Well, it only took two nights to finally stay out till almost dawn. Last night I stumbled in about 3am after a great night of music: choro and samba.
The first stop was at Rio Scenarium, one of Rio’s newish nightspots, a virtual empire with three or four different clubs in the same block. It’s an old antique store, located in and even older building that was probably a sort of department store, or a warehouse, not sure which. Anyway, Jorge Filho, one of the musicians I was going to see, picked me up in a taxi on a busy corner near my hotel. A conversation in the cab covered the recent 2016 Olympic decision which led to his assessment of the likely dishonesty of local politicians who were most likely to benefit from this choice. The poor sure ain’t gonna get no trickle-down, não senhor!
We arrived at the club about 90 minutes early so the band could do sound check and so on. (at least one of the musicians didn’t arrive until about 20 minutes AFTER the gig was supposed to start, so the sound check, such as it was, happened in real time in front of the crowd AFTER the gig began!
Oh, the group: the very hallowed Conjunto Epoca de Ouro, the absolute best choro group
in Brazil, i.e., the universe. They are celebrating 45 years of performing, even though only one original member is still playing. The group was formed by the legendary Jacob do Bandolim, Brazil’s greatest-ever mandolin player whose career covered the 1940s through the late ’60s. His field, called choro, is a fantastic, complex music which began sort of parallel to ragtime in the USA and some of the early piano recording even sound a bit like ragtime if you squint your ears while listening. Though it nearly disappeared after Jacob’s death, his group, Epoca de Ouro, reformed somewhere around 1973 or so and, thanks to some exposure via some concerts with samba great Paulinho da Viola (whose dad, Cesar Faria was a founding member of EDO, as well as guitarist with Paulinho…the family ties here are gonna get confusing).
So choro is now alive and very well, with many new young players coming up through the ranks, and more on the way…there are several schools now dedicated to teaching musicians the art of choro, my amigo Celso is at this moment at the Saturday school he’s involved with…a few hundred may be in classes today!
During the show, Celso used his cell phone to record a bit of video which I’ve uploaded to YouTube. You can watch it here…it’s only about three minutes long and will give you an idea of what these guys do and features a short tambourine (pandeiro) solo by Jorginho. (after the video I ramble on more….)
After taking some photos of the band on stage, I headed out on my own to catch some samba by a guy I’ve admired for ten years, but it meant a cab ride through some pretty iffy areas…piles of trash, lots of homeless, until finally, a sea of kids swelled up in the street, a street full of new bars and night spots. Gallotti, the guy in question, is probably in his late 30s, probably upper middle class, but with an unbridled passion for the sambas of long ago: I heard ten years ago that he has a gigantic collection of old samba 78s and LPs that dates back to the 1920s and ’30s. His 2003 (o4?) disc called Samba das Rodas is a CD I’ve played at least 500 times, and that is no exaggeration. It is a marvelous collection of mostly old classic sambas done in a very simple style which I find irresistible. His voice isn’t the best, but the passion is there, and his taste is impeccable. At Trapiche da Gamboa, the club in question, his performance was old style: gather the musicians around a large table covered with microphones and large beer bottles (classic style for roda de samba, a samba jam, more or less) and let ‘er rip.
The crowd was mostly 30 and under, all singing along, drinking beer and caipirinhas, all clearly having a great time. I ordered the first of many of the large 20 ounce beers–Antarctica, my preferred brand which is nearly impossible to find these days owing to the dominance of Brahma beer…Brahma now owns Antarctica but doesn’t seem to want to let it get around much; go figure.
Problem: Gallotti has surrounded himself with inferior musicians who he allows to carry a lot of the singing, and the overall sound is far inferior to what he did 10 years ago…a big disappointment. But I stuck it out until about 2:30am when I finally paid my tab and headed back to the hotel. A long night indeed. And I knew I had to be in top form by 1.30pm on Saturday to gobble up my first feijoada!