FridaysUpdate- Brasil Nuts: Beleza starts hearing things
In talking to Beleza Brasil about their new songs and their enthusiasm for stylistic fusion, the most surprising thing is that there's a conversation at all. Their last album had, by a substantial margin, one of the highest cover song quotients of any recent Charlottesville release, consisting mostly of tunes by the likes of Brazilian masters Gilberto and Jobim, and upon its release in 2006, vocalist Madeline Sales made no bones about her lack of a muse.
"Both of us are interpreters," says Madeline. "I had a conflict about that for a long time, and then I realized I should just get over it."
Sales and husband Humberto, or "Berto," form the core of the group, which usually performs along with drummer Matt Wyatt and bassist Dave Berzonsky, but the Fridays After Five show will also feature guest percussionist Bruno Lucini and improvising jazz saxophonist Jeff Decker.
"It's hard to improvise over Brazilian music," notes Berto, "because it's so well arranged and it's so complete."
Since both Madeline and Berto teach music lessons, they get a constant connection to popular music, and that's why osmosis was inevitable. "This is where we are," Madeline sighs, "We're not in Brazil."
Well, except that they actually were in Brazil fairly recently; the pair spent about a month earlier this summer visiting family and recording in Salvador. Madeline says audiences there were particularly encouraging.
"They will sing with you," she says, "and they don't have to be drinking to do it." Now that's a nice thought!
"Rio is a really international city," Madeline continues. "There's a huge cry for the blues; I don't understand it, but that's what they wanted us to do."
Drummer Wyatt also made the trip, presumably loading up on double-time rhythmic patterns to inject into the performances back at home.
"The harmony and melody is more bluesy, and the rhythm is more Brazilian," says Madeline. Berto, who plays a monthly flamenco gig at Maya restaurant, says it has "elements of flamenco, blues, and funk, with Brazilian lyrics and harmony."
He also says Portuguese adds an exotic twist to even the American elements.
"The way we speak, already it's like a weird singing," he says. "That, I think, allows you to play more with words. We kind of compare rhythmically with rap or hip hop, which are fast, without much melody but some kinds of patterns. Brazilians have rhythm and melody all connected."
This change didn't come easily. Maybe it was a New Year's resolution; their originals have been the focus for most of 2009.
"I always used to tell Madeline that I didn't feel comfortable composing," adds Berto. "Things for me come at the right moment; I think the moment is now. It's flowing naturally, and I hear melodies in my head."
That may take some getting used to, but it's better than the alternatives: tinnitus, homicidal voices, or nothing at all.
Beleza Brasil performs at Fridays After Five on 8/14 at 5:30pm.