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Music Journal


Music Journal

Listen to #1:
"Forró en Curuipe"
realaudio download

Listen to #1:
"Forró en Curuipe"
DSL/Cable realaudio stream

* this is a 96 kHz recording

Marcelo Zarvos - piano, accordion | Peter Epstein - soprano saxophone

Dorothy Lawson - 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 musical fabric.

Before leaving São Paulo for the US to further his career, Zarvos delved into rock 'n' roll in the São 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 own way.

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 more."

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' sound.

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 Ziegler.

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).


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