John Patitucci - Irmãos de Fé

John Patitucci - Acoustic and Electric Bass
Yotam Silberstein - Acoustic and Electric Guitar
Rogério Boccato - Drum set and Percussion

          What if it’s about the song? Jazz has been defined by the beat, the instrumentation, the provenance or background of the musician, the historical antecedents, “If it swings, it’s jazz,” “If you have to ask, you’ll never know...” But beneath it all there’s the bedrock of improvisation. Jazz is the music that is improvised—of the moment—it’s about the musician making a statement in time, not a composer building something timeless. But is it jazz if everything that is created in the moment is in service to the song? A composition not as a vehicle for a musician to express himself, but all the talents of the improviser expended in devotion to the song?

          Devotion is a strong word, but the pieces chosen by Patitucci, Silberstein and Boccato can inspire no other sentiment. Buarque, Nascimento, Jobim, Gismonti, Garôto, Dominguinhos… giants and poets. These songs are so strong. The standard jazz repertoire is full of brilliant tunes that are twisted and stretched to fit whatever design the player brings to it. And when the song is really special, it shines its own light regardless. But the songs on this record demand a different sort of reverence.

          The three musicians on this record are not just musicians who love the music of Brazil but true scholars of the music. Lyrics, intentions, personalities, instrumentations and histories were all discussed in rehearsals and studio just as much as chord changes, tempos and inflections. These songs have stories to tell.

          “Irmãos de Fé” speaks of a battle for freedom… the lyrics oscillate between depictions of an idyllic future and a message of peace, on the one hand, with imagery of blades and violence on the other. The line that gets repeated twice at the end of the song invokes this dichotomy with such power —“Mesmo a dor vai te sorrir” (“Even your pain will smile at you”). John and Rogerio have both played with the great Milton Nascimento, who penned two tracks on this record, and is such a pivotal figure in the history of Brazilian music. The time feel here is colossal. If I can wax poetic here for a second, it’s not just about the metronomic feel of the time. There’s a tone to the time, a weight and an intention. Storytelling.

          Side A closes with a heartbreaking rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Olha Maria.” Speaking of guitarist Yotam Silberstein’s musicianship at the session, John said “Yotam's knowledge of this music is such that you can hear the full sound of the original recording's orchestra just through his guitar alone.”  It is incredibly difficult to make a bowed melody, like John does here, sound so effortless. That fluidity of touch and technique is a special gift of John’s and a big part of what has made him one of the most popular and respected living bassists. And what a story he’s telling here so achingly and unsentimentally. The song speaks of a love not just lost but set free. Written by founding fathers of Bossa Nova, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes along with the great Chico Buarque, there’s a deep self knowledge, wit and intelligence embedded in this piece:

 

Shot by Sarah Enid Hagey, edited by Ben Chace.



Yotam Silberstein
Yotam Silberstein | ©Jordan Kleinman

(Translation help from Rogerio Boccato)

Olha Maria

 

Look (or know this), Maria.
I really wished to
Make you a prey
Of my poetry
But today, Maria
To my surprise
To my sadness/sorrow
You need to leave. 

Leave, Maria
That you look so beautiful.
You are so eager
To abandon me
I feel Maria (feel here is the same word for sorry)
that You were only visiting
that Your body moves
Wanting to dance 

Leave, Maria
That you are all naked
That the moon calls for you
That you are so womanly
Burn, Maria
In the flame of the moon
Maria the gypsy
Maria the tide 

 

Leave singing
Maria running away
Against the big wind
Playing, sleeping
In a mountain range lap (in the side of a hill)
In an empty field
On a riverbed
In the arms of the sea 

Go away, joy
That life, Maria
Lasts just for a day
I won’t delay you
Run, Maria
For life does not wait
It's your springtime
You can not miss it 

Go ahead, Maria
For I would have only
My agony
To offer to you

 




          Throughout this record, John, Yotam and Rogerio play masterfully, but to pick out specific solos or high points seems almost antithetical to the spirit of the recording.  There is a collective, transporting narrative here that is evident in every note.  Rather I’d like to use this space to again show some of the depth of writing and hopefully to give some insight into the sound that is informing the record. 

          “Sinhá”, which closes the record, is a song written recently by João Bosco and Chico Buarque.  It tells a uniquely Brazilian story from the perspective of a slave being beaten for supposedly seeing the plantation master’s wife bathing in the river.  The slave is pleading and saying, “I could not have seen her, I was not there, I can’t even see well, I had already left, I was watching the birds, etc…”  As the song progresses we see the slave crying to Jesus but in his language of Yoruba, which speaks to the difficult history of Yoruba slaves, disguising their deities in the names of Catholic saints.  The poetry of the song brings an entire tragic history replete with the beautiful musical detritus of civilizations reborn in foreign lands.  In the last stanza the song turns again, as an “heir,” possibly the progeny of this slave and the mistress of the plantation (and as a tormented singer possibly Buarque himself and by extension modern Brazilian society), speaks of the bewitching power of the plantation. 

          There is a paradox in the regional specificity of these songs and their overwhelming universal truth.  Music that speaks not just across languages but through a deeper medium.  These songs are not conveyances for improvisational flights of fancy.  John, Yotam and Rogerio bring their considerable gifts and unique voices to express the song, and the song alone, and perhaps that is the higher calling.

--Elan Mehler

 

“Sinhá”, by João Bosco and Chico Buarque

If the lady Bathed,
I was not there.
For God Our Lord's sake
I did not look at Sinha.
I was there on the farm.
I'm not one that looks at anyone.
I have no more greed,
Can't even see well. 

Why put me in the trunk?
Why maim me?
I swear to you, lord,
I never saw Sinha.
Why treat me so badly?
With such blue eyes 
I now make the cross sign (like in the Catholic tradition). 

I just arrived at the weir,
looking for the sabiá (a bird).
I looked at the trees.
I did not look at Sinha.
If the lady undressed,
I had walked beyond already.
It was in the milling.
I was in Xerém. 

Why whittle my body?
I did not look at Sinha.
Why, lord.
My eyes you will stick?
I cry in Yoruba
But I pray for Jesus.
Why will you 
Prevent me to see the light? 

And so will end --
The story of a singer
With his pillory's voice 
And airs of a lord. 
A tormented singer and heir 
Of the name and reputation
Of a fierce slave lord,
And of the ills of a slave
That in the plantation bewitched Sinhá.

 

 




Rogério Boccato
Rogério Boccato | ©Jordan Kleinman



John Patitucci
John Patitucci | ©Jordan Kleinman



John Patitucci
John Patitucci | ©Jordan Kleinman





Rogerio, John, Elan Mehler, Marc Urselli and Yotam
Rogerio, John, Elan Mehler, Marc Urselli and Yotam | ©Jordan Kleinman


John Patitucci
John Patitucci | ©Jordan Kleinman