Sound Surfing / Brazilian-themed concert in Westport to benefit KEYS
Paul Winter brings his unique perspective of Brazil’s musical culture to Westport this weekend, when he and his Brazilian Quartet appear in a performance aptly entitled “My Brazil” at Voices Café at 8 p.m. Saturday.
The concert benefits KEYS, Kids Empowered by Your Support, which provides music instruction to inner-city children in Bridgeport.
For over half a decade, the music of Brazil has woven itself into Paul Winter’s own musical fabric. The Litchfield-based Grammy-winning saxophonist and band leader, who’s performed in 52 countries, made his first trip to Brazil in 1962 on a State Department tour, leading a college jazz sextet and playing in 13 Brazilian cities. He returned two years later and lived in the Ipanema section of Rio de Janeiro for a year. He’s since returned over a dozen times more, and his music continues to evolve around a Brazilian culture rooted in those experiences.
“When I first went to Brazil, I felt that here was a place that human instincts were all in evidence,” Winter said. “They live with hearts, they sing with hearts. It’s something about the warm weather that brings out expression in people all over the world. Brazilian people and the music always awakens ‘smile’ for me.”
Winter chose a Brazilian theme for the Voices Café concert primarily because it benefits the KEYS organization.
“What sparked it was learning about the work of KEYS,” Winter said. “Many of these kids are from Latin and African-American background. And I just felt that this was a music that would speak to them. There’s going to be a lot of those kids at the concert, and we’re going to have some of them sit in. So I felt it would be kindred to them in the largest sense culturally. And it’s a program I haven’t done in this area.”
The Voices Café program includes songs by Carlos Lyra, Luiz Bonfa, Antonia Carlos Jobin, Edu Lobo, and Noel Rosa, along with some Carnival songs. His Brazilian Quartet includes percussionist Vanderlei Pereira, bassist Gustavo Amarante, and Paul Meyers, “whom I’ve long regarded as North America’s greatest Brazilian guitarist,” Winter said.
Paul Winter’s 1962 State Department tour lasted six months and traveled to 23 countries and Latin America.
“The sixth month was entirely in Brazil,” recalled the musician. “We were just beguiled, especially by this new music that we heard, coming from João Gilberto and the compositions of Antônio Carlos Jobin. We were completely captivated, and then came back and recorded some of it.”
The “Jazz Meets the Bossa Nova” album by the Paul Winter Sextet was released by Columbia Records in the fall of 1962. In November of that year, by invitation of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, the Paul Winter Sextet performed at the White House in what was to become the first-ever jazz concert program at the White House. Two Bossa Nova songs from the album were on the program.
Winter has recorded more than forty albums in his career, and the soprano saxophonist has an honorary Doctorate of Music from the University of Hartford. He’s played more than 3,000 concerts, and his White House appearance is certainly one of the more memorable ones.
“Mrs. Kennedy had started a series called ‘Concerts for Young People, By Young People,’” recalled Winter. “They were all classical musicians. Then they heard about our State Department tour, how well it went. And she thought, “Let’s try to do something different and invite this jazz group to play.”
The experience of playing there was exciting. The room, the East Room, is very live. There’s a lot of marble. The band sounded quite dynamic there. As a matter of fact, there’s a big painting of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart hanging on the wall, and at one point, during the drum solo, I think it was vibrating. One of the guards got alarmed and made some motions, like ‘keep it down guys.’”
Voices Café is at The Unitarian Church in Westport, 10 Lyons Plains Road. Tickets are $35 and are available for purchase online at voicescafe.org or by calling David Vita at 203-227-7205, ext. 14.
Mike Horyczun’s Sound Surfing column appears every Saturday in The Norwalk Hour. Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.