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My vacation is over since January 15th. I’m still catching up with GNOME and work stuff and specially the timezone (jet lag of hell!). It was just wonderful to be in Brazil for more than 20 days. I met my parents, my brother and quite many relatives and friends. I basically stayed in three cities there: Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Arantina (a very small town in Minas Gerais state). I took many pictures, have a look at this album.

Winter & Black Stuff

In the last few weeks, I’ve got three nice black devices:

  • Nokia N81 8Gb: I really like the design and mechanics of this device. The software has some additions but nothing really groundbreaking.
  • PlayStation 3: I’m having lots of fun with both games that came with the console: Motor Storm and Resistance: Fall of Men.
  • Macbook Black: Very nice design and hardware (with this “Santa Rosa” architecture). I’ve installed Gutsy. Unfortunately, I needed to rebuild the kernel 4-5 times in order to make keyboard, touchpad and sound to work. I don’t have patience to build kernel anymore. I think I’m getting old… :-P

Now I’m prepared for the winter! Woohoo!

Musical Snapshot II

So, after almost 2 months since my first Musical Snapshot, I think it’s a good time to bring an update of what I’ve been listening to. In general, I’ve focused more on jazz artists.

I’ve been thinking a lot about some general aspects of music production nowadays. I have this feeling that the recent (good) albums have been failing (in different levels) on bringing a more emotional and deep musical experience. Today, most albums have this annoying super-high level of perfection. There’s almost no space for those wonderful little mistakes, improvisation, background noises, emotion, … When you listen to a jazz album from the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s, you have this feeling of a deep musical engagement from the musicians. The recordings were kind of noisy but very powerful. When I listen to some modern jazz albums, even with very good musicians, I have the impression that the technique comes first, nothing really groundbraking.

Another aspect that I’ve been thinking a lot is the use of electronic elements in music. Electronic music is cheap, it’s easy. In my opinion, there’s this natural tendency of electronic music to be shitty. The cultural relevancy of electronic music is undeniable. But not everything is music. This is why I tend to prefer artists who play with a band with real instruments instead of just a DJ. For entertainment, electronic music works fine most of the time but for listening, rarely. At least this is my experience.

Update: By all wrote above I do not mean that: 1) any jazz music is wonderful (independently of the period); 2) any electronic music is crap; 3) I’m a purist and only enjoy music with accoustic instruments; 4) I only enjoy the “old stuff”. My point about electronic music is that with very little effort and knowledge, you can come up with “something”. Culturally speaking, this is amazing (power to everyone to express themselves). However, musically speaking, this can be really bad in many cases. On music, what I really care is the “mood”, the “feeling” and the “truth” in it.

Jazz

I have this long road ahead with the fundamentals of jazz. So, I’ve been choosing the “classics” to “understand” some of the major artists. Coltrane is still on the top of my favorites. I’ve listened to more than 7 of his albums. Wes Montgomery was a wonderful finding for me (I’ve listened to 6 of his albums so far). Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” album is freakingly amazing. Here are some highlights (from the quite long list of albums I’ve listened to):

  • Blue Train (John Coltrane)
  • Bitches Brew (Miles Davis)
  • Full House (Wes Montgomery)
  • The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery (Wes Montgomery)
  • Alive (Chick Corea Akoustic Band)
  • Complete Live at the Five Spot (Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane)
  • Plays Duke Ellington (Thelonious Monk)

Funk and Acid Jazz

Following the acid jazz path, I’ve listened to 2 albums of The Brand New Heavies. Interesting stuff. On the funky front, I’ve tried some more albums of Earth Wind & Fire, Funkadelic, Parliament, Maceo Parker, and others. The Meters is really root-ish funk music. If you like funk, you gotta listen to some of their albums.

  • All about funk (The Brand New Heavies)
  • Spirit (Earth Window & Fire)
  • Funk Overload (Maceo Parker)

R&B and Soul

Not many news here. I’ve listened to 3 albums of Amel Larrieux. Good music, sometimes too “cheap”.

  • Infinite Possibilities (Amel Larrieux)

Brazilian music
I’ve been re-trying some old albums of Djavan. There are some recent albums that I don’t really enjoy but the older stuff is amazing. Specially “Luz”, “Coisa de Acender” and “Novena”. The new Maria Rita album “Samba Meu” is quite good (as usual). If you want to get a taste of modern samba, you should try it.

  • Samba meu (Maria Rita)
  • Luz (Djavan)
  • Clara Nunes (Clara Nunes)

Ongoing stuff

I’ve started a research on mexican and african music. My initial names on the mexican field are Lila Downs, Chavela Vargas, Lola Beltrán, José Alfredo Jiménez and other “ranchera” artists. On the african side, the initial ones are Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Thomas Mapfumo, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Richard Bona, Mulatu Astatke and others. I’m still “digesting” them. Soon, I’ll write a new Musical Snapshot with some comments and impressions about them. If you have suggestions, please let me know.

Art and Life

Just a quick note about amazing things I’ve seen in the last few days…

Last saturday, September 22, Carol and I went to this freakingly extraordinary show of Cirque du Soleil called “Delirium“.

Today, I watched this documentary called “Before the Music Dies” (I bought the DVD through their online store). If you’re a music geek or just fan, you must watch this movie! One cool sidenote is that they (B-Side, the independent distributor behing this movie) have this interesting business model which allows you to pay a very low price to download a DRM-free video file from their website. One of my favorite quotes from this movie:

“Today, Ray Charles would not get a shot. Today, Stevie Wonder would not get a shot. They are blind.” (Branford Marsalis, about the music business)

I don’t know how my life would be without music… without art…

Musical Snapshot

I really miss the musician life I used to have in Brazil. In order to compensate that, I started a musical research some time ago. Actually, this is making a huge difference for me. I never thought I would miss music so much… So, here are the highlights of the tons of things I’ve been listening to:

Jazz

I found a very nice old CDs store in Helsinki (I’ve heard from a friend that there are others). I’ve found many interesting albums there. For now, my main focus is on the work of John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Miles David and Charlie Parker but I’m listening to lots of other things as well. I really enjoyed albums of the drummers Max Roach and Roy Haynes. Next: continue the infinite and pleasant jazz research. :-)

  • A Love Supreme (John Coltrane)
  • Afro Blue Impressions (John Coltrane)
  • Money Jungle (Duke Ellington, Max Roach, and Charles Mingus)
  • Afro Cuban Jazz Moods (Dizzy Gillespie)
  • Shack Man (Medeski, Martin & Wood)
  • Out of the Afternoon (Roy Haynes Quartet)

Acid Jazz

I’m a big fan of acid jazz movement in general. I already have Jamiroquai’s discography but I wanted to have deeper view of the “big picture”. I’ve listened to The Brand New Heavies, Incognito, James Taylot Quartet, Jaga Jazzist, Jazzanova, Corduroy, and others. Looking forward to listen to Azymuth, Roy Ayers (one of the fathers of Acid Jazz!) and other cool stuff in the “acid” area.

  • Room at the Top (James Taylor Quartet)
  • Positivity (Incognito)

R&B and Neo Soul

I never really understood what soul and R&B were in practice. It always sounded to be too generic and umbrella-ish. So, I went through the discographies of some good modern artists in this field. Now I got a more clear idea of this whole R&B/soul thing. Special mention goes to Mama’s Gun (Erykah Badu): it’s one of the most “musical” (in the artistic sense) albums I’ve ever listened to.

  • Mama’s Gun (Erykah Badu)
  • Voodoo (D’Angelo)
  • Introducing Joss Stone (Joss Stone)
  • Who Is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 (Jill Scott)
  • Like a Star (Corinne Bailey Rae)

Funk and P-Funk

I’ve been going through Earth Wind & Fire’s (EWF) and Funkadelic/Parliament’s discographies. It’s just amazing to listen to the roots of most of things we see today in the funky field. Interestingly, I watched documentaries about both groups and they don’t mention each other. It seems there are (kind of) three different “branches” in the funk history: James Brown’s, Funkadelic/Parliament’s and EWF’s.

  • All ‘n All (Earth Wind & Fire)
  • Maggot Brain (Funkadelic)
  • Mothership Connection (Parliament)
  • Live on Planet Groove (Maceo Parker)
  • Good Old Funky Music (The Meters)

Sertaneja and Caipira

I always try to keep prejudice away when the subject is music. In Brazil, the sertaneja music has become too superficial, crappy and commercial in most of the cases. The fact is that the first albums of those famous sertanejo artists are quite nice. They still have some kind of connection with their roots. This is definitely the case of the first album of Zezé di Camargo & Luciano. It’s simple and “truthful” in a very interesting way. On the caipira music area, it’s always an intense experience to listen to artists such as Renato Teixeira and Almir Sater. Next: Pena Branca & Xavantinho, Tião Carreiro, and others.

  • No Auditório Ibirapuera (Renato Teixeira)
  • Zezé di Camargo & Luciano (Zezé di Camargo & Luciano)
  • Sete Sinais (Almir Sater)

That’s all for now! I hope to come with new stuff very soon. :-)