If you only have a dozen contemporary Brazilian CDs, chances are Luiz Brasil’s name is listed in one of them. Producer and prolific arranger always in high demand with the best in Brazilian music, Luiz Brasil (Bahia, 1954) has arranged for and performed with Simone, Geraldo Azevedo, Pedro Moraes, Jussara Silveira, Maria Bethânia, Gal Costa, Carlos Malta, Vander Lee, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Eveline Hecker, Ivete Sangalo, Caetano Veloso, Daniela Mercury, Simone Guimarães and several others. His discography is constantly adding new names, a feat that proves just how good he is according to his peers.
Though Luiz states that he is “influenced by everything that touches or thrills him,” he acknowledges that Django Reinhardt, João Gilberto, Claus Ogerman, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, Dorival Caymmi and Quincy Jones are among his main influences. Coming from a musical family (two brothers play drums, another plays the guitar and his daughter plays percussion), Luiz Brasil studied classical guitar and rhythmic harmony at the Universidade Católica de Salvador in the mid-1970s. He then furthered his studies in Afro-Brazilian music with University of Vienna ethnologist Gerard Kubik and improvisation with Vitor Assis Brasil and Volker Krieguel. In the early 1980s he studied arranging and orchestration with Nelson Ayres. All throughout those years, he was already busy performing with Zezé Motta and Moraes Moreira, for example, and followed that with a long association with Caetano Veloso in the 1990s, which took Luiz to Italy to perform and arrange for Caetano’s Rimini show Omaggio a Federico e Giulietta and also Pavarotti and Friends in Modena. With this incredibly busy agenda, it is quite surprising that Luiz Brasil even found time to release his first solo album in 2005, Brasilêru. That album featured guest musician Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Five years after Brasilêru, Beira is then released, first an independent release and now in 2011 by Editora Multifoco. Produced and arranged by Luiz Brasil, Beira features seven original compositions penned by Luiz himself, one by his brother Mou and the classic João Bosco/Aldir Blanc “O Ronco da Cuíca.” Here we have the pleasure of experiencing all four sides of Luiz Brasil’s musical expertise: producer, arranger, composer and performer. What a gift this album is! While chatting with Luiz via email, I was curious as to how someone as busy as he is can still find time to compose great tracks and release solo albums. He said that it took him a while to balance all sides of his demanding career. He was heavily involved in touring with other artists and producing and arranging their albums such that little time was left for his personal projects. Then in 2001, things changed while working on Cássia Eller ‘s MTV Acústico album. Her untimely death was a shock to Brazil and her fans worldwide. He says:
O que aconteceu foi que depois disso eu fiquei muitos meses em casa, sem muita vontade de fazer nada. Daí comecei a catalogar minhas coisas que vinham nascendo ao longo dos anos, sem nenhuma direção definida. Quando eu menos esperava, já tinha material pra um CD. Comecei gravando em casa e depois fui pra estúdios maiores e fiz meu primeiro CD solo instrumental. Daí em diante percebí que se eu não colocasse junto ao trabalho com os outros, o meu próprio trabalho solo, eu não conseguiria gravar o meu nunca.[What happened after that is that I spent several months at home without any desire to do anything. Then I began cataloguing my work that I had done through the years with no specific project in mind. When I least expected, I had enough material for a CD. I started recording at home and then went into a studio to record my first solo instrumental album. From that point on, I realized that I needed to set my work alongside with others or else I wouldn’t record my solo work ever.]
That approach really paid off, it seems. Beira is an excellent album. In addition to the solid repertoire, some very special guests add to this great release. Just to give you a taste of the music you hear, we have Toninho Ferragutti (accordion), Carlos Malta (flutes), Jessé Sadoc (trumpets), Robertinho Silva (percussion), Jorge Helder (bass), Vittor Santos (trombone), André Mehmari (piano) and other stellar names in instrumental Brazilian music. With Luiz on guitars, voice, percussion, mandolin and samplers, the musical extravaganza is complete. It is clear to see that Luiz is at ease with several instruments. When I asked him whether he had a preferred instrument, he said the acoustic guitar is probably his favorite. However, as an arranger, he has the curiosity and “passion for musical instruments” as a whole. Anything that produces sounds is “absolutely marvelous,” he says. And so is Beira, a passionate release from an outstanding artist. Whether with a subtle string accompaniment in the opener “Azul Mar,” a delightful countryside feel with Toninho Ferragutti’s accordion in “Na Espiral” along with Luiz’s 12-string guitar, or the fast-paced and inebriating rendition of “O Ronco da Cuíca” featuring Jessé Sadoc’s trumpet, Marcelo Martins’ tenor sax and Vittor Santos’ trombone, Beira shows a meticulous arranger and performer who knows his way around just the right instrumentation to give listeners an unforgettable musical experience.
You can learn about the artist and this release by visiting Luiz Brasil.
Editora Multifoco (2011)
All tracks by Luiz Brasil, except where indicated.
- Azul Mar
- Na Espiral (Luiz Brasil – Monica Freire)
- O Ronco da Cuíca (João Bosco – Aldir Blanc)
- Farol (Mou Brasil)
- Nêgo Véio (para Lenine)