An easy blend
Chico Pinheiro brings his quartet to the Vermont Jazz Center on May 12 for an evening of Brazilian rhythms.

An easy blend

Chico Pinheiro Quartet brings sounds of Brazil to VJC

BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Jazz Center will present a performance with Brazilian guitarist Chico Pinheiro and his working quartet on Saturday, May 12, at 8 p.m.

The group's members are all top-level Brazilian musicians now based in New York City. Each is comfortable connecting the boundless, rhythmic vocabulary of their home country with the swinging language of North American Jazz.

In a recent interview on WMUK (West Michigan University), Pinheiro emphasized why Brazilian music is so rhythmically varied.

“In a way, it's very similar to jazz because we both come from African and European roots,” he said. “In Brazil, there are a lot of rhythms, it's very rich - each part of our country is very different from each other and each rhythm is from a certain place.

“You have samba of course from Bahia and bossa nova, from Rio de Janeiro, you also have baião and maracatú [from Brazil's northeast] and many others; I grew up listening to and playing music from all regions of Brazil as well as jazz.”

Pinheiro's quartet includes one of New York's finest Brazilian pianists, Helio Alves, along with young, first-call artists Eduardo Belo on acoustic bass and Alexandre Kautz on drums. Their repertoire includes bossa nova and samba standards as well as Pinheiro's clever originals.

With good reason, their sound is tight and well-rehearsed. “My band practices all the time - even when we're traveling - but it's not like a commitment. It's just to have fun,” Pinheiro said in an interview with Guitar Player magazine.

The quartet's complex arrangements and virtuosic unison passages express the joy they share making music together and are proof that time spent practicing produces remarkable results. There is a real playfulness in the way this group approaches music.

This is even demonstrated in the humorous name of one of their most popular and recent compositions, Boca de Siri, which translates to “The Voice of Siri.” This feeling is conveyed in their individual self-confidence and in their relationships, but it is most apparent in the sound of their music - listeners can feel its easy blend of tropical and sophisticated sources.

Guitar Player asked Pinheiro how his development as a musician in Brazil affects his jazz playing.

“When I was a student,” he said, “I was jealous that I didn't 'play like an American.' I had an accent. Brazilian music, of course, has an accent just like the language. But once I figured out that it was cool that I didn't play like an American, I tried to figure out different ways to mix my sound into the intersection of jazz and Brazilian music.

“I just try to be lyrical - I just imagine that I'm trying to have a conversation with my companions ... if I'm playing Brazilian music or jazz, I just talk.” We as listeners are privileged to hear their conversations, laugh at their jokes and feel solace in their empathy.

Pinheiro is one of the most sought-after guitarists of his generation in both Brazilian and jazz contexts.

The legendary vocalist Dianne Reeves is quoted on Pinheiro's website: “I love his artistic voice: very sweet, passionate, and at the same time very fresh and new.”

Brad Mehldau has called him “a major player and writer,” and the revered Brazilian bossa nova master Edu Lobo said: “Chico Pinheiro is the best example of the existence of light at the end of the tunnel, clearly proving people wrong who've claimed that nobody interesting has emerged on the Brazilian music scene since my generation.”

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