Brazil's beat seduces jazz greats

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The Independent Culture

Brazil's unique tropical blend of samba-rock-guitar known as MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira) has exerted an irrepressible influence on modern jazz, masters of the genre say.

"Since I played with John Coltrane in 1961, I started using open intervals on the chords, distributing the notes of each chord broadly on the piano so the other musicians could play their solos," McCoy Tyner, a US pianist considered one of jazz's all-time greats, told AFP.

That technique mirrored one also used in MPB, a trademark, urban Brazilian style that emerged in the 1960s as an evolution and a reaction to the smooth, languorous Bossa Nova wave.

Tyner and fellow musicians Mike Stern, a jazz-fusion guitarist who played with Miles Davis, Mario Canonge, a French pianist championing Latin Jazz, and an irreverent French group known as Selmer 607 were visiting the Muestra Internacional de Musica, an international music fest in the northeastern Brazilian town of Olinda held last week.

There, they delved deeper into Brazilian rhythms whose warm beats and African-derived tunes have seeped into theirs and various other styles.

One MPB star, Egberto Gismonti, fascinated the visitors with his multi-instrumental performance of his own compositions, which drifted effortlessly between jazz and the complex folk music favored in northeastern Brazil.

"It's typically Brazilian. Only a Brazilian could have composed it," Gismonti said of his music.

Canonge, who was brought up on the French Caribbean island of Martinique before developing his upbeat style in Paris's jazz clubs, said he was like a teenaged fan listening to Gismonti.

"When I studied piano I kept asking myself how Gismonti would have played, and also how he played a 10-string guitar so well. This guy is really incredible."

Canonge said other Brazilian greats, Bossa Nova supremos Tom Jobim and Joao Gilberto, also served as inspiration.

"I learned a lot from listening to Tom Jobim. He was basically a composer, he wasn't a piano virtuoso. But the piano he taught me made it possible to play just a few notes, but the right ones."

For Stern - a multi-Grammy winner who has several times been recognized as the best jazz guitarist in the world - "Brazilian music is incredible. Here, everything is about music, even the way the people talk."

His own guiding stars in the Latin American nation's musical constellation were Hermeto Pascual and Airto Moreira.

"Hermeto is fantastic. He also plays with Airto. There are so many people in Brazil doing good music," he said.

The French group Selmer 607 - named after a Selmer-Maccaferri guitar used by Gypsy jazz king Django Reinhardt - were equally enamored by Brazil's musical influence.

"We love Jobim, Bossa nova, the Brazilian rhythms, and we love playing in this festival," lead guitarist Adrien Moignard said.