“DESINVENTADO”: Curupira’s maturity statement
Those who follow-up the renewal wave which has been dominating the Brazilian instrumental music in the past few years certainly already know or, at least, have already heard of Curupira. This talented trio, composed of young musicians and songwriters from São Paulo, has been presenting one of the most creative works in this musical genre to enthusiastic and continuously growing audiences. And that is why André Marques, Cleber Almeida and Fábio Gouvêa have been collecting compliments on their performances in festivals, theaters and show halls in many capital cities in Brazil, or even in Argentina.
After seven years of dedication and a great load of musical research, Curupira felt it was ready to record its second album. Launched by Jam Music, “Desinventado” is a statement of the trio’s musical evolution. The album’s high-spirited name synthesizes Curupira’s consciousness regarding its art: the band knows it is not inventing a new musical genre, but is capable of creating new music from traditional Brazilian rhythms and miscellaneous influences. Which is not trifling.
André, Cleber and Fábio sign 11 compositions of their own, in addition to a rereading of the Brazilian-traditional country classic “Tristeza do Jeca” (by Angelino de Oliveira), and reveal in this work that they have developed greatly as instrument players and songwriters. If in the previous album the trio already drew attention due to the inventiveness in improvisations and to the variety of Brazilian rhythms it includes in its compositions, now it surprises the listeners with more complex and inventive compositions. The arrangements are marked by unusual rhythms, in addition to resorting to a much wider arsenal of timbers.
“In the beginning, when we thought of making a frevo or a catira, we kept researching these rhythms. Nowadays, we let the music flow more freely. We can compose a samba and put a maracatu or a frevo in the middle of it, which then turns into jazz. But we do that without forcing anything. It has to be natural, without making rules”, explains 28-year-old pianist André Marques, who signs six of the album’s songs. André has also been a member of Hermeto Pascoal’s band for almost a decade, and acknowledges that he owes a lot of what he knows today to the master from Alagoas, not only as regards rhythms and harmonies: “I have also learned from him about the concept of free music, universal music. I had already studied in a conservatory, but they only teach you formulas there. From Hermeto, you can learn much more, because you see him composing live”, observes the pianist.
Curupira’s new album also marks its members’ evolution as regards the manner of facing the music. It is important to remember that the band’s name was originally chosen because it refers to the mythical character of the Brazilian folklore who is in charge of protecting the forests and animals. In 1996, when it was formed, the trio undertook a similar mission: the protection of the Brazilian music and culture. “We began with a conception which was totally focused on the Brazilian music, but in time we have realized that we are against musical prejudice. We play rhythms from all over Brazil, but we are also open to miscellaneous influences, whether from erudite music, or from jazz, Arabian music or flamenco. Music is music”, asserts André Marques.
Although it has contributed to delay the new album’s recording, the substitution of bass player Ricardo Zohyo by guitar and bass player Fábio Gouvêa, at the end 2002, has not changed the band’s essence. “Zohyo is very dear to us, our little brother in sound, but he needed to leave the trio and has left a void. Thank God Fábio came to us, he is a young guy with the same musical concepts we have, and has greatly contributed to this album”, comments 26-year-old drummer and percussionist Cleber Almeida, who has also composed four songs for the album. “It has been an honor to be accepted in the band. Curupira was already a reference to me”, says 23-year-old Fábio, who has surprised his new partners by having learned to play the bass very quickly.
“Our music has changed a lot. When a musician of a big band or a ‘combo’ is replaced, the sonority remains practically the same, but in a trio, it turns into another planet”, compares Cleber, referring to the fact that Curupira has started to resort to new timbers in this album, such as his country-style viola, his ukulele and his guitar, such as Fábio’s electric guitar, ukulele and flutes or André’s accordion, escaleta and flute. “It is very hard to find an interesting arrangement, different from that way in which the trios usually play, but we are already beginning to find our own way”, evaluates the drummer.
An original path
“Desinventado” proves that Curupira has found its original path as a trio, not only in terms of arrangements, but also as regards musical conception. Just listen to “Cataia”, the opening song, composed by Cleber. It is a samba, which was given plural rhythms throughout the arrangement, even including a maracatu rhythm. Not to mention Fábio’s improvisations with the guitar and André’s keyboard, which is very jazzy. The same aesthetic concept orients “Que Farra!”, one of André’s compositions. Originally a maxixe, it was given an introduction in 7/4 compass, and melodies inspired in the singers from the Northeastern region were included. “We have decided to make a mess in the middle to justify this name”, plays the composer, referring to the yells and laughs he and his partners recorded in the song.
Another song that well illustrates Curupira’s creative musical conception is a version of the classic “Tristeza do Jeca”. Cleber opens the arrangement by playing his country-style viola, including typically Brazilian-traditional country vocals. In the first return to the theme, the rhythm is already a Northeastern ciranda. Finally, in the second return to the melody, the rhythm is transformed into a very free baião. “I am very fond of this song, even because I am from the country. The person who is not used to listening to instrumental music will be able to associate the song with the viola and travel through the arrangement, even when the harmony starts to bend”, says Cleber, reveling that arrangements of other well-known songs will also be a part of the trio’s repertoire in its upcoming concerts. “We may also play other authors’ songs, and they will still sound like our own songs”, supports André.
The trio’s rhythmic mixtures and eclectic influences are spread throughout the other songs. “Siri na Lata” – the album’s oldest song, composed in 1997 by André – is a xote with frevo rhythms. “Gauchada em Belô”, another song composed by the pianist, fuses rhythms from the Southern region of Brazil, such as chula, with Uruguayan chacarera. The influence of contemporary erudite music is evident in “Suitão”, the album’s longest song. “It is very complicated and does not allow much rest”, explains André, who has decided to compose a long suite. “I let the ideas flow until the song was finished. I wanted to compose many short passages, which naturally went towards each other, but without relating to the preceding ones”, says the pianist. Now, for the frevo “Ferrolho”, which appears in a much different version from that which the trio has been playing in concerts, André has decided to explore new keyboard timbers.
There are also many affectionate tributes in the album. “João Ferreira dos Santos” is a ballad Cleber has dedicated to his already deceased grandfather. “Serenata nº 4”, one of the eight serenades which André has already composed to his wife, is a waltz. The baião “Família Nova” has been composed by Fábio as a tribute to his new partners. As in the above mentioned “Gauchada em Belô”, by André, the jazzy “Vinhetinha” and “Congada de Agradecimento”, both composed by Cleber, highlight in the vocals the special appearance by the singer Jane Duboc. With her privileged voice, she shows with lots of sensitivity why she is one of the favorite singers of most Brazilian instrument players, or even of foreign jazz players, such as the longed-for saxophonist Gerry Mulligan.
Without proposing to invent anything, but engaged in creating music with Brazilian roots, harmonic refinement and universal language, Curupira recovers in “Desinventado” the best Brazilian instrumental music. Unpretentiously, with technical accuracy, creativity and musical personality, the young trio from São Paulo shows that it is here to stay.
(*) Carlos Calado is a journalist, music critic e author of “O Jazz Como Espetáculo” and “Tropicália: a História de Uma Revolução Musical”, among other books about Brazilian music and jazz.