Wednesday, November 23, 2011

musical journey

i fancy myself to be quite a good listener. at least in the world of music. i have a brother who composes and arranges, and is can listen technically at an absurd level. i have another brother who produces and sings. i guess i'm the one who listens to what they and others do or produce.
when i say i can listen, i really mean that i appreciate music more than most. it really goes deep into my soul and is part of my private inner world, if you will. listening for me is more than a hobby; when possible, it has to be done with complete focus, with the goal to feel and understand. i do admit to being pretty restrictive in chosing what i devote time to in this arena. most of the focused listening time has been going to sting, peter gabriel and pat metheny tradicionally, with quite a lot of leonardo goncalves and herbert grönemeyer in the mix. i have my guilty pleasures (aha and simply red mostly in the past, and even the likes of katy perry more recently), and more recently i've been listening a lot to daniela araujo and sigur rós, which she introduced me to.
but to listen and see live, with the visual and the natural surround audio, this had been a rare pleasure in my life. if i had to make a highlight list of concerts i've seen in brazil, even michael w smith (twice!) would have to be included, although i was able to see the russian pianist evgeny kissin play a recital in rio de janeiro, in the 90s.
this has changed since my arrival in bremen july 14, 2010. i've been back in germany for 497 days now (round number coming up!), and life has been a blessing. the by far biggest one shall be a future topic on this blog, but this minor one is surely worth mentioning.
on average, i've been to a high class musical concert every 31 days - basically once a month. this, of course, is without counting other cultural events (1 f1 race, soon 7 werder matches, 1 bayern match, bird parks & other tourisms). here my list and a few thoughts on each one of them.

august 28, 2010
by then i'd seen two jazz concerts in bars in town, but this was the first highlight: vladimir ashkenazy brought his sydney symphony orchestra (by some viewed as a top ten orchestra in the world) to "die glocke", bremen's main concert hall. with hime came young bulgarian top piano talent behzod abduraimov, who played one of tchaikovsky's concerts brilliantly. incredible concert, memorable day.

october 12, 2010
this would be my first live encounter with sting, who i'd known and listened to for over 17 years at that point. still, i wasn't expecting too much since i hadn't really got into liking the album "symphonycities", but it was a huge surprise: fantastic atmosphere in hamburg's 02 arena, and really high quality music with sting singing with authority and the london symphony orchestra causing the emotions to flow. "i hung my head", "this cowboy song", "the end of the game" and "why should i cry for you" stood out - and it was just fitting that the show opened with my traditional all-time favorite song "if i ever lose my faith in you". i left the show with the impression that this had been the best concert i'd ever been to in my life.

december 4, 2010
first high class concert event not alone - my cousin raphael accompanied me to munich to see a recital by evgeny kissin, the above mentioned russian wunderkind (now 40 years old), who played a liszt recital like a true master. it was simply astonishing, exciting and worth every minute. second time kissin in my life... and not the last!

march 17, 2011
i hadn't heard of the trondheim jazz orchestra until a couple of weeks earlier. this very peculiar orchestra (saxophone, 2 violins, 1 cello, a brass section, guitar, percussion and drums) is based in the famous music university in that norwegian town. they constantly play with some of jazz greatest, including pat metheny, and this day they were playing music from a collaboration with joshua redman, considered by me to be the best saxophone player alive. the sendesaal in bremen is a perfect location, thanks to its incredible (and legendary) acoustics and its somewhat informal setting. joshua is really incredible, and it was very exciting to see him perform live... and the music sticks with me until today.

may 7, 2011
i'd seen him around half a year earlier, but in a different setting. dominic miller has been sting's guitarist since the late 80s and has composed a couple of sting's most beautiful songs, such as "shape of my heart". his band held an event in my neighbouring village worpswede, famous for they're culture and events (last month the red hot chillie peppers gave a concert at their famed music hall). the band consisted of a piano, a base and, most memorably, the percussionist sting used for his winter project. i really enjoyed it, sitting in the first row!

may 15, 2011
i drove to braunschweig, which is a 90 minute drive from home, to see this man do a completely solo performance. sitting in the second row and even participating at a certain point (in a kind of choir he set up at the spot), bobby mcferrin was exactly as expected: a musical genius with a huge heart. i couldn't believe that i was seeing all these people live - mcferrin happens to be one of the artists that i have listened to in that focused way. anytime he's back in germany i'd love to go - if it's not too expensive (like his gig with chick corea next year in berlin).

june 2, 2011
the day i saw herbert grönemeyer live. you have to do it once! the stadium in hamburg was packed (normally hsv plays there), and i was sitting at the furthest seat possible (because it was cheaper...), but it was still a memorable experience. even with that kind of crowd, herbert manages to be personal - he stayed there way after official concert time and played and sang for the crowd, no matter what size, even after his band had left. it started at 20h and only ended close to midnight! some really great performances, people singing along a fantastic sound in this mild pre-summer night. another good one!

july 7, 2011
my cousin laura was with me on this one, and the next two. a 2 hour drive to the nice city of strasbourg, france. a quick look into the "altstadt". then concert time - like with grönemeyer in the back for monetary reasons, but it was vital to be there: keith jarrett, gary peacock and jack dejohnette are one of the most prolific trios in jazz history, and you feel like seeing history happening in front of your eyes. i, of course, really enjoyed keith's musicality, his understanding, his musical language - totally worth it! one of their many albums ("the cure") is part of those that i'd listened to many times in that focused mode...

july 12, 2011
cousin lmmc introduced me to this girl: yulianna avdeeva won the chopin competition, one of the most important piano contests in the world, and was playing at a little castle near montpellier, france. so there we were to see the talented jewish russian female player. let's put it like this (sorry dear cuz'), it wasn't her best day. but sitting in the front row, open air, french castle, evening and listening to a high quality recital wasn't the worst moment of the year... ;)

july 13, 2011
this is the reason we went to montpellier: to see the other russian, male and in no need of winning competitions. evgeny kissin plays liszt, i had seen it in december, but not fully understood every aspect of it. this time i was prepared, and it was an even more enriching experience than the first time. during the sonata, i even got emotional.

july 17, 2011
there are a few reasons why this evgeny kissin experience was by far the most emotional one. you see, i've been listening to the 12-year-old kissin playing the chopin concertos for almost two decades now. they are the single pieces that move me most in classical music. and there i was in bad kissingen (northern bavaria, germany) listening to the russian master playing concerto no.1 by chopin, with the woman of my life, recently arrived from brazil, sitting by my side. that brought more than just one tear to the eye, mainly in the second movement. yes, there was a chinse tenor (keija xiong) singing mozart (great stuff by the way) and the invited orchestra (from montpellier, conducted by lawrence foster) played tchaikovsky's nutcracker (complete version, quite breathtaking!). the end of the kissinger sommer in bad kissingen with kissin - what a night!

july 18, 2011
the following day, sizinha (the woman of my life from above) accompanied me to see sting in his symphonicity tour again, this time with the czech national orchestra, and in the city of mannheim. we were sitting in the last row, so it wasn't as personal or imediate as in october, but it was still a hell of a show with some tunes not played in hamburg. special times.

october 25, 2011
in a bar in bremen, my brother leo, his wife dani, our friends mudo & ju and luquinhaz went to see marketa irglova - the girl from the movie "once". she brought her band, with an impressive vocalist/percussionist (great voice & rythm), a guitarist (from glen hansard's "the frames") and a base player. marketa and glen had been in bremen two years ago, not to long after their cult hit movie "once", but this time she headed her own band. the music was sometimes of very high level, but mostly too melancholic and minor to listen to for 2 hours. still, some really great moments in this one, too. and just to see the main actress from one of my favorite movies live was worth it.

october 30, 2011
front row. hamburg kupfernagel. my love sitting next to me, maybe even more excited for me than i was able to express? and then, lights, pat metheny comes out. so very strange to be there, see him and that typical smile of his, and his shirt, always striped. and his toys, his guitar, his craft. soloing much better than i'd ever seen him before, pat was accompanied by larry grenadier (upright base) and bill stewart (drums). i though this would be a good intro do seeing pat live, since i usually don't like the trio setting. but i knew basically all the tunes (most from the pmg set list) and it was just breathtaking. always & forever, question & answer, bright sized life - he even played with his orchestrion, which was really something else, and he varied his guitars, including the picasso. gotta see it and him again. and again. hope to see lyle some day...

november 8, 2011
back to bremen, back to the sendesaal. this time, a solo artist. a lesser bobby mcferrin, let's say. vinx was in town, i caught it in the newspaper just a couple of days earlier. it was cold, he is warm. vinx worked with sting and peter gabriel, with the us government, with stevie wonder - as percussionist and vocalist. his show was something else, a real shame that it was in the middle of the week and sizinha couldn't be there with me. fantastic stuff, a real highlight. and i got to sit in the front row and chat with him afterwards ("sting is a star, peter gabriel is much more human and friendly", he said). great work with voice, and he is a solo act in his own right, having given workshops everywhere, including berklee.

november 22, 2011
he remembered. joshua redman was back to bremen, but this time in "die glocke". of course i had to be there too, sitting in the back and curious to see his duets with renowned pianist brad mehldau. i own mehldau's collaboration with metheny, and he has his very own specific style, that has to do a lot with the way he attacks the keys, loves to explore rythm and texture, filling up the big concert hall. mehldau is special, redman is special, and i had another really special evening yesterday. both of their musicalities are simply over the roof, and people felt it, didn't want them to leave. they knew it was special. what a collaboration - just piano and saxophone (mostly tenor, a little soprano), no rythm section besides their own incredible rythmic pulse and feel. they can both play beautifully, agressively, fast and deep, and they do it moving between these adjectives with competence.

i'm so thankful. and i hope 2012 will be similar, there is always more to come. berlin philharmonic orchestra, for example...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

class of 2011

this is becoming a habit. over the years, i've had many students, and today seems a good time to write down what i will remember of each one of those which i had in my maths or physics class the last months. this is the first of hopefully many graduating classes here in bremen, and i want to register the three things i will most remember of each one of them.
marlene will be remembered for always greeting me, for her seemingly infinite search for knowledge and for her transparent character. what you see is what you get with her, and it's a good sight.
lea will be remembered for her honest interest for content and people, her lighting-up-a-room smile and her will to help.
jule will be remembered for her incredibly fast thinking (not only in math), her hair colors and her shy smile - ok, one more, her chocolate sessions with the table.
thai will be remembered for her dedication, her maturity and her profound kindness. and, yes, chocolate art.
sadaf will be remembered for her high standards and values, her high goals and dreams and for her love-themed art work.
i'll remember caroline for her positive, almost palpable energy, her good smelling tea and her smile when she got something right.
stephanie will be remembered for her courage, her incredible artistic talent and expression, and her originality.
chantal represents her hometown bremen to me perfectly: quiet, always with a smile on her face, and with a great sense of humor - the kind that makes others laugh while she just continues to smile.
denise will be remembered for the werder schal gesture (chanti and denise, that was really special and will always be cherished), her patience and perseverance, and her latin american flair (always a good thing!).
max will be remembered for caring, for his integrational skills and for always being a good sport. and, of course, for having to deal with me twice as much.
bilal will be remembered for his coolness, his rare and great relationship to his brother and his laid back attitude towards everything, including studying.
aidin will be unforgotten because he reminds me of my best friend from high school: very smart, not very dedicated, and sometimes suprisingly interested in issues. i wish you well!
finally, promita will stay in my memory because of her unique voice, her positive outlook on life and her healthy self confidence.
they all made my days happy, they will be missed. i liked and loved them all, hope they felt it a little.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

looking up to someone

when you are young, there a quite a few people you look up to. singers, sportsmen, sometimes even teachers. few think of close family or even parents when they are preteens or teens.
as you grow older and get a better grasp of what life is all about, of what love is all about, and about all the simple and complex things this world has to offer us. and some point, you sometimes stop to look up to anyone human. i mean there is always a lot to admire in people, but to look up to?
and then, later on, maybe after your twenties, you step down a little from the pedestal you had put yourself on, whilst never really admitting it. and you start looking up to people again; not many, but one or the other.
one of those people in my life is having a special day today. although a good 700 km away, my mother is someone who i've always admired deeply and loved inconditionally, but only in the recent years has assumed this position in my life. a person i look up to.
happy mother's day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

this is it

this post is not about michael jackson. he's been dead for over a year and a half now; coincidentally, at that time the desire to move back to germany was starting to become a concrete plan. although many people who know me are aware of my nostalgic feelings towards this country, some might think: why germany? what is it about that place you grew up?
this is it. today was it, once again, maybe stronger than ever. i left home at around 4 pm for a bike ride in the neighborhood. november and december have been freezing, in all senses, and the mild temperatures of january have caused quite a lot of flooding throughout the country, due to the large amounts of snow freezing and making rivers overflow.
there is a small little river a few hundred meters from where i live, called "wümme". that's where i went on this sunny sunday, and in this time a year, 4 pm is pretty close to sunset time.
i'll post some pictures as soon as i can (can't seem to find the cable), but this is why i love north germany; and this is why i have fallen in love with bremen.
i moved to borgfeld, a little village still belonging to the 10th biggest german city, not even two weeks ago. and already it has the potential to become what i imagine to be a place i could live for a long, long time. it just feels like home, it feels right. within 2 minutes, i was in the middle of the fields, overflown with the water that used to be snow and ice. and what i saw there made me be profoundly grateful to God, and it left me feeling as if i've returned home.
i also remembered my younger brother and think this could be a quite inspiring place for him, maybe for a future project.
the national park here in the wümme area, that's what makes borgfeld, bremen and north germany so great. i can still o visit many places from here, but i'd love this to become my permanent home, sometime.
here are just a few pics:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

album 43: saviour (various artists)

those were good times - when major projects were made, and all major christian contemporary music artists would be invited to lend their talents and voices. the beginning of the 90s had a few of those projects, and i'd like to mention "the new young messiah" and "my utmost for his highest" as very good examples of making this format work.
it was a special project led by greg nelson and phil mchugh, who had made a name for themselves producing the big ccm christian singers of the 80s, sandi patti, steve green and larnelle harris. greg and phil are producers, arranjers and composers, and that's what they did on this special project, which was supposed to be their musical masterpiece. and, to me, it still is. "saviour" attempts to be a musical, and instead of everyone singing a solo or participating in a duet, this time the idea was to ask five singers to solo, duet, trio in various songs, accompanied and sometimes lead by a choir. the high quality of this album is certainly also due to the talent of larnelle harris, steve green and wintley phipps in top form, and a fantastic choir, far from being only backups to the "stars". twila paris did very well, and even wayne watson was okay.
but the songs and arrangements are at the heart of this endeavor; the choir does a great job in the opening (creation) and in the exodos (slavery and freedom), singing very profound and witty lyrics in great orchestreal, but still modern and timeless music. "the kings of the earth", featuring harris, green and phipps, and the creation of man duet pulled off grandiously by phipps as God and harris as adam ("my heart belongs to you") are the high points of the repertoire, with the song "the rose of sharom" being also beautiful.
all in all, a true masterpiece in christian music, with some really thrilling moments in between. i've sung it twice in portuguese, and it was still really great - which gives the songwriters and arrangers even more credit.