spot in Florianópolis nightlife. They ended up in the only place open at that hour, a downtown brothel called La Rouge, and got back to the hotel just in time to take their things and head to the airport for a Belo Horizonte flight at eight o’clock (Madeleine was supposed to sing there that night.) For Abel, it was an insane amount of driving: the distance between Jurerê and downtown Florianópolis is some 25 miles and he did the shuttle job several times on that rainy day and night. Also, we/they were draining two bottles of Chivas along the way. That Madeleine girl sure loves to get some fun out of life . . . .
Sunday’s show was strictly business. Jurerê Open Air gave a warm welcome to Swedish guitar wizard Ulf Wakenius with his Wes Montgomery Tribute. The organ trio was multinational and superb: Italian Leonardo Corradi (organ) and French Tony Match (drums). On a brief solo, Ulf played beautiful MPB: Milton Nascimento’s Ponta de Areia, Egberto Gismonti’s Louro and Ary Barroso’s Brazil. He also paid his dues to B.B.King. Later on, at Il Campanario, pianist Luiz Gustavo Zago and his trio received trumpetist Walmir Gil for a healthy hard bop and bossa nova menu. That morning I had breakfast with Walmir, and we exchanged our views on post-Dizzy trumpeters: Donald Bird, Art Farmer, Lee Morgan, Woody Shaw, Freddie Hubbard – and shared the loss for jazz with the premature deaths of Fats Navarro and Clifford Brown.
Back to Il Campanario’s Sunday night, musicians all around were invited to sit in. Jorginho do Trompete blew out his wits, and some Cubans from the Buena Vista were on hand to bust up the joint. They had arrived late that afternoon, 24 persons including a doctor. Their mammoth venture, Adiós Tour, started in June 2014 in Poland and will end triumphantly in a Havana concert at the end of 2015.
On that rainy Monday, I accompanied Abel Silva on his chores to see that everything went fine on the night’s gran finale at Teatro Ademir Rosa. He checked the catering, the crockery, the towels for the dressing rooms and the drinks. Although there was plenty of wine available, Buena Vista was keener on straight scotch and bourbon. Ever since guitarist Ry Cooder “excavated” and recorded them in Havana in 1996 (and Wim Wenders made a documentary film about them), these Havana old-timers have taken the road and marveled audiences all over the world.
Their show was much more than everybody expected, their 14-piece band a harmonious blend of veterans and upcoming new talent. Omara Portuondo, 83, sang like a criolla Maria Callas. Her successor, Idania Valdes, 32, is the youngest member of the band. I had a glimpse of her breakfasting alone that morning with no make-up and wearing a T-shirt and leggings and fumbling with a smartphone. On stage, she was transmogrified into a lean and sexy torch singer on high heels and a skin-tight black dress. Shaking a maraca, Ivania crooned alongside the sonero Carlos Calunga, also from the new generation. Jamming the night before at Il Campanario, Ivania
sang a Besame Mucho that owed nothing to the diva Omara Portuondo’s Besame in the Monday concert. La Portuondo was unquestionably the Queen of the Night. Departed Buena Vista stars such as Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzales and Compay Segundo were affectively remembered: while their music played, pictures of their career were flowed over a large screen. Leader of the band and trombone player, Jesus “Aguache” Ramos was more jazzy than ever in El Trombon Baladero, throatily blowing standards such as Over the Rainbow and Blue Moon. An extended version of Quizás, Quizás, Quizás sent the audience to their feet. “We want our music to endure over time and continue to charm the world,” said singer Omara Portuondo. “That is what we have achieved with our concerts.”
Early Tuesday morning, when I was leaving the hotel for the airport, Jesus Aguache greeted me at the lobby.
“Hey, man, how are you?”
“I’m leaving back to Rio. And you?”
“We’re heading to São Paulo, then Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires.”
“Buen viaje! Then it’s not yet Adiós?”
“No, I should say ‘hasta la vista!’”
“Hasta la vista, Buena Vista!”
PS The Happy Dogs of Jurerê – On my first walk by the resort, I immediately noticed the quantity and variety of dogs rambling about. I even became a friend of Leca, a German shepherd dog who lives on the street but has been adopted by shop-owners of Jurerê Open Shopping. She was heading for an empty bucket which was supposed to hold water. I sorrowed for her and took the bucket to the nearest shop and asked them to fill it with water – in a way I also adopted sweet old Leca.
A research published at the beginning of June has shown that Brazil’s canine population has surpassed that of infants under fourteen: 52 million against 44 million. And the Southern states are the most dog-loving, counting 58 percent of homes with a pet. I was particularly sensitive to the subject, having lost a fortnight earlier, my poodle Mel, killed by a cancer at 13. For the first time in the last twenty years I was dogless (“no mato sem cachorro”), having enjoyed, while working at home, the company of half a dozen four-legged friends. One by one, I buried them in the small green plot by the end of the mews where I live, under a casuarina tree – my “pet cemetery.” Particularly poignant were the last days of the unforgettable sharpei Thelonious, who slept his last days away by my feet while I wrote, listening to Chet Baker’s Lerner & Lowe album. One tune in special touched me and tied me to Thelonious’ memory. It took me months to become aware of the song’s name – I Talk to the Trees.
While attending the open air shows, I was agreeably surprised by the many dogs that went to listen to jazz with their owners, quite a spectacle. Seated on their hind legs, sprawled on the floor or even on their masters’ laps, they watched, serious and respectfully, as if following each phrase of a saxophone chorus or each chord of the piano or the guitar. Yes, sir, in Jurerê even dogs dig jazz . . . .
Roberto Muggiati is a regular contributor to CIE. He is a musician who writes about music for numerous newspapers and magazines in Brazil.
[All photos by Bruno Ropelato except where noted.]