Two of our favorite MPB stars reached the same three-decade career milestone in 2017: Marisa Monte and Leo Gandelman reach 30, again.
For Monte (who cut her teeth working the Zona Sul culture club circuit in mid-80’s Rio), the start for one of Brazil’s most amazing musical careers began with a single song on the 1985 soundtrack for the cult classic ‘Trop Clip’.
But it was the guidance of producer Nelson Motta which framed her early recording success, the first being Monte’s self-titled live album in 1987.
There’s no doubt that Marisa Monte stands at the highest point of musical nobility in Brazil: an honor earned, not bestowed. An early millennial hiatus ended with news of her artistic breakaway from the record label that that nurtured her career and today Monte has a new songwriting partner: an up and coming pop music genius named Silva.
What has been the key to Marisa Monte’s success? Mauro Ferreira again:
“She’s the type of artist who knows how to use the media in her favor. She knows how to behave normally when she is in public, without the airs of a prima dona; but never losing the natural presence of a diva.
“Between modernity and tradition, between simplicity and sophistication, Marisa Monte remains relevant 30 years after those strategic shows in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro,” he said.
“Her music is no longer trendsetting, no longer the only standard to be followed, but it still spreads an aura of power wherever she goes and whenever she sings. Marisa Monte is still Marisa Monte!”
Just like Marisa Monte, Leo Gandelman comes from a musical family. But the challenges of popularizing instrumental music in Brazil took the Rio “born and raised” saxophonist on a much different path. Thirty years on from his debut recording, Gandelman continues to set new standards for contemporary jazz by drawing on the rich musical traditions of his homeland.
Gandelman’s Brazilian point of view took on a worldly perspective while at the Berklee School of Music in Boston in the late 70’s. Joining fellow Brazilian classmate’s guitarist Ricardo Silveira and pianist Rique Pantoja, it was a magical time for Brazilian jazz:
“But a difficult one too,” said Gandelman, “because I was undergoing a musical metamorphosis in my life. In my teens I had found a creative freedom with photography that my studies with classical music lacked, and I had moved away from music altogether because I didn’t see a future for myself there.” His new interest brought success. He won a Nikon International Photo Contest in 1976 and it led to his still photography work for the movie Dona Flor And Her Two Husbands.
It was photography’s process of visualization that first led Leo to the saxophone when he was 20. While he knew nothing about improvisation, he well understood the concept of telling a story by filling a square of white paper with images. “At some point, I was able to apply the idea to music, and I found that it was possible to create my own style. It was a catharsis: to feel free to create with music, as I had learned to do with photography.”
What is Leo up to today? An irresistible opportunity prompted a move back to the Rio neighborhood of Jardim Botanico a few years ago: The spacious casa includes a well-appointed sound studio as part of its floorplan and it didn’t take long before Leo put it to good use.
“I’m now in production for the second season of my TV show called “Let’s Play” where I invite other Brazilian pop musicians and celebrities to my studio as weekly guests. The show captures live performances and impromptu conversation. Lots of fun!”