Feb 04 2007

Celia Malheiros: Cenário Brasileiro

Brazilian Landscape


Cenário BrasileiroA few years ago, I had the pleasure of listening to Celia Malheiros’s first album, Sempre Crescendo. Among the various things that impressed me in her debut I must point out that the quality of the compositions got my attention, particularly the lyrics. So, needless to say that when I heard about Celia’s latest release, Cenário Brasileiro, I was very curious and eager to listen to it. Little did I know how much she has grown as a performer, composer and singer.

Once again, Celia Malheiros shows a quality release with very good arrangements and performances. The musicians accompanying her in this album include Delia Fischer (piano), Márcio Bahia (drums), Gastão Villeroy (bass), Trambique (percussion), Marcelo Bernardes (flutes, sax) as well as distinguished guests Itiberê Zwarg and João Bosco. Her music is both typically Brazilian with sambas, marches and xotes, and yet they offer an extra layer of musicality with some incredible solos full of jazz colors.

Celia’s attention to detail to Brazilian culture continues to shine. She writes lyrics that not only tell a story, but they also explore the richness of Brazil, whether in culture, language or scenery. For example, in the opening track “Inesquecível – Vitória-Régia,” she sings about an unforgettable landscape in a moonlit night. This beautiful slow march ends with a ciranda-like arrangement with Celia reading some of her own poetry about the incredibly beautiful Amazon flower known as Vitória-Régia. When I asked her to tell me more about that composition she said

This opening track starts us off to a trip to the Amazon ending with my poem about the Legend of Vitória Régia, an indigenous tale about the moon and how the biggest water lily in the world was born. In my arrangement, the flutes are used for texture giving a very feminine and transparent touch to the song. The harmony is rich and complex balancing out with simple melodies.

The apparent simple melody she refers to is child-like and leads to a crescendo for the ciranda ending. This contrasts very well with the complex flute harmonies. When we reach the ciranda, the listener is transported to the streets in the northeast of Brazil and can visualize children holding hands and dancing the ciranda. At the same time, Celia reads her poetry about the origin of Vitória-Régia. The tragic story is touchingly beautiful with life being born out of a tragedy. Beauty is reborn.

The second track, “Marcha Ré,” continues exploring the richness of the Brazilian northeast music. Maracatú blends in with baião creating a sound very much reminiscent of Hermeto Pascoal’s. Drums, voice, flute and cello begin this slow tune that builds into a forró. Here is what Celia had to say about “Marcha Ré”:

I chose Orquestra Família directed by Itiberê, Hermeto Pascoal’s bass player, for this song because it carries Hermeto’s sound and approach to music, which plays a big part on my music background. I feel very much a part of this big family that is Hermeto’s music today! Itiberê’s arrangement is very unique, with unconventional orchestration and extremely complex harmonies. The song has four distinctive themes which he kept intact. This song takes us to a feira (open-air market) in the northeast of Brazil, where a couple is trying to dance but soon realize that the only way to do it is by counting 3 to one side and 4 to the other. There are 4 solos other than the initial drums solo: voice, bass, piano and guitar.

Celia Malheiros & João Bosco

Celia Malheiros & João Bosco

This variety in the arrangement makes “Marcha Ré” an intriguing song. Of course, a Brazilian album singing about Brazilian landscape has to include an exultation samba. That is what the title track “Cenário Brasileiro” does. With João Bosco sharing the vocals, you could easily imagine this song being performed in Rio de Janeiro’s Sambódromo in front of millions of spectators dancing during Carnaval. The lyrics pay homage to Bahia, Tom Jobim, Carmem Miranda, Pelé and Carnaval. João Bosco’s inimitable scat singing is gorgeous. Celia says “he has been a great support of my career and is my music Godfather.” One distinct characteristic of this song is its horn arrangement by Luís Brasil.

Another great track in this album is the xote “Tô Xoteado.” In addition to the clever and humorous play on words (I’m full of xote and I’m upset), this is genuinely an infectious instrumental piece.

I asked Celia to give us her own thoughts about the music she created. So, let us get into the composer’s mind and read her own words guiding us through her music. Here is what she had to say about the other tracks inCenário Brasileiro.


Penumbra This is a very sensual Bossa. The arrangement by Ignez Perdigão is rich and accents the complex harmony of the song and its subtle modulations. The trombone solo is a written part of the song originally. I wrote it to be the intro but it works well as an interlude followed by the vibraphone doing the A part of the melody. The trombone used in this way has a very Brazilian sound and is ideal for this style.
Chorando em San Francisco Choro is one of the oldest styles of Brazilian music. In this song my intention was to highlight the traditional in a tribute to San Francisco. Choro na Feira is a group of musicians and old friends of mine that are specialized in this style. My cavaco solo is a part of the melody in exchange with the flute. The flute, clarinet and 7-string guitar are a great example of the counterpoint work that is the heart of this style.
Sei Não! A 7/4 song written with the war in mind. Itiberê’s arrangements and the Orquestra Família bring the right texture to this somewhat complex composition. There are no solos; all the melodies are my original thoughts and impression of wars.
Camila Bossa with touches of Choro. It is dedicated to my daughter with a citation from “Smile,” by Charlie Chaplin, which I believe to be a great massage to the world!
Valeu! Samba and a love story. The trombones and flugel combination of this arrangement gives a great support on the lower range working well together with the rhythm section in supporting the voice.
Sempre Crescendo This became a tradition on my CDs and concerts, a song that is totally improvised! It started in my first CD where I improvised with master Hermeto Pascoal, voice and piano. In this CD I have the pleasure of improvising with one of the best bass players in the world Paulo Russo. It was a lot of fun, a great dialog between two inspirited musicians.
Tô Xoteado Xote. This rhythm from northeast of Brazil is one of my favorites. In this arrangement I used the traditional instrumentation with the cavaco, clarinet and accordion sharing and trading the melody. The solos are very fluent and perfect for this style with Marcelo Bernardes on clarinet with beautiful and very soulful phrases and Kiko Horta on accordion, an instrument that is the foundation of the Xote. The percussion — zabumba, triangle, agogô and reco-reco — is played by a master in this style Durval Ferreira.
Mesmo Mar This is my conversation with God in a style called repente from northeast of Brazil, where the singer improvises the verses, and there is always a chorus where everyone sings. I am playing a variety of Brazilian percussion — berimbau, pandeiro, alfaia (drum from Maranhão). At the end, an a cappella vocal group sings part of my song “Yemanjá” that was recorded in my first CD and is my tribute to the queen of the ocean.

Cenário Brasileiro includes a booklet complete with plenty of photos of the studio sessions as well as all lyrics in Portuguese and English. For more information on the album and artist, please visit Celia Malheiros‘s web site.



Celia Malheiros
Cenário Brasileiro
Sempre Crescendo Music 6764 (2006)
Time: 43’52”


All compositions and poetry by Celia Malheiros.

  1. Inesquecível – Vitória-Régia
  2. Marcha Ré
  3. Cenário Brasileiro – w/ João Bosco
  4. Penumbra
  5. Chorando em San Francisco
  6. Sei Não!
  7. Camila
  8. Valeu!
  9. Sempre Crescendo
  10. Tô Xoteado
  11. Mesmo Mar