Clichés of Brazil persistenly live on in our minds, the samba and the boss nova, naked carnival dancers, the sun, the beach and the girl from Ipanema. Nothing could be more salutary than a look to the North-East of the country: In Pernambuco state and its neighbours a whole universe of rural styles like baião, xote, arrasta-pé, coco and others has been reigning ever since, all bundled into the name of “forró”. This term – as one of many theories goes – was coined when a British company was constructing a railway line through the North-East and offered dancing parties in the evenings for all workers. With the pronunciation of the Brazilians “for all” changed to “forró“. There is no proof if this is not mere legend. But one thing is for sure: This music from the countryside, the música nordestina with its down-to-earth rhythms, its zabumba drums and triangles, its rocking accordions and guitar riffs, and its hoarse singing indeed speaks a language that can be understood by everyone – since meanwhile it has even taken over the cities.
Already a certain Gilberto Gil integrated country sounds into his early hits. Later on the forró family accompanied the southward streams of immigrants who came to São Paulo looking for work. A enormous boom of North Eastern music and dancing parties sprang up. But the ramble of the forró not only happened towards the south, but also in the opposite direction – and even crossed the borders. As bossa nova in the early sixties had conquered New York after the memorable Carnegie Hall concert, it is now the turn of the música nordestina to take the clubs on the Hudson bankside by storm. This time it is not only the emigrants who have dedicated themselves to the sound of Brazil’s rugged hinterland. Tom Waits’ guitarist Smokey Hormel, Lounge Lizard drummer Mauro Refosco and no less a person than David Byrne have lately been infected by the forró virus. Without any doubt the boys of Matuto also have to be counted among today’s protagonists of this new dance craze in the Big Apple. They also manage the trick to add rural bits and pieces from the US music history to the colours of Brazil.
Let’s start with their name – which is profoundly down to earth: „Matuto“ is a term which is used for a simple guy from the countryside. Which is a little bit paradox on the other hand – because as simple as their namegiver may be, as clever are the two masterminds who create the sound of Matuto. There is Rob Curto, an Italo-American, who shaped his ability during a several years stay in Brazil, teamed up with percussionist Cyro Baptista, with accordion wizard Dominguinhos and singer Elza Soares. In Curto’s multi-faceted sound universe we also find swing, bebop, funk, rock and blues, he collaborated with klezmer trumpet player Frank London and the US-Mexican diva Lila Downs. His counterpart is Clay Ross from South Carolina, who easily floats between jazz, world music and bluegrass with his guitar and has also studied Brazilian rhythms with Cyro Baptista. He lends his cheeky voice to the texture of Matuto’s songs. No less than ten great musicians from the NY scene surround these two leaders, among them drummer Richie Barshay with Herbie Hancock credits, bass player Edward Perez, who combines Afro-Peruvian tradition and modern jazz, not to forget the awarded bluegrass fiddler Rob Hecht.
This thoroughly heterogeneous group of people now comes up with a jaw-dropping debut album: „Matuto“ is a manifest of boundary-crossing between country styles and between Pernambuco and Brooklyn with excursions well into jazz, rock and punk. Listen to the powerful opener „Dois Nordestes“ with its dialogues between a daring accordion and surf guitar. It is followed up by the surprising track „Church Street Blues“ penned by bluegrass revivalist Norman Blake and here accompanied by decent rhythms from Brazil. „Retrato De Um Forró“ is an evergreen by Luis Gonzaga, the big pop star of the música nordestina, and here it is graced by a tremendous lap steel. Paying homage to both country music scenes is the tribute to Pernambuco’s capital „Recife“, which could also be settled in the plains of the Mid-West with its duel between bluegrass fiddle and Indian flute. These are only the first stops of Muatuto’s intercontinental journey which goes on to bring together Blind Willie Johnson with the Afro-Brazilian music bow berimbau and the maracatú rhythm. Then the melancholic traditional „Banks Of The Ohio“ teams up with a waltzing accordion, and eventually a samba batucada sneaks in to meet a punk guitar.
This is the sound of boys from the city sucking the rootsy juice of the countryside – a surprising US-Brazilian brotherhood which sweeps the thrilling stable and steppe smell from two continents into the skyscraper canyons of NY.
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- 1.Dois Nordestes04:51
- 2.Church Street Blues03:42
- 3.Retrato De Um Forró03:39
- 5.Sanfoneiro Bebo04:44
- 6.John the Revelator03:52
- 7.Forró Pacífico04:33
- 8.Banks of the Ohio05:20
- 9.Rádio AM, Cinco Da Tarde03:40
- 10.What a Day04:28
- 11.Maracatu Dos Anjos04:20
- 12.Dream of Life03:09