Here’s a basic version of a very pretty tune by Baden Powell. Of course sheet music can’t convey the tenderness and skill with which he plays it on guitar, but it’s been stuck in my head this week so I thought I’d share it with you.
Here’s another pretty song from Djavan, dedicated to his birthplace.
Here’s a funky tune from Djavan’s album Alumbramento. This may be the only pop song I know that never fully resolves the harmony. Every time it comes around to the G chord, the bass plays an F. Can you think of another song like that?
Last year on the site I used the month of March to focus on the blues in some of its different forms. I think this year I’ll be even more specific and feature the work of a single artist: Brazilian singer Djavan. He’s been putting out quality albums for over 40 years, and I hope he continues long into the future. His work reminds me in some ways of Stevie Wonder’s… a mix of funky pop songs and heartfelt ballads, featuring some interesting harmonic choices and always fronted by strong, mature vocals.
Let’s start near the beginning. This song is on his self-titled sophomore album from 1978. Its simple melody and danceable groove always put me in a good mood.
I first heard this fun samba by Manfredo Fest on a George Shearing record.
This song is classic Hermeto Pascoal. It contains some of the quitessential elements of his style. The most obvious “Pascoalism” is the melody itself; full of long runs of 8th notes, often featuring doubled tones both on and off the beat. The bassline is a counterpoint to the melody, not always related to the harmony, as in bar 9 where the bass plays E and A naturals over the Eb and Ab chords. The harmony seems to dance around a Bb lydian tonality before settling on C minor for the remainder of the tune.
Hermeto builds momentum at the D.S. by moving from a downbeat-heavy melody to a more syncopated rhythm. He makes life easy for the soloist by vamping on one minor chord instead of complicated changes, a techinque also favored by Frank Zappa. Another hallmark of Hermeto’s writing is metric modulation. The tune speeds up twice during the first head (ignore the modulations after the repeat). Note the 1st ending repeats all the way back to the bar of 2/4 at the beginning.
Choro is one of the many wonderful styles of music to come out of Brazil, and “Choro” by Amilton Godoy is a great example. Traditionally played on winds and strings, choro translates very well to piano, as illustrated by Amilton and other luminaries. The original tune is composed as a theme and variations, but on her 1987 album Illusions Eliane Elias turns it into the simpler head/solo jazz form, as I have done here.