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THE RHYTHM SECTION CATS

The heartbeat of this project is the elastic pulse created by bassist Dave Ambrosio, drummer William “Beaver” Bausch, and pianist John Stenger.  As I mentioned in Part I of this three part series on La Rumba is A Lovesome Thing, John was the one who put the idea in my head back in 2006 to record a whole album of Strayhorn songs. I’ve known all of these guys for at least ten years each, and all of them have been core members of this group since our first CD, Other Tongues.

L to R: Beaver, Anton, Mike, Paul, Ryan, Dave, Christelle, Mark, Chembo

L to R: Beaver, Anton, Mike, Paul, Ryan, Dave, Christelle, Mark, Chembo;
photo by Zachary Maxwell Stertz

I really can’t imagine bringing this CD to completion without Beaver Bausch. When I write arrangements for the group, I hear Beaver playing them in my head. I couldn’t tell you exactly what he’s playing in my head, just that I know that whatever he does will sound good, and will fit the piece like a glove. It’s a real good thing to know you can rely on someone in that way.

I met Philadelphia resident John Stenger when we were both working in a now defunct  Brazilian band in New York. John’s mastery of clave-based idioms in general makes him one of the baddest Latin pianists around, and his impressionist and at times highly dramatic solos make him an unforgettable improviser.  His intro to After All and solo feature on U.M.M.G. are great examples of his talents.

Bassist Dave Ambrosio, who I also work with in Grupo los Santos, is a mainstay on the New York jazz and Latin scenes. Inspired by a trip to Cuba in 2001, Dave has in the intervening years become an accomplished batalero. I had several discussions with Dave while workshopping our arrangement of Take the A Train. In particular I sought his expertise on the Cuban chant section that became the second half of the track I wanted to connect the song’s shoutout to Harlem with the deeper imagery of West Africa as the origin of so many African-descended people in the New World.  Ultimately we decided to include a chant dedicated to the Orisha (deity) Ogun, the patron saint of iron and blacksmiths (and hence of the Iron Horse, the subway train) in the Yoruba religion. I also gave the horn section a real challenge by transposing the parts of the three batá drums to the brass and woodwinds.

BENJAMIN LAPIDUS

Ben Lapidus

Ben Lapidus

This guy is one seriously accomplished mofo. A professor of ethnomusicology as well as a composer and working musician in NYC, Ben leads Sonido Isleño, a group I’ve been playing with for almost ten years. I’ve learned a lot playing with Ben,  and am very happy to have him as a special guest on La Rumba is A Lovesome Thing. Ben started playing live gigs with us about a year and a half ago, and his skills and knowledge as a musician and vocalist are matched by his innate sense of humor. Check out the décima (a traditional ten-line stanza of poetry or song) on the beginning of Johnny Come Lately and you’ll know what I mean (Spanish comprehension or a translation app required!). Ben composed this intro himself, adding a comic warning to a song that became about a fictional Juanito, a guy who can never get to the gig on time. Ben also plays beautiful tres on four of the songs on the album.

THE ENGINEERS

We recorded this album at Water Music in Hoboken NJ, with recording engineer extraordinaire Dave Kowalski at the console.  Dave’s quiet professionalism and laid-back demeanor were key elements in getting the vibe right for this project. Another key element was the amazing recording space at Water Music, including the piano, the gear, and the console. Dave also mixed the album.  Maria Constanza Triana was the mastering engineer. Both of these pros contributed in subtle but substantial ways to the final sound of the record. Muchas Gracias!

La Rumba is a Lovesome Thing NYC CD Release Party @ Greenwich House  July 11th, 2013

7 to 10 PM

Concert: 7 to 8:30/Reception & Meet the Artist 8:30 to 10

$15 Cover/$25 Cover + new CD

Full details at paulcarlonmusic.com

Zoho Music webpage

Blog Part I

Blog Part II

GETTIN’ BOMBA ALL TONK’D UP!

In Part I of this three-part series I introduced two of the special guest percussionists featured on La Rumba is A Lovesome Thing. Last but emphatically not least in the guest percussionist lineup is Obanilu Ire.

Obanilu Ire

Obanilu Ire

Obanilu has worked in a variety of environments and brings much knowledge and a deep feel to the traditional Puerto Rican musical style called Bomba.  He came to the project on the recommendation of the group’s vocalist Christelle Durandy. I was very intrigued by the Strayhorn song Tonk, and was looking for a rhythmic feel that could make it work for this project. It’s an uptempo song so I needed an uptempo rhythm, or needed to double it up somehow. Bomba was the perfect fit, especially after I checked out the piano figure Billy had written as an intro. Often times one needs to alter a preexisting instrumental part in order to make it fit within a new rhythmic context (as I had to do on the melody of Johnny Come Lately), but with the Tonk intro I didn’t need to change a note; it fit the Bomba feel perfectly. So off I went, bringing a little modern tonality to the melody and filling out the arrangement with trumpet and tres solos to set up Obanilu’s extended solo on the subidor.

Obanilu also laid down a serious percussion pad of barriles and maracas on the entire track, providing the essential percussive element to the bomba feel. In the studio, trumpet wizard Alex Norris and mi hermano, tresero Benjamin Lapidus carved their names all over this cut.  Trivia: the horn soli mid-tune is an adaptation of the traditional bomba song “Campo yo vivo triste”.

You can check out our version of Tonk on my website; click the ‘Listen’ link on the menu bar.

THE HORNMEN

Alex Norris

Alex Norris

Numbers-wise the most prominent element of this group is the horn section: there are five of us. With this lineup (tenor, alto, trumpet, and two trombones), I get the best of the jazz and Latin worlds: the classic three-horn small group jazz sound plus the classic Cuban trombone blend. And with alto saxophonist Anton Denner doubling so masterfully on flute, we get the added benefit of the sound of a charanga band. My inspiration in writing for the horns runs somewhere between the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Gil Evans, the vocal sound of the great folkloric rumba groups like Los Muñequitos de Matanzas or Yoruba Andabo, and the soulful spirit of the original three Wailers. In addition to the aforementioned Alex Norris and Anton Denner, the horn section includes trombonists Mike Fahie, Mark Miller, and Ryan Keberle (these three switch out the parts so that it’s two trombonists per track). Each of these guys are incredibly distinctive soloists and each is featured at least once on La Rumba is A Lovesome Thing.  Mike opens up with an incendiary solo on the jam at the end of Take the A Train. Mark is featured throughout After All, and Ryan shows why he’s such a sought after player on Sweet and Pungent. Alex is featured on Tonk and on Chelsea Bridge;  Anton is also featured in the tres/flute trading on the vamp of Chelsea Bridge, and shows his mastery of the alto on Day Dream.  As well as being incredible sectional players and soloists, all of these hornmen have established themselves as top call players in New York. Which reminds me, if you ever run into Mark, ask him to tell you his story about working with Diana Ross…

L to R: Mike, Anton, Chembo, Christelle, Paul, Ryan, Beaver, Mark, Dave

L to R: Mike, Anton, Chembo, Christelle, Paul, Ryan, Beaver, Mark, Dave;
photo by Zachary Maxwell Stertz

AH YES, THE CHANTEUSE…

One aspect of this project I really enjoyed was writing for my good friend, vocalist Christelle Durandy.  A native of France with Caribbean and African roots, Christelle is an incredible performer who brings incisive phrasing and keen musical instincts to the table. Christelle’s been singing with my Octet since 2006, but this was the first time we’d tackled this kind of material.  I threw her some curve balls with some of the vocal arrangements, but she did her homework and brought them vividly to life, illuminating the lushness of the melodies and lyrics in such a beautiful way.

Christelle Durandy

Christelle Durandy

Christelle is also steeped in the Afro-Cuban traditions; the vocal tracking she and Pedrito laid down on Johnny Come Lately and the Afro-Cuban chant on Take the A Train add a profoundly transcendent human element to La Rumba is A Lovesome Thing.

La Rumba is a Lovesome Thing NYC CD Release Party @ Greenwich House  July 11th, 2013

7 to 10 PM

Concert: 7 to 8:30/Reception & Meet the Artist 8:30 to 10

$15 Cover/$25 Cover + new CD

Full details at paulcarlonmusic.com

Zoho Music webpage

NEXT: THE RHYTHM SECTION CATS

Zoho cover

La rumba is a lovesome thing. Indeed, indeed it is.  And Billy Strayhorn is an artist worth paying tribute to.  Not only for “Take the A Train”, but for “Blood Count”,  “Lush Life”, “The Intimacy of the Blues”…for his incredible talent as a pianist, composer, lyricist, bon vivant. For being covered by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Elvis Costello. And for his integrity as a human being and his willingness to just be himself.

ANOTHER ONE OF MY FAVORITE BILLY STRAYHORN SONGS…

For the last couple of years I’ve been choosing Strayhorn songs for this new CD, thinking of rhythms from across the Caribbean and South America that might work with each song, writing arrangements for my Octet, rehearsing, and trying out the music at live gigs. The whole thing started when this man suggested the band do an entire album of Strays:

John Stenger

John Stenger

For me Billy Strayhorn’s music is a little like Stevie Wonder’s. You know when you hear a Stevie song (especially from the classic 70′s era), and you think, that’s my favorite Stevie Wonder song! And then you hear another one and you think, oh, that’s my favorite Stevie Wonder song!  Strayhorn is like that for me.  Every one of the songs on La Rumba Is A Lovesome Thing is one of my all-time favorite Billy Strayhorn songs. Not that choosing the material for this album was easy; Billy’s music is harmonically very dense, and Latin rhythms tend to be very dense. Putting the two together could mean overload, so choosing the right song for the right rhythm was very challenging. Some songs I would have wanted to include on the record just didn’t work out. Another issue was translating pieces written as slow ballads into a Latin American framework. Billy wrote absolutely killer ballads and I had several in mind for the CD, but there aren’t a lot of slow Latin rhythms to draw on outside of bolero, and that just seemed too easy, and wasn’t really what I had in mind for this project anyway. So sometimes I had to double the harmonic rhythm, the amount of measures each chord is played, to make it work, like with our versions of Passion Flower and Sweet and Pungent.

LLEGÓ LA RUMBA

One thing that makes this CD different from the group’s previous projects is the presence of guest percussionists. Through years of playing, recording, and touring together, the group’s original core lineup has become very very tight, so it makes me ecstatic to add three masterful guest percussionists to the mix for La Rumba Is A Lovesome Thing.

Pedrito Martinez 2 small

Pedrito Martinez

I’ve known Pedrito Martinez, one the biggest rising stars on the world/Latin music scenes, since we met in 1999 playing on Juan Pablo Torres’ Town Hall concert Super Son Cubano: Cuban Music Without Frontiers. We then worked together in the Ileana Santamaría Orchestra, including on that group’s debut CD What I Want. It’s a great pleasure to have Pedrito on this disc; his contributions as conguero, batalero, and vocalist are immeasurable.  If you’re in New York City and want to see one of the best live acts you’ll ever experience, definitely go by Guantanamera on Eighth Avenue and check out the Pedrito Martinez Group. Contact Pedrito’s manager to get on the gig email list.

Chembo Corniel

Chembo Corniel

Grammy Nominee Wilson “Chembo” Corniel is another of the heavyweights on the album.  Chembo and I met playing in the band of bassist Harvie S around 2005.  I thought of him when I was of the mind to add percussionists to this project, and he has helped work up the material with us by playing various live gigs since. Chembo’s subtly, touch, and musical ideas are the perfect percussive texture for songs like U.M.M.G., Chelsea Bridge and After All.  He’s a true pro, and has a deep deep well of experience to draw on.

Here’s a little taste of us in the studio recording Johnny Come Lately:

La Rumba is a Lovesome Thing NYC CD Release Party @ Greenwich House  July 11th, 2013

7 to 10 PM

Concert: 7 to 8:30/Reception & Meet the Artist 8:30 to 10

$15 Cover/$25 Cover + new CD

Full details at paulcarlonmusic.com

Zoho Music webpage

NEXT: GETTIN’ BOMBA ALL TONK’D UP!

Originally formed in September of 2011, Bulgaria Meets New York came together through a tour of Bulgaria sponsored by the US Embassy in Sofia. Bassist extraordinaire Trifon Dimitrov, a Bulgarian native living in New York City since 2005, brought various friends together across huge distances in a combination he suspected would catch fire. Saxophonist Paul Carlon met Trifon through playing sessions in New York. Trifon called two friends from home, trumpeter Ventzi Blagoev and drummer Dimiter Dimitrov, to round out the group. The result worked better than the four musicians could ever have imagined; they lit off fireworks onstage in a hard-driving, passionate expression of the burning soul of modern improvisatory music. The tenor and trumpet front line and hard-working bass and drum rhythm section evoke the surging hard bop of the fifties, the plaintive searching of Ornette Coleman’s chordless groups, and the wide open spaces of contemporary New York City jazz. In their week-long Bulgarian tour the group performed at various clubs and festivals, as well as on Bulgarian National Radio and on the Channel 1 Morning Show on Bulgarian National Television. By the last gig in beautiful Veliko Turnovo, all involved knew they needed to continue their unique collaboration.

In the summer of 2012 the group reunited in New York City to play a week’s worth of gigs and record their debut CD, with trumpeter Dave Smith sitting in for Ventzi. After dates at Smalls and Somethin’ Jazz Club, and with the addition of legendary guitarist Paul Bollenback as special guest, the group recorded eight tracks for their soon-to-be-released debut. Check out Bulgaria Meets NY on SoundCloud.

Trifon, Paul Carlon and Paul Bollenback will be continuing the collaboration on Dec. 18th in a trio version of the group in the intimate setting of The Bar Next Door. The trio will be performing songs from the Bulgaria Meets NY debut recording as well as repertoire from composer Billy Strayhorn and a few selected jazz standards.

The Paul Carlon Trio @ The Bar Next Door
Tuesday, December 18
Sets at 8:30 and 10:30 PM
$12 Cover/$10 Minimum
129 MacDougal St
New York, NY 10012
Tel: (212) 529-5945

Paul Carlon: Tenor and Soprano Saxophones
Paul Bollenback: Guitar
Trifon Dimitrov: Acoustic Bass

FACEBOOK EVENT LINK:

Originally formed in September of 2011, Bulgaria Meets New York came together through a tour of Bulgaria sponsored by the US Embassy in Sofia. My buddy, bassist extraordinaire Trifon Dimitrov, a Bulgarian native living in New York City since 2005, brought various friends together across huge distances in a combination he suspected would catch fire. I met Trifon through playing sessions in New York with guitarist and guitar builder Victor Baker. Trifon called two friends from home, trumpeter Ventzi Blagoev and drummer Dimiter Dimitrov, to round out the group. The result worked better than we ever could have imagined; the four of us lit off fireworks onstage in a hard-driving, passionate expression of the burning soul of modern improvisatory music. The tenor and trumpet front line and hard-working bass and drum rhythm section evoke the surging hard bop of the fifties, the plaintive searching of Ornette Coleman’s chordless groups, and the wide open spaces of contemporary New York City jazz. In our week-long Bulgarian tour we performed at various clubs and festivals, as well as on Bulgarian National Radio and on the Channel 1 Morning Show on Bulgarian National Television. By the last gig in beautiful Veliko Turnovo, we knew we needed to continue our unique collaboration.

We will be playing two New York City dates and recording our debut CD in June 2012. As Ventzi will be unable to join us for the shows and the recording this summer, trumpeter Dave Smith will be joining the group. A sought-after mainstay of the NYC jazz scene, Dave has developed an extremely compelling and creative solo style that leans towards the intervallic mastery of Woody Shaw. He has performed and/or recorded with Harry Connick, Jr., Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, and Grace Kelly, and is a member of the Brooklyn Jazz Underground. He is also a founding member of my Octet, and his pinpoint section work and blazingly creative solos grace the group’s first two CDs.

I am very much looking forward to recording with these musicians and to continuing to get this group’s name out there. Our two shows in New York are June 5th at Somethin’ Jazz Club and June 9th at Small’s. Check out our promo video on YouTube.

Lineup:

Paul Carlon: Tenor and Soprano Saxophones
Dave Smith: Trumpet

Trifon Dimitrov: Acoustic Bass

Dimiter Dimitrov: Drumset

    LA RUMBA IS A LOVESOME THING: REIMAGINING STRAYHORN

This tribute to Billy Strayhorn is a new project I’m working on, to be recorded in May. The CD will feature my octet lineup as well as vocalist Christelle Durandy, tresero Benjamin Lapidus and percussionist/vocalist extraordinaire Pedrito Martinez.

WHO?

Billy Strayhorn was a composer, arranger, and pianist best known for his decades-long association with Duke Ellington. He was Duke’s right-hand man, composing many classic songs associated with Ellington such as Take the ‘A’ Train, Satin Doll, Chelsea Bridge, A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing…the list truly goes on and on. His compositions IMHO are some of the most beautiful and deepest in American music.

WHY REIMAGINING?

There is so much great music out there. One of the things I love to do is take songs and reinvent them, or write a new song based on what I think a certain style might sound like combined with another. For my Octet’s first CD Other Tongues, I recast Strayhorn’s song ‘Smada’ as a Cuban danzón mixed with Colombian cumbia. This arrangement proved to be one of our most popular at live shows…one of my favorite memories is rocking out to it in Honolulu at Gordon Biersch on the pier.

So…after we recorded Other Tongues, pianist John Stenger suggested recording an entire album of Strayhorn, done in a Latin vein. It was a great idea, and I’m really looking forward to bringing it to life.

LA RUMBA IS…

Rumba can describe various types of music. In its most common, Cuban form, La Rumba is a big part of the Afro-Cuban folkloric traditions as practiced by groups like Los Muñequitos de Matanzas and Clave y Guaguancó. The word rumba is also used in a general way to say, “where’s the party?–where’s the rumba?–where’s the music and dance gonna be?” Cuban rumba, a mix of African and Spanish roots, traveled back to Spain over the years in a phenomenon known as de ida y vuelta, influencing the Flamenco form of rumba that is popular today all over the Mediterranean. There is even an African Rumba, again, influenced by the original Cuban version.

I’ve been wondering what would have happened if Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington had been rumberos in 1990′s Cuba, the era that gave birth to Timba, the latest development of Cuban popular dance music. What would it have sounded like? Bringing my merry band of jazz-steeped horn players to the studio with our rhythm section, some special guests, and Miss Christelle Durandy, a dyed-in-the-wool rumbera, we are about to find out. La Rumba de hoy no es como ayer…

Listen to Smada from Other Tongues

Yes, it’s been hella long since I put one of these up. My latest travels were split up into two parts over the course of a month.

Switzerland and Bulgaria

I flew into Zurich on Sept. 16th to visit my Tapmotif friend Anabel Felix and to play at her Basel Tap Jam. This was my first trip to Switzerland, and I have to say Switzerland totally rocks. I had two very strong artistic revelations on this trip. The first was in Zurich at the Fraumünster church, home of the famous stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall. It’s always revelatory to feel the power of great art; suffice to say I could have stayed and stared up at those windows all day, or probably for several days on end. The designs and the way Chagall used color were mesmerizing. My second revelation, also in a church, was in Basel where I spent the day being shown around the city by Kay, Anabel’s boyfriend. We wandered into an organ concert in an old Baroque church; the effect was overpowering, to say the least. I had heard plenty of organ music before, but never ‘in context’. To hear that music (in this case a piece by César Franck) played on a beautiful instrument in the reverb-filled spaces of that type of church, well, it all made sense. It was rock and roll, it was revelatory, it was incredible. Again, I could have stayed all day listening, but we had other fish to fry, namely, the Basel Tap Jam that was happening that night.

Anabel, who I met at Tapmotif in Greece in 2010, was inspired by her experiences there to start a tap jam of her own. She found some exceptional young musicians to play at the jam, and has been hosting it for over a year now. Held in the very hip bar of the Hotel Stücki, Anabel’s jam is a lot of fun. I had a great time playing with the dancers who attended, and jamming with the house band. These young guys are badass, and play together as a unit like few their age. Anabel has succeeded in taking tap one step farther in Switzerland. I look forward to the next time I can be part of the jam. Thanks for having me Anabel and Kay!

With Anabel and Kay at the Basel Tap Jam

The next morning we drove a few kilometers across the border to Germany, to hear Anabel’s father Michael Felix play in the Bad Säckingen Cathedral for Sunday mass. Quite a renowned organist, Michael also helped with the design and rebuilding of the cathedral’s organ. After the service he took me inside the three-story instrument to show me the construction of the organ.

Michael Felix and the Bad Säckingen Cathedral organ

We then played a few pieces together, with me on tenor and then soprano sax for Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’. Playing with Michael was such a new challenge for me, and it got me thinking about doing a concert of music for organ and soprano…

I was soon off to Sofia, Bulgaria, for a week-long tour put together by NYC-based Bulgarian bassist Trifon Dimitrov, and sponsored by the US Embassy in Sofia. Having played with Trifon in NY, I knew how good he was, but I was not prepared for how good the rest of the group would be. Drummer Dimitar Dimitrov and trumpeter Ventzi Blagoev just blew me away. We played six straight days, driving over about half of the country, and every gig was better than the last. I just cannot say enough about these musicians and the fire they lit under the music every day; it was an honor to play with them. Click here to listen to our version of my original “Lucid Dreaming”.

We started out in the city of Plovdiv, at Club Alcohol. I marveled at how apropos the name of this club was considering my sometime touring habits. Hmmm…I know there’s a message in there somewhere…

Beautiful Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe, boasting both ancient Roman amphitheaters and ancient Mosques. Trifon did a surprisingly good imitation of a Roman emperor giving the thumbs down at an amphitheater excavation site just down the street from Club Alcohol.

Trifon the Mighty in Plovdiv


Our next gig was in Bulgaria’s capitol city Sofia, at Studio 5. The morning after we appeared on Bulgarian national TV, on a morning show connected with that day’s celebration of Bulgarian Independence. The episode we taped is here; we’re on at the end, so you may have to scroll ahead a ways, which can be a bit slow on the program’s website.

After a concert on national radio that evening we went to hang at Ventzi’s regular gig, which was a lot of fun. While there we met Vasko Krupkata, a very famous blues and rock musician in Bulgaria. Vasko invited Trifon and I back to his place after the gig to hang and drink rakia. He and his family were cool peeps, and we had a great time talking music.

Hangin' in Sofia with Vasko & friends


The next day we were off to play at the Haskovo Jazz Festival, and the day after that at Melon Live Music Club in Veliko Tarnovo.

Haskovo Jazz Festival

Veliko Tarnovo seen from Tsarevets Castle


Veliko Tarnovo is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen; for me it rivals even the Cidade Maravilhosa (‘Marvelous City’), Rio de Janeiro…

Brazil

Which brings me to…Rio! After flying back to NYC for a couple of days, I headed out with Max Pollak to play at the awesomely awesome (and huge) festival Rock in Rio, on the Rock Street stage. Made up of two city blocks of façade built to resemble the French Quarter in New Orleans, Rock Street featured a variety of jazz, world, rock and blues acts. Our buddy Bruce Henry, bassist and vocalist and resident of Rio for many years, hooked us up with the gig. Funny thing about that…Max and I were getting ready to board the plane for Rio at JFK. I turned to him and asked, “Are we getting picked up at the airport in Rio?” Max replied, “I don’t think so.” “Did you talk to Bruce about it?”, I asked. “No”, he responded. “Me either. Do you know what hotel we’re staying in?” “No”. Neither did I. Now that’s how you kick off a tour, you digg! As it turned out we were put up in a killer hotel in Barra da Tijuca. After spending half a day acclimating to the festival, Max and I started working the afternoon of Sept. 30th. We spent the next three days alternating sets with the other acts on Rock Street, hanging backstage and checking out the mainstage acts.

ROCK IN RIO!

On the Rock Street stage, we checked out Scott Feiner’s Pandeiro Jazz, met Brazilian percussion legends Laudir de Oliveira and Marco Suzano, and sat in with Bruce Henry’s band. We also had a great time meeting, hearing and hanging with Saxofonia, Rock Family, Al Pratt, and the River Country Trio. On the festival mainstage, Janelle Monae was a standout…super funky band, a very entertaining and high-energy show.

After a couple of days off in Rio we took the bus to São Jose dos Campos to teach a three day workshop in RumbaTap at the CBS Dance Factory. I’ve done these workshops before with Max, and I’m always impressed at how hard he works when teaching, and how clearly he’s able to break down his performance methods into bite-sized pieces. It’s truly incredible to watch this man work! The students were a great group, very motivated and very open to what Max was showing them. Thanks to everyone there, and to Adriana Brunato for bringing us to SJC!

After busing it back to Rio, Max and I prepared for our final gigs in Brazil: two shows at the SESC Theater in Copacabana. The SESC theaters in Brazil are a kind of municipal venue found in various locales, often very well run and with great equipment. In Copacabana, the SESC is a beautiful theater in the round. Our shows were in tandem with Bruce Henry and tap dancer Steven Harper, in a collaboration called Double Duo. Bruce and Steven, much like Max and I, have been performing together as a duo for years, so it was a natural fit for the four of us to do a show. The day before our first show we all went up to the favela Santa Marta. Steven, who works with the kids of Santa Marta, thought it would be great for Max and I to be part of the Dia das Crianças (Childrens’ Day) festivities being held in the favela. And it was! We got up and broke out in a funk jam that included young beatboxer Gabriel.

The shows in Copacabana were, well, elevating. Bruce and Steven really threw down, and Max and I brought our best to these concerts. I’m always knocked out at how responsive Brazilian audiences are, and these concerts were no exception. The four of us are already plotting our next Double Duo shows…

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