The new year begins on a high note for the music community in Bengaluru, as Raul de Souza, the legendary trombonist from Brazil, will perform in the city two days in a row. In fact, in the 60 years of his career, which has seen him invent new tunes, record nine albums, work with several bands, play at numerous jazz fests, and win awards, he has never performed in Asia.
The 81-year-old, who also plays the alto and tenor saxophone, is clearly excited to be “in the land of Mahatma Gandhi”. “Yes, it’s my first time here! I hope the Indian audience will enjoy discovering Brazilian music. Besides my own compositions of samba-jazz and bossa nova, I will play some of Tom Jobim’s music (he was instrumental in creating the bossa nova, which is derived from samba).”
On this tour, Raul will be accompanied by his bassist of 15 years, Glauco Solter, pianist Leonardo Montana (known for lending a modern touch to standard tunes), and drummer Mauro Martins, one of the best Brazilian music players in Europe.
Every new year is a time to sit back and reflect on the days gone by. In Raul’s case, we are talking of 1955 Rio de Janeiro, when he burst into the music scene. He slowly mobilised the bossa nova movement there and moved to the USA to create the ‘Brazilian American Funk’.
What are some of his fondest memories of jazz music from back then, we ask. “When I started, there were two genres, samba and choro. Pianist Joao Donato and I introduced many compositions, and created samba jazz. Then came artistes such as Tom Jobim, who was a primary force behind bossa nova. Since I am a fan of John William Coltrane (jazz saxophonist), and I have played along with Sonny Rollins (jazz tenor saxophonist) and Freddie Hubbard (jazz trumpeter), I started blending my interpretation of jazz with samba,” he says.
Raul’s jazz music continues to evolve as he meets or listens to the new crop of artistes, and New York-based jazz trombonist Conrad Herwig is his favourite from the current lot. He is also ever ready to learn new musical instruments; the piano is next on his radar.
“Practise, practise, practise”, that’s Raul’s secret to a thriving career. Most recently, he performed with jazz musicians Ron Carter and Richard Bona, and cut an album of ballads with French jazz drummer André Ceccarelli. Next month, he will launch an album Brazilian Samba Jazz, complete with his own compositions, in Paris. Later in February, he will stage a performance with two young trombonists in Brazil.
Does he have a wish list for the music fraternity in 2016? “I want peace and health for everyone. No more wars, and more music for everybody. Talk less and open your ears, because ‘music is the food of soul’,” he signs off.
January 2 (9.30 pm)
and January 3 (8 pm). At Windmills Craftworks, Whitefield. Tickets (Rs.500 upwards) on
— Barkha Kumari