Biography Guitarist - Composer - Educator
Some of my Life in Music
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Discovery Brazil
Brazil was a fantastic learning experience. I knew no one in the country and didn't know from Adam about brasileiros or cariocas. I arrived just after the military ceded control of the country, and the American dollar was ridiculously strong. Even a quarter had decent buying power (a full lunch in certain neighborhoods). The very first day I was exposed to Elis Regina and then to all sorts of Brazilian sounds for the first time.

Billy, Jovino, Itibere, Carlos Malta, Vito Motta
The first morning I awoke to the sound of oboe and piano playing Bach, a husband and wife from across the street (I was staying in Larangeiras). In the heat and green of this sunfilled apartment with all open windows, thousands of miles from NYC, I really felt the beauty of sound and of peace. Besides Brazilian music, I had to listen to all forms of American fusion that my ears (or heart) could never tolerate in NY.

I played with all sorts of folks and after 2 months met a bunch of very young musicians completely involved with the music of Hermeto.
These were Edu Neves, saxophone, Xande Figuereido, drums and Vito Motta, flute. They took me up to play with the master 3 times. I played his composition "Surra" for him the first time, and ended up jamming for a few hours with the band. On the second visit Hermeto presented me with a composition as a gift ("Uma Lembranca") which I still perform. The third visit was a long lesson in odd time playing and a visit to the hospital to see Hermeto's granddaughter being born (Marcio Bahia's daughter).

Best Friend! Henrique Costa-Lima
Besides Hermeto, I had some wonderful encounters with musicians who gave me some education about the many styles of Brazilian music. It was guitarist Edson Alves (then working with Heraldo do Monte) who first exposed me to Pixinguinha and choro music. In Sao Paulo, I sat in with Roberto Sion and Zona Azul amongst others.

Arriving with no Portuguese and having a few phone numbers from NY acquaintances, I actually ended up having many experiences with upper-class Brazilians (they spoke English) with mores and privileges quite different than my background. My conversational Portuguese improved speaking with the live-in house servants who spoke no English. It was new to me - this world where even middle class people had servants living in their house (they had tiny servant's quarters). Many residences and apartments appeared far more modern than I was accustomed to in NYC. The beliefs about South America inculcated in me growing up (that it was some sort of violent backwater) were clearly erroneous.
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New York Late '80s →
©2005 Billy Newman | Brooklyn, USA |