Lesser-Known Brazilian Gems

Brazilian superstar Caetano Veloso once characterized Brazil as "the great other" Why? Because following Columbus' discovery of the New World in 1493, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain went to the Pope to lay claim to these newly discovered territories. Under the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, the Spanish-born Pope Alexader VI issued a papal bull decreeing all territories longitudinally 370 miles west of the Cape Verde islands as belonging to Spain, while any newly discovered territories to the east would be accorded to Portugal. For the most part, this line of demarcation was observed and peace was kept. Spain went on to colonize much of South America and even allowed Portugal to expand somewhat past the line into Brazil.

Consequently, this immense Portuguese colony in the New World was separated from its Spanish-speaking neighbors by language. Today's Brazil, now a federation of states as big as the United States and the largest country in South America, still remains distinctively different from the rest of its neighboring countries.

Many of you probably know by now that I love Brazilian music with a capital 'L.' It's got everything: African rhythms, lush European harmonies, lyrical melodies, great guitar players, and a language that—even when unaccompanied—sounds like music to my ears. It's what I would fill my solar-powered iPod with to take with me if I were ever to be stranded on a desert island.

For today's show, I decided to put together a small sampling of lesser-known Brazilian songs I that love. Brazilian music is like a good Italian olive oil: it's consumed locally and is not available for export. Many of their best artists never tour the U.S., and their records are available only as imports.

Swami Jr. is a Brazilian guitarist and producer, whose first cut features a singer named Luciana Alves, who has recorded with Hermeto Pascoal, Edu Lobo, Brad Mehldau, Dianne Reeves, and many other noteworthy names. Her voice has also caught the attention of jazz guitarist, composer, and arranger, Chico Pinheiro, whom I'll also feature later in this set. What a voice.

We turn next to Nana Caymmi, older sister of Dori Caymmi and youngest brother Danilo—all children of the patriarch of modern Brazilian music, Dorival Caymmi. Again, talk about a beautiful voice. "Sem Fin," which translates to mean "endless," is a song previously recorded by Milton Nascimento on his gorgeous album with Herbie Hancock, Miltons.

Moacir Santos is the greatest Brazilian composer that nobody's ever heard of, but Brazilian and jazz artists sure know who he is. We'll first listen to his version of the famous standard, "Coisa No. 5" (also known as "Nanã"), before an earlier version by singer Wilson Simonal from the early 1960s, which was a time when Brazil was slipping into dictatorship as the generals had just ousted the democratically-elected president, Jucelinho Kubitschek.

Milton Nascimento grew up in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, in the small city of Ouro Preto. His music is neither bossa nova nor samba; it's the music of the mountains, of cooler air and fewer people. Milton's voice is like no other. He grew up loving the music of Nat King Cole and Peruvian soprano, Yma Sumac. Milton first visited U.S. shores collaborating on jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter's 1974 album Native Dancer. He is currently on tour of the U.S. and will perform at UCLA's Royce Hall on November 28.

Maria Bethânia teams up with Gilberto Gil on the next number. The kid sister of Caetano Veloso, she doesn't venture outside of Brazil nearly as much as he does, unfortunately. Her fans certainly wish she would. Next, we have firecracker Elza Soares and her spicy samba. She is a colorful artist who was once married to Garrincha, the famous soccer (futbol) player.

Two lovely works from Mario Adnet follow. A disciple of Antônio Carlos Jobim, he composes large-format orchestral compositions filled with lyricism.

Closing our set, we have guitarist, composer, and arranger, Chico Pinheiro, whose latest album, There's a Storm Inside, has been nominated for several Latin Jazz awards. Then, I have selected a collaboration between Brazilian vocalist Glaucia Nasser and Puerto Rican percussionist Sammy Figueroa. And finally, we'll top it all off with an older waltz from Caetano Veloso's 1988 album, Caetano.

Inspired by the remarkable natural, cultural, and creative diversity of this massive country, it's no small wonder that Brazilian musical artists make some of the world's best music.

  1. Swami Jr. feat. Luciana Alves / "Dois" / Outra Praia / Chita Discos
  2. Nana Caymmi / "Sem Fin" / 2 Em 1 / EMI
  3. Moacir Santos / "Cosa No. 5: Nanã" / Ouro Negro / Adventure Music
  4. Wilson Simonal / "Nanã" / Retratos / EMI Brazil
  5. Milton Nascimento / "Txai" / Txai / Columbia
  6. Maria Bethânia feat. Gilberto Gil / "Saudade Dela" / Encanteria / Quitanda
  7. Elza Soares / "Rio Carnaval Dos Carnavais" / Pede Pasagem / EMI Europe
  8. Mario Adnet feat. Paula Santoro / "Canção de Cristal" / Um Olhar Sobe Villa-Lobos / Borandá
  9. Mario Adnet / "Borzeguim"Amazonia / Adventure Music
  10. Chico Pinheiro / "A Sul do Teu Olhar / There's a Storm Inside / Sunnyside
  11. Sammy Figueroa & Glaucia Nasser / "Ilu-Aye"Talisman / Savant
  12. Caetano Veloso / "Valsa de Uma Cidade" / Caetano / Polygram





Tom Schnabel