Arts & Opinion.com
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 18, No.3, 2019
 

     
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  Editor
Robert J. Lewis
 
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
 
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Chris Barry
Don Dewey
Howard Richler
Gary Olson
Lynda Renée
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
 
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Serge Gamache Emanuel Pordes
 
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Lydia Schrufer
 
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Mady Bourdage
 
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Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Marcel Dubois
 
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  Past Jazz Contributors
 
 

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Samina
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Coco
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordan Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Somi
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
Jill Barber
Corrine Bailey Rae
Chet Doxas
François Bourassa
Sylvain Luc
Neil Cowley
Marianne Trudel
Florence K
Terez Montcalm
Cyrus Chestnut
Tord Gustavsen
Sarah MK
Julie Lamontagne
Vincent Gagnon
Arioli & Officer
Jean Félix Mailloux
Becky Noble
Vijay Iyer
Lionel Loueke
Tia Fuller
Cécile McLorin Salvant
Emma Frank
Shai Maestro
Christine Jensen
Vincent Rehel
Kat Edmonson
Phronesis
Jaga Jazzist
Cline & Lage
Fred Hersch
Ala.ni
Gregory Porter
Takuya Kuroda
Edmar Castaneda
Donny McCaslin
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Keyon Harrold
Sonia Johnson
Theo Crocker
2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)

Montreal Jazz Festival 2010

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Piano Keyboard

SIX DEGREES OF JAZZ

by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: RODRIGO AMARANTE

 

It’s been a long and winding road, but a necessary voyage for Brazilian born Rodrigo Amarante to gain confidence both as a singer and songwriter. He began as a peripheral member of the already established group Hermanos --Spanish for brothers -- eventually taking on more and more responsibility in respect to writing and arranging. Since 2014 he’s been performing as a solo singer accompanying himself on guitar and occasionally the piano.

He had been studying journalism when he was invited by the group Hermanos to provide back-up vocals. From there on, there was no mistaking his musical gifts. A few years later, with the same band, he wrote and recorded “Sentimental,” which proved to be his breakout song.

During the next ten years he concentrated on composing while honing his instrumental and orchestral skills. His tireless dedication and self-belief culminated in his first solo album Cavalo (2014). To his surprise, the album was critically received and paved the way to a triumphant and life-transforming international tour. He discovered that voice and guitar could create a particular space and ambience that would appeal to a global audience looking to escape the chaos and cacophony of daily life. That audiences find his music balming and medicinal speaks directly to the increasing presence of stress in everyday life.

Having to contend with the marketing pressures of record companies and producers, as well as the heavy-handed hegemony of Rap and Hip-hop, finding one’s self in one’s music, and staying there is easier said than done, especially if your unplugged sound is but a whisper amidst the anger and protest that characterizes much of today’s music.

What first strikes the ear (ever so gently) during an Amarante concert is its ambient intimacy, the understated manner in which the singer’s mellifluous voice invokes soft breezes and samba, buoyed by sophisticated guitar accompaniment that both feathers and floats the melody and lyric. In his own manner, and on his own terms which have become his calling card, Amarante creates an alternative world every bit as compelling as the biggest names in music.

Every art, not just music, arises in response to not only geographic specificity, but to the ever-changing present (code for our brave new digital universe). The art product is usually a mirror of or reaction to the world as it turns, as well as a much needed glorious escape from it. Reducing the Amarante sound to its core meaning, what the world is lacking, or “what the world needs now,” is respite, sanctuary, a cozy place the harried individual can crawl into and reconnect with the calm and stillness that has been silenced beneath the wheels of progress, a niche where the individual can gather his thoughts and begin a healing process that will re-acquaint him with his essential self. However unintentional, Amarante’s music aspires to communion. In its plaintive understatement, his music invokes prayer, holiness, in F-sharp major contrast to an unhinged world that has lost its way in the minefields of modernity.

Amarante’s compositions exemplify Brazil’s unique contribution to the world’s music. Never far from jazz, the music’s identity is synonymous with its dizzying array of complex augmented chords that are stretched out in long, lush willowy sequences that both soothe and excite the ear, generating inter-penetrating harmonic structures that magically resolve, leaving the enchanted listener perfectly paused in the pulchitrude of freshly minted soundscapes. In terms of its flow and the interweaving of voice and instrument, there isn’t a music in the world that hasn’t come under the influence of Brazil.

More and more listeners are discovering that Amarante’s signature sound is not so much a critique of but a positive rejoinder to “half the perfect world;” and as a happy and much deserved consequence, he is no longer a secret outside of Brazil.

Come June 27th @l’Astral, he will be performing at one of the great music events on the planet: the 40th edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival. No matter what your musical background, an evening with Rodrigo Amarante will persuade you that his very particular takes on life are no less right for the times than the popular music of the day.

 




 

 

 
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