A hidden treasure of Brazilian music returns to the Bay Area for 4 shows

Long before Guinga made his first album as a leader, many of Brazil’s most influential and beloved artists recorded his music.

In the 1970s and ’80s, samba stars and jazz improvisers, pop icons and choro masters found his finely crafted melodies irresistible, leading to classic recordings by artists such as Alice Regina, Clara Nunes, Elsa Soares, Chico Buark, and Miuka. The great French musician Michel Legrand also got into the act, recording Guinga’s “Passos e Asovio”.

But when the guitarist and singer finally began recording his own albums — singer and producer Marcos Valle launched Velas Records with Guinga’s 1991 debut album “Simples A Absurd,” the first of his six records for the label — Guinga wasn’t willing to reassert himself. The tunes of the artists introducing them.

“I had a huge repertoire under my belt when I started recording as a solo artist,” he said, speaking in Portuguese. “But I made a promise to myself that I would only record new things. I love to compose. I’m busy composing, composing, composing.”

In California this week to attend Cajadero’s Brazil Camp, where he mentors some of the Bay Area’s most interesting composers involved in Brazilian music, Guinga is playing a series of gigs around the area showcasing the diversity of his ouevre. He kicks off his Bay Area run Saturday at Oakland’s Sound Room, where he’ll be joined by Rio de Janeiro singer/songwriter Anna Pace as special guest.

On September 4th he is a featured artist at BrasArte’s Free Brazilian Day and Lavagem Festival in Berkeley. This year’s outdoor procession and concert is dedicated to Conceição Damasceno, a longtime champion of Brazilian culture in the Bay Area, dancer, choreographer and founder of Casa de Culture, who died in April after a long illness.

Guinga also performs concerts on September 7 at Kumbawa and on September 8 at the Hammer Theater in San Jose with Naylor “Proveta” Azevedo, founding member of São Paulo’s legendary Banda Mantiqueura, with Santa Cruz singer, composer, pianist and percussionist as special guests. Claudia Villella.

Villela first discovered Guinga’s music in the mid-1990s on a visit to Rio, where she was born and raised. She came across her early Velas albums digging through bins in a small Copacabana record store, and while she didn’t recognize her name, “I knew a whole bunch of people who played on it,” she recalled. “I fell in love with his music, which is very refined and beautiful. I found out how to contact him and went to his house.

Their friendship developed far beyond music. Instead of relying on composing for a living, Guinga studied dentistry and opened a practice with his wife, also a dentist. For many years he took care of Villela’s teeth when he was in Brazil (and also his two daughters). He paired him with his cousin, acclaimed guitarist Gene Charnocks, and they became inseparable musical buddies, playing and writing songs together.

It is not surprising that Villela and Guinga bonded, as they both fell deeply in love with jazz. “I spent my teenage years listening to jazz for three or four hours a day,” he said. “It was a discipline that I imposed on myself when I discovered it and by 11 I began to consciously think about becoming a musician, and it was jazz that really appealed to me.”

For the Kumbawa and Hammer concerts, the three musicians will perform in various configurations, including solos, duos and full trios. “We will try to continue a flow with all these songs,” said Villela. “Guinga really likes the song Ricardo Pexoto and I wrote, so we’ll play it together. I’ve never actually worked with Proveta, but I really admire him. His playing is just beautiful and elegant, nothing flashy or exaggerated.

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