South American music has been popular in this country since the late 1970s, when the likes of Matti Caspi and Yehudit Ravitz put out records that fed off the rhythms and vibes of Brazil and other Latin countries, and radio and TV show presenter Eli Yisraeli shared with the Israeli public some of the music he encountered during his seven-year sojourn in Brazil.
We have also played host to numerous musical acts from the Latin America, but it is pretty safe to say that Tuesday’s concert of Brazilian mandolin and guitar player Armando Macedo – better known by his stage name Armandinho – and the Israeli Tucan Trio at Zappa Tel Aviv will be an eyeand ear-opener for most of the audience.
Armandinho and the band have been doing the business together for some time.
“After we started the trio [in 1998] in order to play Brazilian music, at some stage we decided we wanted to work with artists from Brazil,” explains flute player Amir Milstein. The other members of the trio are guitarist Hagai Rehavia and Brazilian-born Israeli percussionist Joca Perpignan. “We all had a strong connection with Brazil. I spent my childhood there, and Hagai has been researching Brazilian music for years and spent long periods there studying with guitarists. And, of course, Joca comes from there,” says Milstein, who’s been living in Boston for the past eight years.
Armandinho’s name immediately cropped up in the list of artists the trio wanted to work with. “I didn’t know his work too well back then, but Hagai knew his music, says Milstein, adding that the band members were pleasantly surprised when the Brazilian agreed to hook up with them.
“Armandinho is a real cultural icon in Brazil,” Milstein continues, “not only because of what he does himself – his musicianship and virtuosity are of the highest order – but he is also the son of Osmar Macedo, who was one of the pillars of music in Salvador in the region of Bahia.”
Macedo Sr.’s main claim to fame is that, besides being a popular carnival performer with the other member of the Dodo e Osmar duo, Adolfo Nascimento, he invented the Trio Electrico, a kind of truck or float with a highpowered sound system that has become synonymous with the Brazilian carnivals and other similar events around the world. The Trio Electrico changed the face of the global carnival scene.
“A couple of years ago Armandinho took me to a place outside Salvador where they have a museum with the original Trio Electrico his father built in the 1940s,” says Milstein. “It is an important part of the local folklore.”
But it was not just because of his familial connections that Milstein and the rest of the trio wanted to get together with Armandinho. He is one of the most dynamic and influential artists to come out of Brazil and has been recording and performing worldwide since 1970. He is a virtuosic performer of the electrified frevo genre of Brazilian music – which his father also played – as well as choro music and a wide range of rock and pop and ethnically inflected material.
“Deep down, he’s more like a rock musician,” says Milstein. “When he gets on stage, he really lets go. In the 1970s and ‘80s he collaborated with a lot of top vocalists, like Caetano Veloso, and he played to enormous audiences.” Armandinho also recorded with his dad in 1985. Milstein says that Armandinho has an amazing knack of taking new material on board. “He doesn’t read music. Everything he knows he learns by ear, and he can pick something up in a minute. He is also incredibly flexible and can play with so many artists from so many styles.”
The trio and Armandinho first performed together and the Camelot Club in Tel Aviv, the precursor of Zappa where the quartet will appear next week. That was 11 years ago and was followed by a highly successful tour around the US, as well as an exciting round of gigs in Brazil, including on Armandinho’s home turf of Salvador.
“That was amazing,” recalls Milstein. “It was like Elvis coming back home. People there were so happy to have him there, and it was a great honor for us to share some of that experience.”
The current round of gigs here, which also includes a show at Zappa in Jerusalem, is also designed to promote a new CD of the trio with the Brazilian, which was recorded live at Zappa in Jerusalem a few years ago. “We made a spontaneous decision to record the show,” says Milstein, “and it came out really well, although there were all sorts of technical things we had to correct. I’m coming to Israel with the first box of CDs, hot off the press, so people will be able to buy them at the gigs.”
Milstein says the Tel Aviv gig offers the band members closure. “We started out on our road with Armandinho at Camelot, which became Zappa, and the CD was recorded at Zappa, so it’s really great to be coming back with him.”
Milstein says he plans to perform with the rest of the trio in the South while he’s here. “I hope we can organize that and bring a little bit of Brazilian-style joy to the people who are suffering over there.”
Armandinho and the Tucan Trio will play at Zappa Tel Aviv on November 27. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and the show starts at 10 p.m. For tickets and more information: *9080 and www.zappa-club.co.il