Zarvos - piano, accordion | Peter
Epstein - soprano saxophone
- violincello | Chris Dahlgren - double bass
Mauro Refosco -
mallets, percussion | Satoshi
Takeishi - percussion
Brazilian pianist/composer Marcelo Zarvos continues to stake out his own musical
territory at the crossroads of world music, classical, and jazz. His passion
for his own country`s folklore and his natural gift as an improviser find their
expression in elegantly crafted compositions, a highly personal genre he sometimes
calls "world chamber music." Music Journal builds on the fusion of jazz
and classical elements Zarvos forged on Dualism (M033A), his 1995 duo release
with saxophonist Peter Epstein, and especially the critically acclaimed 1997
quintet album Labyrinths (M040A), with its incorporation of explicitly Brazilian
elements. Music Journal features Epstein on soprano saxophone as well
as Labyrinths` veterans Dorothy Lawson on cello and Mauro Refosco on percussion,
and two newcomers, Chris Dahlgren on bass, and Satoshi Takeishi on drums and
percussion. With a greater emphasis on composition, these new entries in Zarvos'
repertoire distill his diverse experiences into vibrant, luminous music unlike
anything else on the contemporary scene.
On Music Journal , Zarvos brings
his unique art to a new level. His Brazilian sensibilities lurk deep within
the music for the most part, although they occasionally come to the fore as
on "Forró em Curuipe," a bustling knot of melodies and rhythms, and "Avenida
Paulista," an effusive blend of bebop and samba designed to evoke the frenetic
energy of a São Paulo street. On slower songs like the moody "In a Doorway,"
Brazilian lyricism is a more subtle element, like the scarcely audible accordion
Zarvos uses to texture his piano melodies.
Zarvos began his study of classical piano
when he was eleven and living in São Paulo, Brazil's most populous city.
As a teenager, he studied with H.J. Koelreutter, a German composer who fled
from Nazi Germany to Brazil where he helped to form generations of modern musicians,
including the legendary bossa nova composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. Koelreutter
introduced Zarvos to many styles of music, perhaps most significantly the minimalist
creations of Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Zarvos hears a connection between
the repetitive layering of rhythms in their music, the language of jazz, and
even the folkloric music of the Brazilian northeast. In Zarvos' view, all three
genres find their deepest origins in Africa and the Middle East. In bringing
them together, Zarvos believes he is reconnecting strands of the world's tattered
Before leaving São
Paulo for the US to further his career, Zarvos delved into rock 'n' roll in
Paulo-based band "Tokio", whose work included collaborations with German alternative
rock singer Nina Hagen, and Brazil's legendary crooner Cauby Peixoto. Zarvos
then moved on to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music before winding
up in L.A. at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), where the musical
menu included traditions from Africa, India, and Indonesia. When he moved to
New York in 1995, Zarvos was ready to start putting the pieces together in his
As he began to compose and experiment,
he felt pulled in three different directions. Classical chamber music, jazz,
and Brazilian music seemed like separate paths. "But," says Zarvos, "I never
really felt that I would be satisfied doing just one of those things. I wanted
to be able to do all of that in one musical situation." Like his countrymen
Egberto Gismonti and Hermeto Pascoal, Zarvos could not imagine leaving Brazil
behind as he worked in jazz and classical idioms. "I think that once you're
outside your culture, sometimes you can see it more clearly and appreciate it
Since MA Recordings believes in single-point
recordings (with minimal post-production and no overdubs) the performances on
Music Journal have the same spontaneity and immediacy as on Labyrinths,
while the pieces themselves involve even more composed music. "I was interested
in having more solid compositions this time. The writing is more elaborate,
but I know all of these players pretty well, and I write with them in mind."
Zarvos cites inspirations as diverse as the atmosphere on a New York subway
and the orchestral music of Heictor Villa-Lobos. Critics writing about Labyrinths
detect influences ranging from Beethoven to Ellington to Keith Jarrett. "Ultimately,"
says Zarvos, "I'm just looking for something that is organic and that I like."
In addition to his own projects, Zarvos
has continued to work with other groups, including The Paul Winter Consort,
Vinicius Cantuaria, and Dominique Dalcan. He has also distinguished himself
as a composer of film scores, and in 1998, won the Candango award for best musical
score for "A Soccer Story" at the Brasilia Film Festival. In 1999, he collaborated
with Eumir Deodato on the score for "Bossa Nova" a new release by Academy-Award-nominated
filmmaker Bruno Barreto. This year (2000) Zarvos wrote music for the upcoming
independent feature film, "What Happened to Tully."
Zarvos met saxophonist Peter Epstein
at CalArts. Most of Epstein's work is in the jazz arena, including his own group
and solo projects on MA, and a collaboration with Mike Cain on ECM. Working
with Zarvos, he's found a voice of his own. As he puts it, "I am free to play
what moves me."
Cellist Dorothy Lawson comes from a classical
and chamber music background. She got her doctorate at Julliard and established
her career in Vienna. She has worked with the Toronto Symphony, New York Philharmonic,
the American Symphony, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and dance companies including
Mikhail Baryshnikov and the White Oak Dance Project. She has also ventured into
new music with the Bang-On-A-Can All Stars, but Zarvos' ensemble posed an entirely
unique challenge. Lawson's melodic voice has become a signature aspect of Zarvos'
Percussionist Mauro Refosco, the third
veteran in the group, has played dance pop with David Byrne's 1994 "In Constant
Motion" tour, new world jazz with John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards, minimalist
music with Philip Glass, and Brazilian rhythms with a number of traditional
groups. Since Zarvos only outlines percussion parts, Refosco and his percussion
accomplice Satoshi Takeishi have more freedom than the other players, but also
more responsibility to intuit what is required from them at every moment, a
process Refosco likens to a "chess game."
The group's new drummer/percussionist,
Satoshi Takeishi, was born in Mito, Japan. After studying at the Berklee College
of Music in Boston, he spent four years in Colombia, where he worked with composer/arranger
Francisco Zumaque and performed with the Bogota Symphony Orchestra. In 1991,
he settled in New York where he has played with artists as diverse as Ray Barretto,
Carlos 'Patato' Valdes, Eliane Elias, Randy Brecker, David Liebman, Mark Murphy,
Nestor Torres, Herbie Mann, Paul Winter Consort, Rabih Abu Khalil, and Pablo
Bassist Chris Dahlgren is a major player
in New York's downtown scene. Currently a member of the Jazz Mandolin Project,
Dahlgren has worked with Charles Tolliver, Herb Ellis, Art Lande, Fred Hersch,
Cal Collins, Tim Hagans, John 'the Baron' Von Ohlen, David Darling, Joe Lovano,
Red Rodney, and many others. He has released three acclaimed CDs as a bandleader:
Slow Commotion (1996), Resonance Impeders (1998), and Best Intentions (2000).