Short Takes

    Brazil has become the world’s largest corridor for
    cocaine. Sixty percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States comes
    from the White Triangle, a region encompassing border areas in Brazil,
    Colombia and Peru. With all the US effort to combat drug production in
    Colombia, Brazil is increasing its role as a producer of the white powder.
    Some Brazilian authorities fear that a new Medellín is growing right
    now deep in the Brazilian Amazon jungle. For all the tragedies they bring,
    drugs on the other hand also guarantee jobs to at least a quarter of a
    million Brazilians. They are those working in the marijuana fields in the
    Northeast and the dozens of thousands selling drugs in the streets of the
    big cities. Crack, New York’s gift to the world, has also born fruit in
    Brazil. Started in 1988 in the São Paulo suburbs, the crack habit
    has gained status and is used now across the country in bigger and smaller
    towns.
    By Brazzil Magazine

    It’s been just over a year now since Brazilian saxophonist Leo Gandelman
    left his wonderful home near Jardim Botânico in Rio to embark
    on his re-discovery of the new world, via New York city. Gandelman, who
    has an impressive history of recording here in the US, made his decision
    to concentrate on new aspects of his career with the focus on his international
    image. With the mastery of his instrument has come the recognition from
    his native country, unusual for an instrumental artist, but substantial
    and well deserved and a perfect launching pad for his goals.

    With six solo albums to his credit, Leo Gandelman has the ability to
    expand the horizons of Brazilian music through the resurgence of contemporary
    jazz worldwide. His latest recording, currently available in the US only
    as an import is called Pérolas Negras (Black Pearls) and
    showcases Leo’s favorite songs written by Afro-Brazilian composers. In
    it you’ll find jazzy versions of "Mais Que Nada" by Jorge
    Ben
    , "Nana" written by Moacyr Santos and Mário
    Telles
    with its driving, infectious beat, and Milton Nascimento‘s
    "Clube da Esquina No. 2."

    One of the album’s favorite tracks is a reworking of Monsueto and
    Ayrton Amorim‘s "Me Deixa em Paz" with singer Luís
    Melodia
    . The song carries all of the passion of unrequited love, and
    is a wonderful interpretation of a Brazilian classic. And much like other
    saxophone players here, Gandelman’s decision to use a singer to anchor
    his recording of the song has had the desired effect: it’s a big radio
    hit in Rio.

    Included are other songs penned by Cartola, Jamil Jones,
    Djavan, Gilberto Gil and Pixinguinha. And with a nod
    to the northeast, Leo includes a spirited, modern version of Pauliho
    da Viola
    ‘s "Choro Negro," and it comes off with a satisfying
    sense of respect and the same playfulness that the song has always held.

    Stevie Wonder‘s "Overjoyed" is included as "the
    exception that proves the rule," as Leo would say. His gratitude and
    appreciation of Wonder’s incredible musical skills has always been evident
    and the song is presented as a lovely ballad with a Brazilian touch that’s
    unmistakable.

    A true Carioca, Gandelman began to study piano and flute at an
    early age, and benefited from a musical family. While his father’s background
    was as a conductor, his mother’s talents were more instructional, literally,
    as a piano teacher. He studied classical music extensively during these
    years and became quite adept at the form, playing with various Baroque
    groups and also as a soloist with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra. This
    early direction soon led to the saxophone and Leo left Brazil for Boston
    and the Berklee College of Music during the 1970s.

    The close of that decade found Gandelman back in Rio, armed with an
    advanced talent and the creative skills to support it: arranging, composition
    and the ability to perform on all of the saxophones, from soprano to baritone,
    as well as his earlier favorites, his keyboards and the flute.

    He also had a plan, and began to record with everyone: Simone,
    Djavan, Elis Regina, Toninho Horta and Ricardo Silveira.
    He also took part in the popular Rock in Rio festivals and the Montreux
    Jazz Festival as his name and reputation grew. Sometimes playing two or
    three sessions a day, Leo set aside his savings for the project that would
    catapult his career to the next level. A solo album.

    His self titled album was finally recorded and released in 1987 on CBS
    in Brazil, and while it was ahead of its time for the Brazilian music scene,
    it was on the cutting edge of contemporary jazz in the US, were word of
    his creativity caught the eye of Verve Forecast, a Polygram label in New
    York. The label was growing by leaps and bounds, and signing new Brazilian
    jazz stars was part of the game plan.

    Verve signed Leo to a multi-release agreement, and did likewise with
    Ricardo Silveira, Joyce and Toninho Horta. With the strong support and
    backing of this music powerhouse behind him, Leo’s recognition grew in
    the US and back home in Brazil. He quickly recorded Western World and
    Solar for Verve, both of which gained quick, lasting radio play
    with smooth jazz stations. When Verve changed directions in the 1980’s
    Leo continued on with Polygram Brasil and his success continued as well
    with Visions (1991) and Made in Rio (1993). While neither
    of these two albums received widespread exposure here in the US, both are
    excellent choices for your collection.

    What you’ll find with these two CDs are the effects of Leo’s continuing
    growth as a jazz master. Visions represents Leo’s first advance
    into the international arena, with a well produced collection of tunes
    including the flowing lines of "Pirates" and "Point of View"
    with a stylish touch of Tower of Power thrown into the mix. João
    Bosco
    appears on "Dance in the Woods" and "Spirits of
    the Forest" is restructured and elevated from its beginnings as a
    novela (soap opera) theme song. Made in Rio is more
    pop flavored, with takes on Paul McCartney’s "Long and Winding Road,"
    Nascimento’s "Quay," Ary Barroso’s "Bahia" and Rio’s
    unofficial theme song "Cidade Maravilhosa" (Wonderful City).

    Today, Leo calls the New York suburbs his home, having made a promise
    to build the next stage of his incredible career as a musical giant in
    a culture that heavily favors vocal music. His eight years of awards as
    Brazil’s top instrumental player pay tribute to his talent and dedication;
    holding a glimpse of what the future might bring. Watch for Leo Gandelman’s
    upcoming projects, including his work with Oscar Castro-Neves and
    the group Globo later this Spring.

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