Andrea Miller I first heard her at a now defunct club in Koreatown called Zip, a nice, roomy place as I recall, good drinks and a youthful, edgy vibe. Here was a melifluous and sultry Miss Miller, delivering from her deep familiarity with the American songbook. Cry Me A River, Over the Rainbow, Killing Me Softly come to mind from that night. I was looking for someone who could handle Chico Buarque’s Rum Cake (Com açúcar, com afeto). By handle I mean capture the song’s sentiment with the tender but wise inflection called for. My search was over. Nara Leão’s 1966 version, still known and loved in Brazil, suffers nothing in Andrea’s interpretation as we listen to her sing the story 50-some years later and in a different language. I am going to drop Andrea’s recording of The Water Is Wide in here gratis. It has nothing to do with our past work on Chico Buarque, but this project has a future, too. Thank you, Andrea
Angelo Metz Radio is providential. At the same time that I was looking for a vocalist for “Rum Cake” (Com açúcar, com afeto), I was in the market for a Brazilian guitarist who could play bossa nova standards and who would know a good number of Chico Buarque songs like the back of his hand. This describes more LA musicians than one might think, and quite a few American ones as well. Apparently Sergio Mielniczenko and his Brazilian Hour on KCET, or was it his Global Village on KPFK, heard my prayer and invited a recetly minted Doctor of Musical Arts from USC, Angelo Metz, for an interview. I heard it, circled the date for Angelo’s recital performance and wasted no time in asking him into The Chico Buarque Project. Soon enough he and Andrea Miller were trying out “Rum Cake,” in my apartment living room. “This will work,” opined Angelo, perhaps not suspecting that in the ensuing five years I would come to rely on him both for excellent guitar work and, I have to admit, for basic production chops. He also tapped one of his homies from Rio Grande do Sul, Marcio Petracco, for some pedal steel work on Chico’s “Baby Jesus” (coming Week 6). Thank you, Angelo.
O rádio é providencial. Ao mesmo tempo em que eu procurava um vocalista para “Rum Cake” (Com açúcar, com afeto), eu estava buscando também um violonista brasileiro que soubesse tocar bossa nova e que conhecesse intimamente o repertório de Chico Buarque. Se engana quem acha que um músico com esse perfil seja difícil de encontrar em Los Angeles. Aparentemente, Sergio Mielniczenko e sua Brazilian Hour (Hora Brasileira) no KCET (rádio pública do estado da Califórnia), ou foi sua Global Village (Aldeia Global) na Rádio KPFK (sigla da Rádio Pacífica, baseada em Hollywood), atenderam minhas preces e convidaram um recém-graduado doutor em Artes Musicais da Universidade da Califórnia do Sul (USC), Angelo Metz, para uma entrevista. Ouvi, marquei a data da entrevista, e não perdi tempo em convidar Angelo para o Projeto Chico Buarque. Logo depois, ele e Andrea Miller estavam tocando “Rum Cake”, no meu apartamento. “Isso vai funcionar”, opinou Angelo, talvez não suspeitando ainda que pelos cinco anos seguintes eu passaria a depender dele, tanto para os acordes de violão quanto, devo admitir, para o trabalho de edição. Ele também recrutou um colega gaúcho, Marcio Petracco, para os pedais no “Baby Jesus” (Menino Jesus, na semana que vem). Obrigado Angelo.
Jose Marino It was like getting a call from Vito Corleone, but with a good baritone register in the voice on the other end. “Hey, Mark, this is Jose Marino and I like what you’re doing with Chico’s music. It’s a good thing.” Just the day before, we had recorded the first tracks for the Project at the del Mate Studios in Silver City. Jose, or Zelão (think, “big Joe”) to his Brazilian brethren, had more to say. “It’s a good thing, yeah, but you don’t know what you’re doing and you didn’t pay me.” I took care of the misplaced pay, like, real quick. As for not knowing what I was doing, he was right. I had pulled all of the musicians together at the same time at the studio, a serious mistake. You do it by tracks, Jose explained, maybe one or two at a time, building the song up before you record the vocalists. Jose Marino, accomplished veteran bass man who has played with the greats in Rio and in the U.S., a gentleman and a friend to this project, thank you.
Leo Costa He was the youngest musician in the Chico Buarque Project, but a good reputation preceded him nonetheless. “He’s got the Rio Samba School background for real,” they told me, “but he knows his rock music, too.” Perfect. If I was going to land an American public on planet Chico, this guy could get them ready, and Leo did. For “Rum Cake” I needed light brushwork. Done. For “Samba School” I told him, “play this for people who have grown up on Creedence Clearwater Revival,” a pretty unreasonable request, I now realize, for a song that features a straight-up traditional samba backbeat, but Leo knew what I meant and delivered the goods, as you’ll hear in week two of the blog. My fellow Americans, if you start to feel a sort of murmur of Brazilian rhythm somewhere inside of you as you accompany us on this journey, you may have Leonardo Costa to thank, as I do now. Thank you, Leo, for understanding what the translation of rhythm is all about.
Gary Blumer I hadn’t asked Andrea Miller to find me a piano player, but she did anyway. As I sat at Charlie O’s in the San Fernando Valley, listening to Gary float her through Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” I could hear some modal jazz accenting the accompaniment — a little Bill Evans here, a little Miles Davis there. I made a few assumptions: this is a jazz man who can play bossa nova; vocalists will warm up to him; if I want to blend an American melodic sensibility with a Brazilian feel for rhythm, he can teach the singers how to do it. I was right on all three counts. Pretty much every musician involved with the project will remember Gary Blumer’s music room, but especially the singers, because that is where they made themselves at home with the music of Chico Buarque. Player and teacher, teacher and player, thank you, Gary Blumer for fine tuning the songs as if they were brand new, which, to many of those involved with the Project, they were.
Fay Roberts Go ahead and take a look at Charangoa.com. That is Fay Roberts’ dancefloor-shaking, soul-uplifting Cuban charanga group. On the Scoville scale of pepper hotness, there is the habanero and then there is the diminutive Fay playing the flute. There are venues all over southern California that can vouch for that. One of her flute students recommended her to me. She knew something about Chico and everything about playing the flute. She is fabulously well organized, deeply committed to her craft and a born leader. I could have just given her the whole project to lead, but she had another country, Cuba, to proselytize for, so I had to be content to bring her in for those songs that called for flute. She was prompt and professional, and knew how to channel Chico’s poetry through her instrument. Thank you, Fay.