The time has finally come for world listeners to enjoy one of the most venerable and electrifying musical genres in Brazil. Still very much alive in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, Frevo is synonymous with Carnaval in the Brazilian northeast, especially in the Recife (Pernambuco’s capital) metropolitan area, including Olinda, of course.
If you have never heard frevo or seen people dancing frevo, you’re in for a special treat. Words that come to mind when I think of frevo include infectious, effervescent, fiery, danceable — well, you get the picture. Frevo started in the state of Pernambuco around the end of the first decade in the 20th century. To accompany such lively music, the dance is just as acrobatic as circus acts. Dancers dress up in colorful costumes while holding small colorful umbrellas. Musically speaking, frevo sounds live a fast Carnaval march (or marchinhas) with influences from maxixe, capoeira and polka. The word itself is believed to come from frever, which is a common way to pronounce ferver (to boil). Although frevo is very common in Recife, the genre has spread throughout Brazil with other composers writing frevo music, such as Caetano Veloso, Alceu Valença as well as composers featured in this release.
Ninho de Vespa (Wasp’s Nest) is actually the second release of SpokFrevo Orquestra, a 17-piece ensemble consisting of brass instruments, guitar, bass, drums and percussion. Produced by Spok (he is also the artistic director for the group), the album also features several invited guests in each track except the closing number. As proof to the fact that frevo has spread outside of Recife, it is interesting to note that the repertoire showcases songwriters from Alagoas, Bahia, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in addition to Pernambuco songwriters. One reason SpokFrevo Orquestra has been so popular in tours outside of Brazil is that they give frevo some freedom with jazz influences and improvisations. The combination is stunning to say the least!
Dominguinhos‘ opener, “Onze de Abril,” features a dazzling solo by clarinetist Paulo Sérgio Santos. The fast tempo on the track is characteristic of what you will hear in the following songs. That’s frevo, and slow tempo is really not part of the genre. Even in music such as “Quatro Cantos,” the frevo energy is still present. Performers — musicians or dancers — are experts in adapting to the fast nature of this music. The Orquestra is top-notch, and so are all guests. They all honor the frevo tradition with their impeccable artistry and renditions. Although frevo is most commonly an instrumental genre, there have been several frevo vocal hits throughout the years. Who can forget Gal Costa‘s “Balancê” or Caetano Veloso‘s “Atrás do Trio Elétrico”? They have been perennial frevos in every Carnaval ball in Brazil. Ninho de Vespa does have one vocal example of a frevo. Songwriter Dori Caymmi is the guest in that title track. Another highlight of this stellar production is mandolin wiz Hamilton de Holanda‘s “Tá Achando Que Tá Devagar?” The arrangement starts with a very slow introduction, but then we hear the song title – Do You Think It’s Slow? — and the frevo tempo kicks in.
So, whenever you need an infusion of vibrant music, play SpokFrevo Orquestra. I dare you to be still. The album has just been released this week, and along with it the Orquestra will be touring several cities in the USA. If your city is not listed there, you can always enjoy this electrifying music with Ninho de Vespa. Furthermore, if frevo is new for you, then check out this SpokFrevo Orquestra concert at SESC in São Paulo in 2011. A couple of the songs from the album are performed in that concert.
Ninho de Vespa
Motéma MTA-CD-164 (2014)
- Onze de Abril (Dominguinhos) – w/ Paulo Sérgio Santos (clarinet)
- Comichão (Jovino Santos Neto) – w/ Jovino Santos Neto (Rhodes piano)
- Spokiando (João Lyra – Adelson Viana) – w/ Adelson Viana (Rhodes piano)
- Capibarizando (Beto Hortis) – w/ Beto Hortis (accordion)
- Pisando em Brasa (Luciano Magno) – w/ Luciano Magno (guitar)
- Quatro Cantos (Nelson Ayres) – w/ Nelson Ayres (electric piano)
- Ninho de Vespa (Dori Caymmi – Paulo César Pinheiro) – w/ Dori Caymmi (vocals)
- O Que Nelson Gostou ( Gostosão-Gostosinho-Gostosura) (Nelson Ferreira) – w/ Master Zé Maria (trumpet)
- Tá Achando Que Tá Devagar? (Hamilton de Holanda) – w/ Hamilton de Holanda (mandolin)
- De Baixo do Frevo (Bráulio Araújo) – w/ Bráulio Araújo (bass)
- Pipocando (César Michiles) – w/ César Michiles (flute)
- Cara de Carranca (Thiago Albuquerque) – w/ Thiago Albuquerque (Rhodes piano)
- Moraes É Frevo (Spok)