Guinga: Suite Leopoldina
Album Notes by Ricardo Pessanha: Suite Leopoldina, Guinga's fourth CD, definitively proves this great artist's talent and solidifies his prestige as one of Brazil's most outstanding musicians. Guinga's work is unique. He is a guardian of the best traditional MPB created by great masters of the past, and at the same time Guinga innovates, pointing at new directions for Brazilian genres such as choro and baião.
We take the train at Leopoldina Central Station in Rio de Janeiro. It goes by Bonsucesso, Ramos, Penha, among other neighborhoods. People are heading back home from work, but everybody exudes the typical Carioca (from the city of Rio de Janeiro) good mood. The conversation flows, jokes fly back and forth. All of a sudden someone starts singing a samba and the train car is turned into a samba school yard.
Looking through the window, the sight of Rio's north side suburbs (the area away from the beaches) is like naive paintings: backyards where choros are played, chairs on the sidewalks where people sit at the end of the day to exchange small talk, houses with colorful façades. Candeia, the unforgettable samba master, lived in one of these houses, and young Guinga accompanied him playing the guitar. It was there that Guinga heard transcendental sambas written by Candeia and his usual guests Caloni, Walter Rosa and many others. “Strange as it seems, it was with Candeia that I first heard Dave Brubeck. Candeia was crazy about Paul Desmond, the sax player, remembers Guinga.
During his childhood, when Guinga was not playing soccer, he was playing the guitar. His life was a constant move from the soccer field to his late friend Haroldo’s place. “He could have been one of Brazil’s best guitarists, but he never really wanted to become a pro.” It was Haroldo who introduced Guinga to the music of guitarist Garoto. This changed Guinga’s life: “When I heard Garoto’s guitar I knew I had to play and write music.”
Guinga spent his teen years in two neighborhoods in Rio: Vila Valqueire and Jacarepaguá. In these unfashionable places he listened to the purest Brazilian music: choro, sambas, Brazilian songs and waltzes. Jacob do Bandolim, Pixinguinha, Cândido das Neves, Custódio Mesquita, Ary Barroso, Noel Rosa, Tom Jobim, Chico Buarque, Dorival Caymmi, Vinicius de Moraes, Baden Powell, Edu Lobo were just some of the great artists that were a part of Guinga’s musical diet. Helio Delmiro, Turíbio Santos, among many others, were musicians Guinga not only admired, but also had a personal relationship with. The influence of all these experts shaped a sensitive musician, a composer of vast melodic and harmonic resources who today writes songs with Brazil’s best lyricists, people like Paulo César Pinheiro, Aldir Blanc and Chico Buarque. Guinga has become a rare unanimity in the Brazilian music scene. From prestigious samba composer Nei Lopes to funk singer Ed Motta, every musician respects the art of Guinga.
And Guinga’s music has crossed international borders. On Suite Leopoldina, it went all the way to Belgium to receive two splendid presents from virtuoso harmonica player Toots Thielemans: his very special participation on “Constance” and “Dos Anjos”. Toots himself called right after the recording just to say he cried his heart out listening to these wonderful songs. The same happened to Guinga; he was driven to tears by Toots’s renditions.
The participation of Guinga’s talented friends and admirers such as new partner Nei Lopes, Chico Buarque, Lenine, Ed Motta, Ivan Lins and Alceu Valença, adds even more brilliance to Suite Leopoldina. The same can be said about the accompanying musicians and arrangers, and especially about the collaboration of Guinga’s “brother” Lula Galvão, a prodigiously gifted artist about whom so much is still to be said.
Suite Leopoldina – Track List
1. Dos Anjos
This song is a tribute to musician Proveta's son. Gilson Peranzetta's piano and string arrangement forms the perfect frame for a beautiful melody and the divine Toots Thielemans's performance on the harmonica.
A samba choro, the first fruit of Guinga's partnership with Nei Lopes (“I've always wanted to work with Nei"). “Parsifal” features the historical rendezvous of two great creators, Chico Buarque and Nei Lopes, who tell the tragicomic story of "Major" Parsifal with swing and grace. Guided by Leandro Braga's light arrangements, Guinga's and Lula Galvão's guitars, Jorge Helder's acoustic bass plus Armando Marçal and Ovídio Brito's percussion build the perfect basis for the horns (Zé Nogueira - soprano sax, Paulo Sérgio Santos - clarinet, Andrea Ernesto Dias - flute) to delineate the delicious melody of “Parsifal”.
This choro, that has got it all to become an instant standard, is a tribute to Guinga's friend, bass player Jorge Helder. On “Di Menor”, Guinga and Lula Galvão on guitar and Jorge Helder on bass make the perfect foundation for Paulo Sérgio Santos “orchestra” (clarinets and bass clarinets) perform Galvão’s adventurous jazzy arrangement. A piece that breaks barriers between musical styles, “Di Menor” is brilliantly adorned by Armando Marçal’s elegant percussion.
4. Sargento Escobar
Guinga wrote this choro for his father, a Brazilian Air Force sergeant. “Sargento Escobar," a guitar solo, demonstrates Guinga's virtuosity, technique and feeling.
5. Chá de Panela
This baião, recorded in 1997 by Leila Pinheiro, won the Sharp Award for best song that year. On Suite Leopoldina, “Chá de Panela” gains an energetic interpretation by Alceu Valença plus superb arrangements by Carlos Malta, a dedicated disciple of Hermeto Paschoal, for whom “Chá de Panela” was written. Malta played with Paschoal for 11 years and his arrangement is an homage to his "professor", and could have been signed by "The Sorcerer" (Paschoal's nickname) himself. Malta's arrangement employs an unusual combination of horns (two trumpets, bassoon, tuba, tenor tuba and flutes) over a rhythm track made up of Guinga's and Lula Galvão's guitars, Helder's acoustic bass plus the spicy percussion of Marcos Suzano, Armando Marçal, Carlos Malta himself and Pernambuco, another wonderful "madman" from Hermeto Paschoal's band. Aldir Blanc's lyrics include "quotes" from Paschoal's compositions “Novena”, "Bebê" and "Chorinho pra Ele". Another highlight here is Alceu Valença's fantastic imitation of Luiz Gonzaga, the King of baião, at the end of the track.
6. Choro Perdido
Guinga wrote this beautiful choro for his mother. With his unmistakable soprano sax, Zé Nogueira paints a musical scene over Leandro Braga's string arrangement. The tense and at the same time lyric dialogue between Zé Nogueira's sax and Braga's piano is the highlight of “Choro Perdido”.
7. Noturno Leopoldina
Inspired by the trains that took him to Rio's suburbs so many times, Guinga was joined by Lula Galvão and Jorge Galvão to lead us on a fantastic journey through the landscapes that helped shape Guinga's musical perception. Armando Marçal's brilliant percussion emphasizes the train atmosphere.
8. Guia de Cego
Here’s a moda de viola Guinga wrote in partnership with a new talent from Vila Valqueire , Mauro Aguiar, creatively arranged by Rodrigo Lessa and sung by Guinga and Ivan Lins. The musicians on “Guia de Cego” are Guinga himself and Rodrigo Lessa (steel-stringed guitars), Edson Menezes (electric bass guitar), Marcos Suzano (percussion) plus Eduardo Neves (flute) and Paulo Sérgio Santos (clarinet). Neves and Santos delicately embroider the melody over a lovely bed of strings, sometimes using “pizzicato” to obtain a stunning percussive effect.
9. Perfume de Radamés
After finishing this composition, Guinga felt as if the spirit of great conductor and composer Radamés Gnatalli had touched him. The resemblance of “Perfume de Radamés” with some pieces written by Gnatalli is amazing. Because of that, the group that recorded this track emulates and pays tribute to Radamés Gnatalli Quintet. Gilson Peranzzetta (the arranger) plays Radamés on piano and Chiquinho on the accordion; Jorge Helder, Vital’s bass; Lula Galvão, Zé Menezes’s guitar; and João Cortes plays the celebrated drummer Luciano Perrone.
10. Par Constante
Inspired by guitarists Barney Kessel, Tal Farlow, Herb Ellis, Kenny Burrell and Hélio Delmiro, among others, Guinga wrote this contagious Carioca fox, superbly arranged by Lula Galvão. Guinga (guitar), Lula (electric guitar), Jorge Helder (acoustic bass) and João Cortez (drums) create the perfect setting for Ed Motta’s brilliant vocals, vocals that can be compared to the best interpretations of the golden years of fox. Music to enjoy, to dance to and to be enthralled by Motta’s powerful voice and Lula Galvão’s unforgettable guitar solo.
11.Cortando um Dobrado
A baião with Guinga’s trademark, “Cortando um Dobrado” features an irresistible melody spiced with an infectious swing. The track gets top-notch interpretation by Lula Galvão (cavaquinho, guitars and arrangement), Guinga (guitar), Jorge Helder (acoustic bass), Gilson Peranzzetta (accordion) and Marcos Suzano (percussion).
12. Mingus Samba
A tribute to Charlie Mingus previously recorded by Banda Mantiqueira, “Mingus Samba” gained state-of-the-art lyrics by Aldir Blanc and an intense, full of swing interpretation by Lenine, who emulates Jackson do Pandeiro at his best. Aldir Blanc (just like Guinga, a great admirer of Charlie Mingus) even managed to include words like “pithecanthropus” (referring to Mingus’s standard “Pithecanthropus Erectus”) on “Mingus Samba”. The sensational horn arrangement by Rodrigo Lessa alludes to Mingus approach to mambo (“Mani Picao”) and perfectly integrates with the basis established by Guinga and Lula Galvão (guitars), Edson Menezes (bass) plus Armando Marçal and Ovídio Brito’s “angry” percussion. The lineup of superb musicians on “Mingus Samba” is completed with the trombone of Roberto Marques, the trumpet of Nilton Rodrigues and the tenor sax of Eduardo Neves.
One of Guinga’s most accomplished tunes, a born standard. Guinga’s solo performance is a gift for music lovers anywhere, any time.
This waltz, inspired by Guinga’s friend Chico Buarque, received a superb string arrangement by Gilson Peranzzetta and a magical, sensitive interpretation by Toots Thielemans that makes it one of the highlights of the record. Constance also features the precision and musicality of Jorge Helder on bass.
© Ricardo Pessanha