The story of Collectiv do Brasil and Sonhos da Esquina.
Of all the horns in a modern ensemble, the trombone might easily replace the vocalist. This probably has to do with the unique instrument’s tone, colour, range, and pitch which enables a trombonist to evoke the human voice, moaning and crying like the very best blues singers. The trombone in Brasilian music is able to do something altogether different. It evokes that ephemeral Brasilian emotion called “saudades”. When Ryan Keberle plays the trombone with his Brasilian colleagues in Collectiv do Brasil, he gives that emotion wings.
“That’s how I fell in love with Brasilian music… when I first heard Elis Regina’s music decades ago.” – Ryan Keberle
In 2017 Keberle took time off from his duties directing the music program at Hunter College to travel to Brasil. While in São Paulo he met three leading – and rather busy – paulista musicians: pianist Felipe Silveira, bassist Tiago Alves and drummer and percussion colourist Paulinho Vicente. The trio and Keberle became instant soulmates, sharing a deep love for Brasil’s sophisticated music tradition, represented by Ivan Lins, Edu Lobo, Toninho Horta and Milton Nascimento, and also a love for American jazz. It wasn’t long before Keberle and the Brasilian trio became firmly entrenched as the quartet that was to become Collectiv do Brasil.
“Toninho, Paulinho and I have been playing together for 17 years… with Ryan we’re like four brothers” – Felipe Silveira
Soon new music by Keberle came into existence and was added to the repertoire that the quartet began to fine-tune and perfect at regular gigs around in and around São Paulo. The extraordinary chemistry between the musicians was electrifying, transcending cultural topography, immersed; in the universal beauty of the afro-centric roots of Jazz and Brasilian music. It came as no surprise to anyone, then that plans were drawn up for Keberle to return to Brasil; something he did a year later, to pay homage to the music they loved – specifically to some of its legendary creators Toninho Horta and Milton Nascimento. Thus the album Sonhos da Esquina was born.
“Caress the earth / Know the earth’s desires / the earth in heat, the ideal season / fertilize the ground…” – Milton Nascimento in “O Cio da Terra”
In paying homage to Milton Nascimento and the music he made during his legendary years at Clube da Esquina, this music has, almost de rigueur, a prescient and almost spiritual quality to it, much like Nascimento’s own music. But this quartet was also determined to honour another legendary songwriter, Toninho Horta together with three compositions by Keberle as well. This repertoire features Keberle’s beautifully crafted arrangements, each of beguiling variety and sensuousness in every lovingly-crafted phrase of Sonhos da Esquina.
The chosen material, in the exception of the originals, judiciously focuses on some gems by both Nascimento and Horta. Listening to the manner in which Keberle sculpts the sustained inventions of [Silveira’s arrangement] of “O Cio de Terra”, its clear there’s not a single semiquaver that hasn’t been fastidiously considered. On “Campinas” and “Carbon Neutral” Silveira’s piano sashays, while Keberle seductively bends the notes in bittersweet, moaning harmonic conceptions.
The apogee of the album is Nascimento’s iconic “Clube da Esquina 2” which is preceded by Keberle’s original, crafted introduction “Sonhos da Esquina”. Piano and bass herald the music before Keberle’s questing trombone lines take over, each elegant melodic variation is following the other quite inexorably and with languid ease. Horta’s “Aqui Oh!” is a swaggering chart burnished by the musicians’ swing accented by the drummer’s hissing cymbals. Nascimento’s “Tarde” and Horta’s “Francisca” are eloquently elegiac and aching yet spacious and mellifluous.
All of this sumptuous music has been brilliantly captured at Brasil’s legendary Gargolandia Recording Studio on an album to absolutely die for.