Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Holidays! and more about Brazil...

I hope you have had a nice holiday so far. It's incredible to think that the year is almost over. It is also incredible for me to believe that it has now been a little over a year since I left Cisco Systems and I am still standing tall and proud to be away from corporate America!! That's not to say I am not thankful for having had the opportunity to work for such a large company and all that it taught me, but living my dream is certainly preferable to sitting in a cubicle all day. :) And if I had remained with those golden handcuffs around my wrists, I probably would not have been able to go to Brazil and have such an amazing experience. So I will continue--and finish--my account of my trip here, today.

After leaving Porto Alegre, we arrived on Dec. 3 in Sao Paolo, Brazil. As we were flying in to the city, both Murray and I were struck by the immensity of its existence. I had read it was the largest city in South America but nothing could prepare me for the overwhelming miles upon miles of high rises that lay before us. We had also heard stories of crimes, brutal and daring even during the daylight hours. Needless to say we were both a bit wary and nervous about spending three days here.

We took a cab into the city, not wanting to worry about where we were going and how we were going to get there. As we entered the city we could see a thick dark haze that enveloped the city--SMOG, terrible, terrible smog. This wasn't adding anything positive to our introduction to this city. We arrived to our hotel and were relieved to find it in a very nice part of the city and a definite upgrade from the other hotels in which we had stayed. We decided to take a walk up to Avenida Paulista--the main thoroughfare of the city--and get acquainted with our new digs. Once we were out and about the fear subsided greatly and we realized that this was just a big city--really not so bad as we had originally heard and thought. As the days wore on I think Sao Paolo started to charm its way into at least my heart. Would I want to live there? No, probably not, but I would be happy to return there--especially if I were to perform there.

We had no gigs booked in Sao Paolo which we later learned was due to some serious miscommunications from the promoter in Porto Alegre's side. The promoters in Sao Paolo--Maira and Mona--never received my CD nor my press kit. For this reason they were not able to "sell" us to any of the venues that book acts such as ours. Big bummer, but after getting over the frustration of realizing this had happened, I was able to move forward. We had dinner with both Maira and Mona--lovely people--and I think we made a very good connection with the two of them. My hope is that there will be future projects in which we will be able to work with them. They mentioned some festivals and I made it clear that I am more than willing to return to Brazil to perform.

While in Sao Paolo we also had the good fortune of meeting Carlos Suarez and his wife Katia. They became fantastic hosts to us and helped us maneuver our way through the chaos. We ended up meeting them for lunch one day and hanging out with them all afternoon. We then spent our last night with them at the Brahma Bar listening to live samba that was incredible to see and hear. The music was lively and fantastic and the audience was equally entertaining to watch as they rose in their drunken reveries to dance and sing along with the musicians! So much fun.

All in all, the trip to Brazil was incredibly rewarding and fun. I feel that we were given a more "brazilian" experience as opposed to the general tourist experience that we would have normally had. We were very fortunate in meeting great people, hosted by wonderful people like Celmer and his friends, performing with talented musicians and connecting with some great contacts that I hope will last a lifetime.

LONG blog this time, but I wanted to finish my trip to Brazil as I am headed now to Mexico for some R&R with my mom and sister for a week. I feel so spoiled!! :)
Happy New Year to everyone. 2008 is going to prove to be a most fortunate year!

Monday, December 17, 2007

JC Celmer and Brazil, continued...

I have been remiss in not mentioning JC Celmer's name and for that I am sorry. If it weren't for JC receiving my CD, Birds in Flight, from Kate Smith (my radio promoter) I would have not gone to Brazil to perform. JC has a radio show in la cidade de Rio Grande that supports jazz music. Jazz isn't the most popular music in Rio Grande, but JC has taken it upon himself to keep the music alive in hopes of gaining a stronger following for people like me. For the past three years he has single-handedly brought musicians from all over the world to his part of the world in order to expose more people to the different sounds that jazz encompasses. He is doing a great service to not only the people of Rio Grande, but also to independent musicians such as myself. So, thank you JC, for understanding the beauty jazz music has to offer in its many forms.

I also want to record here what a fantastic host JC was along with his friends, in particular, Clara and Dr. Laura Ayres. They were all incredibly warm-hearted during our stay in Rio Grande that allowed us to experience a truly Brazilian experience.

So, on to Porto Alegre!! We awoke the day after our concert in Rio Grande and drove for 5 hours northward to the city of Porto Alegre. We arrived by 3pm, in time to get set up and do a sound check before the 6pm concert. It turns out we were to perform in the vault of Santander Bank!! This is a Spanish bank that is a strong supporter of the arts and have converted a part of their vault into a performance space. It is a beautiful space and we later found out a prestigious concert, but the sound was very difficult to control as we were surrounded by glass and high ceilings. No matter, we were able to find a happy medium and had another fantastic concert in Porto Alegre. One woman even approached me and told me I made her cry--the ultimate compliment for me. It's nice to know that I have touched at least one person in the audience. :)

After the concert we went out to dinner with the drummer, Eduardo, and his girlfriend, Amanda. Everyone else loaded up in the car and drove the 5 hours back to Rio Grande! Eduardo, Amanda, Murray and I all had a wonderful dinner at the cultural center in Porto Alegre. This is a beautiful city and I hope to return there someday soon in order to explore it a little more. We only had the next morning before we were to fly to Sao Paolo to continue in our journey. We had no gigs booked in Sao Paolo and so were going to have to be there for 3 full days on our own. We were a little nervous about going there since so many people were warning us of how dangerous and crime-ridden it is, but we came to find out that it is just another large city. I think both Murray an I are seasoned enough travelers to know how to behave in a large city in order to assure we don't get attacked.

The next blog will talk more about our adventures in Sao Paolo -- the largest city in South America and by far the largest city I have ever seen,

Monday, December 10, 2007

Brazil, Brasil

We did it!! Murray Low and I made it to Brazil and had an amazing time both performing and learning more about the culture and the wonderful people of this incredibly diverse country. After 36 hours of traveling to get to la cidade de Rio Grande do Sul, we rested for the night and then commenced on an all day media tour starting with a television interview, then after lunch, a radio interview and then an interview with the local paper, Agora. Rio Grande is a somewhat small port town of 180,000 people. It is very quaint and mellow in comparison to Sao Paolo! We were able to do a little sight-seeing while there and get a sense of the city. It is a wonderful combination of old and new with horse-drawn carts riding alongside new cars. It reminded me a lot of Ovalle, where I lived in Chile.

That same evening we met and rehearsed for 4 hours with the musicians who would be performing with us. Murray had done a great job practicing his portuguese in order to communicate with the musicians. The rehearsal went well. We learned a lot about how to approach my music with musicians unfamiliar with the afro-cuban style. Under the circumstances of only rehearsing one time before the two concerts we were to give, they did a fantastic job. Marco Porfirio: flute and sax, Gilberto Oliveira: bass and Eduardo Escalier: drums/percussion all rose to the challenge of playing my difficult arrangements! They were all very easy to work with and fun to perform music with.

The next evening, after having experienced the famous Churrascaria (barbeque) and la Praia Cassino (the local beach on the Atlantic Ocean), we arrived to a beautiful old theater--el Teatro Municipal de Rio Grande. After doing a relatively easy soundcheck, the concert began with two instrumental songs and then I came onstage. The concert went very well. The music was very well received and we had a fantastic time performing in front of this very receptive audience. After the concert--and an encore of Murray and I performing a duo version of "Imagine", we went and signed many, many CDs. It was so nice to get to meet the people who had come to see us. Everyone was exuberant in their praises and my cheeks were cramped from smiling so much!! It was a very good feeling to know that my music is appreciated in other countries besides my own. I was definitely on cloud nine all evening and well into the next day as we drove to Porto Alegre to perform our next concert the next evening. I will report on that concert in the next blog. Until then, just know that we had a fantastic trip and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to have gone and performed in Brazil!