Jan 31 2008

João Gaspar: Camaleão Carioca

Absorbing Influences


Camaleão CariocaGuitarist João Gaspar shows up with an album that proves again that the seldom recognized high quality of Brazilian Jazz certainly deserves more attention. It’s weird how this music still is difficult to “sell” in or outside Brazil. Gaspar delivers an independent released cd that easily outclasses many best sellers on the jazz charts. And indeed, his music is quietly crossing the Brazilian border.

The guitarist from Rio de Janeiro (1976) is featured on the recently reviewed Glauco Lourenço‘s album Abalo Sísmico. Before that he also worked with tasteful artists like Angela Rô Rô, Zélia Duncan, Lenine, Simone Guimarães and Ivan Lins. On his first solo project, João Gaspar fully takes the opportunity to show his unquestionable talent as guitarist and composer. On Camaleão Carioca he can be heard on the regular acoustic and electric guitars as well as on banjo, mandolin, dobro and electric sitar. The nice thing about the graduated student (arrangement) from the Federal State University of Rio de Janeiro (UniRio) is that he loves to include traditional Brazilian influences in his performances.  With studies about harmony, improvisation, counter point theory, Classical and Flamenco guitar and research on the works of Toninho Horta, Egberto Gismonti, Michael Brecker, Joe Diorio, Pat Metheny and many others, João certainly has enough background to come up with very interesting music.

João GasparThe ball starts to roll with an own composition “Rola Bola.” It’s what one could call Rio de Janeiro fusion, leaning on a bit to the US West Coast fusion: relaxed comfortable music against a samba inspired rhythm. Rio born pianist David Feldman shows why he’s a promising name in Rio’s jazz scene. He’s accompanying in a beautiful way and gets a chance to play a short solo on his Fender Rhodes. In the bridge to João’s solo, I can’t help hearing a clear reference to “Invitation,” the composition by Polish film music composer Bronislaw Kaper, maybe best known by the renditions of the late Jaco Pastorius. With his solo, João Gaspar brings us right into the samba atmosphere of Rio. With a short solo by the great Márcio Bahia on drums the songs returns to its theme. “Céu Aberto” features the acoustic guitar and the accompanying voice of Letícia Carvalho, which gives the song’s theme an air of the Pat Metheny Band. As throughout the cd, the solo by the guitarist is a delightful joy of craftsmanship. João’s never guilty of endless solos that lead to nowhere; he’s always to the point on a well chosen guitar in each of the tracks. Guinga opens his own “Côco do Côco” in his trademarked beautiful way. The way the song is performed sounds like nothing less than a heartwarming dedication to the rich Brazilian musical culture. João met Guinga while working with Simone Guimarães. That led to his participation on this album. Guinga additionally composed and performed the opening bars. Besides him, João is on mandolin and acoustic guitar. Bassist is Bruno Aguilar; Márcio Bahia and Marco Lobo are on drums and percussion. “Nevoeiro” forms a nice contrast because of the use of the always majestic sounding sitar. It’s a weird fusion between an Arabian atmosphere and bossa, with Daniel Jobim on piano and a short but fantastic bass solo by Ney Conceição. On “Buscapé” percussionist Marco Lobo takes the opportunity to show his refined and tasteful skills. Alberto Continentino on bass and Cássio Cunha on drums accompany the acoustic guitar in a most supportive way. The song evolves into a true piece of contemporary Flamenco that in the end returns back in Brazil again. It’s a very impressive piece of music. Next the album gets a bit heavier. On “Blueseando” João is featured on a blues/rock oriented electric guitar and trumpet player Jessé Sadoc shows he listened very carefully to the late Márcio Montarroyos. “DDA” opens in a soulful, funky way and features saxophonist Léo Gandelman. “Guarda do Embaú” maybe houses the album’s best soloing, accompanied by bassist Ney Conceição, Dudu Trentin on keyboards and Christiano Galvão on drums. Things get quieter again on the sometimes to Toninho Horta referring “Choro Invisível,” with pianist Leandro Braga as guest.  The album ends with a true gem of a solo piece on the steel string acoustic guitar, a kind of reflection of the cd.

Going through all these compositions you can’t say anything else other than that the cd’s title Chameleon of Rio is well chosen. We get a clear overview of what this exceptional guitarist has been busy with over the years. He has the talent to immerse the diverse influences he absorbed as student and accompanying guitarist into his own style. João Gaspar is ready and deserves to be discovered by the larger audience.

You can visit João at his bilingual website to find out more about the album and artist.



João Gaspar 
Camaleão Carioca
Independent JG2006 (2007)
Time: 65’30”


All compositions by João Gaspar, except where noted.

  1. Rola Bola
  2. Céu Aberto
  3. O Côco do Côco (Guinga – Aldir Blanc)
  4. Nevoeiro
  5. Buscapé
  6. Blueseando
  7. DDA
  8. Guarda do Embaú
  9. Choro Invisível
  10. Sereno