There are many cultural components that a composer needs to consider when creating repertoire for a Latin Jazz ensemble, ranging from the Caribbean or South American rhythmic basis to the harmonic language of jazz; still, there’s one important element that only a select number of composers consider – the culture of their ensemble. It’s very possible for a musician to write a more generic piece of music that will work for any ensemble; we’ve seen that happen with jazz standards for years. Something special happens when a composer considers the individual musicians in their band though; the music fits them like a glove. Space for improvisation gets created that will either suit or challenge a particular musician, bringing out completely different sides of their musicianship. In fact, when a composer considers the culture of their own group, an overall greater sense of investment in the music results, generally giving way to inspired performances and memorable songs.
There’s few musicians in Latin Jazz that understand the importance behind the culture of their ensemble like pianist Jovino Santos Neto. He spent years working with one of Brazil’s most important and distinctive composers, Hermeto Pascoal, who crammed insanely dense layers of culture into everything that he did. Drawing upon his time with Pascoal and his own inherent musicianship, Neto has continued the tradition of digging deeper into the cultural elements behind his music. He draws upon a number of musical traditions from Brazil, ranging from the styles you might expect like Samba to Northeastern genres baião, forro, and more. He’s also a writer who is extremely aware of the musicians around him; the music that he writes doesn’t just showcase his prodigious piano technique, it shines a spotlight upon his band members. Working with groups of musicians from both Brazil and his stateside home of Seattle, Neto has developed a continually growing repertoire that looks at culture on both the immediate and large scale.
This video is a great example of Neto’s skillful writing and the way that he shapes the experience around his musicians. There’s space for everyone in this performance of “Zagaia,” ranging from the the opening vibraphone solo from Ben Thomas to the challenging melody for saxophonist Harvey Wainapel and the fierce rhythmic structure for bassist Chuck Deardorf, drummer Mark Ivester, and percussionist Jeff Busch. It’s a lively performance that involves everyone on a very real scale, leading to an inspired display of musicality, creativity, and deep culture.
Check Out These Related Posts:
Album Of The Week: Current, Jovino Santos Neto Quinteto
Latin Jazz Conversations: Jovino Santos Neto (Part 5)
Weekly Latin Jazz Video Fix: Hermeto Pascoal
Chucho Valdes & Paquito D’Rivera Performing Claudia