Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Professor Hovhanness I. Pilikian on Exceptional Music Concerts

The Love and Passion of Leo Gandelman

First Festival of Brazilian Music in London [iii]
at Venezuela’s Bolivar Hall – 2 & 3 November 2007, 7.30pm.


With Leo Gandelman, Saxophonist par excellence, a Paganini-style virtuoso, and his Band, you are back into the folds of traditional jazz – with a piano, and Oh what a Piano! Grand and ultra-modern performance by David Feldman – and musical improvisation, though (interestingly enough to observe) not in the world of syncopated rhythms such music is usually linked with.

Gandleman is most certainly a classical man, and a man of the classics – with 3 different Saxophones on the stage – tenor, alto, basso – and perhaps ‘ten’ more … at home in Brazil, the new Brit-American Govs restrictions would not allow him to bring along on the airplanes in case his jazzman’s breath explodes the aircraft …

Gandelman plays the Saxophone and every possible tonal and textural permutation of it like … Paganini played the violin and the latter’s critics of medieval mindset thought that the Devil had possessed Paganini enabling him to do all sorts of things no other violinist until then was ever able to perform. I bet the medieval fundamentalists of red-neck America would think the same if they ever had the chance of experiencing Leo Gandelman and his Band, with David Feldman at the piano, whose fingers sometimes like a plectrum pluck on the hammers inside the Grand Piano’s wing, and plays it like a huge guitar …

This young David is a … Goliath of the piano, so blended with it and his music-making that he succeeds in converting the piano into an extension of his own body – you cannot tell whether he becomes the piano, or vice versa, the piano becomes his fingers … David Feldman’s future is even more brilliant than his present – he shall soon be a second Duke Ellington who can now rest in total peace and harmony...

Incredible but True

Could anyone ever think or imagine that delicate almost feminine pizzicati – the mark of Paganini’s diabolical violin playing, could ever be achieved on a Saxophone, the most virile of the musical instruments?

Incredibly, that technical impossibility is achieved by Leo Gandelman, whose music pours out of every pore of his body – a tall, slender figure, dressed in all white, he cuts the shape of a Chekhovian Seagull … his 2nd night appearance was like a Crow at the Tower of London – dressed in all black, with a beaten up face and a weathered alto Saxophone looking like an old banger of a car, but the music it produced via Gandelman’s godly breath was as tonally perfect and texturally beautiful as anything human can ever be.

To say that Gandelman is an old Pro and a true showman –especially when he reveals his idiosyncratic trademark towards the end of his shows – he deserts the stage to his Band and descends the stairs to join the audience while playing continuously for individual audience-members, covering the whole auditorium front to back and back to front, driving people Bacchus-wild and mad-drunk on his music – it is high compliment indeed in British cultural terms, but it recognizes nothing of Leo Gandelman’s genuine warmth and extraordinary humanity towards his fellow man manifest through a consummate artistry.

People (the audience) feel loved by Gandelman’s love of sheer music and his virtuoso music-creations (not to say production). I could witness it – I was lucky enough to be there – and I wouldn’t care if I had just won the obscene sums of the British Lottery!

Leo Gandelman is human love and music incarnate. Music and love for humanity stream out of him as in the flood plains of the Amazon River. A classical stylist from the moment of his first appearance – he shuts his eyes and is off, creating his own world of fertile sound – and when he opens his eyes and is back again, already his keyboard player is in his (Leo’s) created world, in total harmony with him.

And so are Gandelman’s youthful Drums (Allen Pontes), and Bass (Alberto Continentino), even his technician (David Ruv) … they all adore him – very soon to be joined by everyone in the audience, young and middle-aged and old alike, in awe and wonder at Leo’s playing of every possible Saxophone type, from the Bass Sax to the Alto, which sings like a flute on his lips and sounds like a Clarinet in his hands.
Gandelman is such a total master of the instrument that it seems he could play any kind of saxophone under the sun with equal virtuosity.

Musical Jokes – Humour in Serious Music

The great Haydn, “Father of the Symphony”, possessed a great sense of humour – in the 2nd Movement (andante) of his Symphony No. 94 in G nicknamed ‘The Surprise Symphony’, he put a sudden loud chord to “startle the Ladies”!

In the ‘Clock SymphonyNo. 101 in D, again for the 2nd Movement, he wrote in a ticking accompaniment, and a lot of fooling around in the Menuetto allegretto.

My (and most people’s) favourite is the massive protest-joke in defense of his fellow musicians’ human rights, daring his patron Prince Esterhazy to change plans and return his Court nearer to Vienna, to enable the musicians to be closer to their families – the ‘Farewell Symphony' No. 45 in the extremely rare Key of F sharp Minor – in the last Movement, Haydn added an Adagio, whereby he gradually reduced the number of the instruments, to let his musicians snuff out their candles in turn one by one and leave the stage … until only Haydn and the First violin (Tomasini) were left to bow to the Prince, who was enlightened enough to get the joke and grant Haydn his polite political trade-unionist request …

Haydn seems to have pioneered the Jazzman’s act of joking with fellow musicians and audiences alike – a joyous ‘jokey’ ambiance among the classical Jazz music-improvisers on the stage is the mark of a great Jazz session. And Gondelman has plenty of it with his band-members who he really seems to love always as his children and frequently as siblings – he offers a glass of water to his exhausted drummer half his age … and ends his Sax-as-Clarinet playing of Cartola’s As Rosas Não Falam (=Roses Speak Not) on mere breath-exhalations – perhaps the complaint of a Shakespearean lover’s sighs ...

I am sure if Haydn was given the miraculous chance of returning to this planet as a jazz-man, he would have selected Leo Gandelman's body, whose surname suggests to me to be a corruption of the yiddish “Candle-man”.

On the famous Bossa Nova and its missing French Factor

I like the way Gandelman puns musically on Bossa Nova (=New Wave) everybody’s favourite Brazilian musical innovation, the very word and concept invented in the 19-fifties by the great Antonio Carlos (Tom) Jobim, pianist, guitarist, and composer, himself influenced by cool jazz referring to the harmonies of Miles Davis and Gerry Mulligan.

Stan Getz, the American jazz saxophonist, caused a Bossa Nova craze throughout America in 1962 with his Jazz Samba album, which included among others Jobim’s musical meditations Desafinado and Meditation, hitting No 1 in the US charts. Desafinado even won a Grammy Award – Jobim himself was invited to perform the same year in New York's Carnegie Hall with Getz and Dizzy Gillespie.

Jobim had come to international attention in 1959, when the film Black Orfeus for which he had composed music (with the guitarist Luis Bonfa) won the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival, and then an Oscar the same year for the best foreign film.
One cannot forget the essential vital contribution rendered to Bossa Nova by the singer/ guitarist Joao Gilbert. I like the melodic and harmonic complexities, if and when they occur. I am not one for simplistic naïve art in our very complicated globalized lives. I feel no nostalgia for the fanciful good old simple life that never wasas long as human beings have been, are and shall be endowed with an all-consuming sexual passion, for the Woman as the child-bearer, there can never be a simple life.

Occasionally, Bossa Nova gets too diluted in its attempt to be all-inclusive, inducing a certain artificial Bourgeois-camp (New York style) nasality to its vocal twang, although one could search for the roots of this in the nasal vocals of the Brazilian rural cabaclo music.

In its time, under military boots, Bossa Nova was a commendable medium at integrating human and aesthetic limitations and inadequacies – Songs like Samba de una Nota So (= Samba of a single Note) is a case in point, as all sambas are of a single note … and excitingly Desafinado (=out of Tune) and syncopated, but most certainly always erotic A Garota de Ipanema (=To the Ipanema Girl) – obviously autobiographical, as Jobim (its composer) was born in Rio de Janeiro, but grew up in Ipanema – a neighbouring town on the sun-drenched beach.

What astounds me is the fact that no musicologist hitherto seems to have cottoned onto the historical reality (distracted by the above-mentioned Stan Getz publicity stunt in the USA) that the major influence on the Brazilian Bossa Nova must have come from the sound-tracks of the innovative French film-making known precisely by the same words in French the Nouvelle Vague (=New Wave).

The significance of this un-acknowledged cinematic (musical) fact is that the innovative French style was itself unwittingly trying to find a new visual language to express the emotional anxieties caused by the huge intellectual upheavals brought about by French Existentialism (of Jean Paul Sartre) – an immediate result was the sudden increase in youth-suicide rates listening to the sweetly depressive songs of Juliette Greco … To my ears the french-y lilt of Jobim’s Ipanema Girl is a perfect fit for any Jean Luc Goddard film!

Time for Musical Change

Leo Gandelman displays a healthy attitude to the venerated Sacred Cow of modern Brazilian music by endlessly punning teasingly on the concept and its themes – Bari Bossa, Bossa Rara, but never Nova!)

To begin with, he eliminates its nasal vocals – he could have kept them if he really wanted to – Leo can and would do anything if he feels it is right for his musical purpose.

More like a super nova he sucks his audience into his own world of Bossa Rara inspired by the heavy rain falling on his window panes in Rio, improvising a series of musical variations on themes by William Magalhaes and Juliano Zanoni, but also sophisticated Miles Davis and Europeanized New York, even jumping to Hollywood Pink Panther … juggling all the time to stay rhythmically more Afro-Euro US jazz than Brazilian candomblé.

I agreed entirely with Leo's conjecture that Ary Barroso may be the future of Brazilian Jazz – I would add Jazz-rock-and-heavy-metal fusion, futuristic (in the meaning of the Italian art-term), brilliantly proven by Gandelman and his Band’s rendering of Barroso’s remarkable composition Na Baixa do Sapateiro. It seems to amalgamate astonishingly all of the rich rhythms of the Brazilian world from the native Indian highlands down to the African beach towns, the flamenco of the colonialist masters, and the … prairie-American hamburger-growing ranchers.

Most of all, there is the heaving bossa (=wave) of a post-modern Metropolis, with its futuristic inner dynamo running relentlessly, like a train in perpetual motion, fatefully and perhaps fatally.

There is an overall rhythmic ‘mathematical’ constant in Barroso’s composition, a metronomic, machine-running dynamo-driving rock-beat, hammering throughout, typical of the restless White North American on an ethereal eternal journey traversing the vast prairies from one end of the (East) coast to the other (in the West) driving an old Oldsmobile or a Buick ...

Very interestingly, Barroso’s seemingly US-inspired post-modernism was anticipated by Baden PowellCanto de Ossanha rooted in native Brazilian grounds, inspired by the complex poetic tapestries of Vinicius de Moraes (a remarkable English translation by Nadia Kerecuk that preserves the linguistic complexity of the original).

Baden Powell – not the British inventor and founder of the global Scout Movement, but a most famous Brazilian composer, whose father having been Brasilia’s Scout-master had named his son to honour his British idol, this Brazilian Powell’s Canto was converted by Gandelmn’s Band into a greater masterpiece I think, more compact than Barroso’s slightly indulgently stretched Na Baixa.

But of course with a consummate creative virtuoso like Leo Gandelman, there can be no minor work – everything he touches, turns to 24 carat gold. He loves and lives Music – his grand passion. His variations on the world-famous Brazilian melody Tico Tico (by Zequinha de Abreu – incidentally, a surname meaning Hebrew) recorded by many, including the inimitable Carmen Miranda (Chico Chico in Americanized spelling), drove Gandelman’s audience simply Bacchus-mad!

It is when he left the stage to play all over the hall for the audience members, that they jumped to their feet and went wild with dancing and clapping and almost lap-dancing in the first row like ancient Bacchanals … all the while Leo’s deep love for humanity shining brilliant through them all, breathing on and bathing them in sheer happiness.

I have witnessed nothing like it.

I think Leo Gandelman and his Band should be taken up by the United Nations as Ambassadors of good will, to travel the world all year round, to bring joy to the masses as Brasilia’s gift to mankind for Soul, joy, peace and happiness, beyond and above all inhuman sordid politics that kills the human soul.

Leo Gandelman and his mates can re-incarnate the dead souls.

And that is the magnificent Miracle of virtuoso Music-Making.


Explore further Prof HIP's archival website (s) - just click on any of the following;








Ideas that Enlighten and Change Your Mind

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Professor Hovhanness I. Pilikian on Exceptional Music Concerts

Hamilton de Holanda and Cheo Hurtado
2 Grand Masters of Making Music
First Festival of Brazilian Music in London [ii]
at Venezuela's Bolivar Hall

And the first night of the First Festival of Brazilian Music (1 November, 2007, 7.30 pm - at Venezuela’s cultural centre in London} exploded with a Big Bang of immense creativity.

Complex Overlaps and overlapping Complexities

As the Chavezian revolutionary Democracy is breaking-up the oligarchy of the South American political elites (with hands in North American pockets), it is simultaneously forging patriotic (not, ‘nationalist’) multi-ethnic cultures typical of the South American continent. And herein is embedded their original power and creative strength. The South American countries, more than ever, shall come out as ‘national’ cultures in harmony with each other, precisely because their genuine historical multi-ethnicity constitutes their common ground, blossoming and expanding, truly globalizing their creative impetus, unlike the racist, mutually destructive, ultra-nationalism fostered by Fascist regimes – like that of the mentally unbalanced (I think – later proved by his suicide in 1954) President Getúlio Vargas. The fascist use of multi-culturalism is a ‘nationalist’ abuse, a form of collective rape of the ethnic group that produces it – like Vargas, suddenly getting the ‘brilliant’ marketing idea of stealing and promoting the African-rooted samba as a Brazilian-national cultural symbol, while perpetuating the White supremacy by treating the poverty-ridden Blacks of the country as Second class-citizens.
Vargas was mad like that; proud to be a Mussolini aficionado (like Mosley's Jew-bashing Black Shirts of Britain), yet he would declare for the Allies in the Second World War, merely because he was annoyed by the hyperactivity of Hitler’s agents in Brazil …

Genuine egalitarian multi-culturalism in South America now given a second life by the Chavezian revolutionary impetus could only emerge in Brazil in the late 19-sixties through the immense efforts of young music-makers warmly known as the Tropicalistas, fighting for creative and societal freedoms, sustained by the masses who were their audiences. Led by Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, after their return from exile in London, these musicians consciously sought out and forged egalitarian respect for the cultural products of all the ethnic groups constituting the tapestry of the Brazilian people, organizing ‘liberational’ music festivals under the general title of Tropicália.

It is almost a divine gift and a privilege in London to be a contemporary witness at the cauldron of creativity of the resurgent multi-ethnic brew being made at the Bolivar Hall. The peoples of South America are all the world’s inhabitants in one – from the Mayas, down to the African slaves, and the ignorantly labeled ‘red Indians’ in between (hugely genocided out of their land by the “Pilgrim Fathers”).

And here is an overlapping complexity a genocidal killer-idiot from the CIA School of Americas could never understand;

In reciprocation for the kindness of lending them the Bolivar Hall, the Brazilians had invited one of … Venezuela’s great music-makers, to switch on the powerful lights for their Brazilian music – an act of practical Socialist brotherhood if ever there was one.
And what an excellent choice of a star musician than Asdrúbal Cheo Hurtado – a grand master of the mandolin, the guitar, the tres, the bandola guayanesa, and double bass, but most of all the cuatro, a toy-like contraption very much emerging as the ‘national’ instrument of the Bolivarian-Chavezian Venezuela.
Cuatro is half a traditional Guitar. Its name meaning ‘4’ in Spanish is thought to refer to its 4 strings, half the number of its mother-instrument. But I think there is a clever little folk-pun on the word meaning a quarter – a quarter-instrument that is really half a size – a complex ‘proletarian’ joke not for the dim-witted US killers. The great Armenian composer Komitas used to say; “Tcharern miyain yerk tchunin” = only evil people lack songs = cannot sing, they cannot produce music. Hitler was Wagner-mad – the Nazis produced some kind of ‘classical’ copy-cat sculpture/architecture, but definitely could not produce a composer!

It is important to note that, of limited technical capacity, the cuatro is obviously a poor man’s guitar, more percussive than melodic. The massively exploited, highly-strung, are forced onto the move continuously, merely to survive, they have no leisure time to sit in a space they can call home (if they had a shack they could call their own) to relax and listen to … Baroque melodies – a dynamic cuatro is more than enough for their needs.

But not for Cheo Hurtado – in his hands, and as evidence of his creative genius – a tribute to the good (not evil) man’s musical genius transcending time and class, the cuatro becomes … all the various instruments Hurtado knows how best to play, including the classical Spanish guitar (of the immortal Andre Segovia).

The cuatro is played with bare fingers (and fist!), not with a plectrum. Hurtado’s Right hand is a miracle of … speed. You have seen nothing like it! His breathtaking percussionist climactic crescendos are a sight to behold, never mind to listen to … The wonder is that his instrument does not break as Hurtado definitely breaks the boundaries of cuatro music.

I missed though in Hurtado’s repertoire a deeper, darker, and a more melodic range in the revolution of the instrument that he is affecting. He should occasionally restrain his technical percussionist wizardry and bring to life the darker tunes of Venezuelan music. There is too much of a revolutionary joy in Hurtado’s music-making, even though his looks do betray a certain existential sadness typical of all deeply creative people. For a sensitive human soul, even the life-enhancing revolutionary joy can never override the emotion of profound tragedy felt at the thought of existential mortality. The display of such melancholy is anwyay technically vital to highlight the spiritual joy portrayed by the other side of the existential coin. Joyous celebration does need the occasional tragic sadness to relieve it.

Hamilton de Holanda Vasconcelos Neto is the Brazilian master of the mandolin played with a plectrum – a physical disciplinary inhibition (compared to the full hand-use on the cuatro) which Hamilton transcends effortlessly. A Renaissance instrument of limited potential, Hamilton has transformed the mandolin into almost a … Grand Piano! And not only because he has consciously extended its polyphonic potential by adding an extra string (low C) for a total of 10.

Capitalism vs Musical Socialism

Wearing sable tinted Levis, Hamilton walked onto the stage as if from under an American 1930’s Oldsmobile, with his little-mandolin instead of an oil-can – mechanic garage-chic … bolshie towards Hurtado, determined to knock him out in a musical mating game … But something extraordinary happened, of such uniqueness, un-repeatable, that I wish everyone I love was there to have experienced it; Hamilton’s ‘capitalist’ musical aggression was slowly but surely won over by Hurtado’s patient musical … socialism, which caused a massive creative miracle.
When the two petite-instruments finally achieved musical equality and brotherhood, their master music-makers produced such intensely passionate music of such profound humanity and sheer energetic life-force that it left one stunned – incredible crescendos with impossible precision of pitch, and crystal-clarity of musical diction … They shot the audience with rocket-speed (Japanese bullet-trains?) over the moon, in sheer unadulterated existential happiness.

I am certain such culturally mixed-music – Brazilian ‘Portuguese’ with Venezuelan ‘Spanish’ – reflects planetary motion. People usually forget that we live on a planet which turns around the Sun in unimaginable speed every second of a minute, to which is owed our daily life on earth.

Hamilton plays with all of his body and all over the place. Initially, I thought he would even walk all over the audience … Music drips from his music-soaked physique.
Yet this bull of a man in a musical china shop, helped by Hurtado’s musical kindness, could transform himself instantly to a most gentle giant of unusual compassion, all-giving, all-sharing the moment he called his orchestra onto the stage.

And what an orchestra of first-class musicians; André Lopes de Vasconcellos, electric guitar; Daniel Santiago, acoustic guitar; Márcio Bahia, drums; and last but foremost the unexpected co-star to Hamilton’s mandolin is Gabriel Grossi’s chromatic harmonica, rendering the formation of the Band conceptually totally original. Gabriel holds the American prairie-instrument in his mouth perched (like a favela …) a-top a microphone in his left hand, and plays (with the right hand) like a Blues-singer, on a par with Hamilton’s mandolin.

Gabriel Grossi ‘s harmonica sound usually emerges as a lonely voice, as haunting as Modest Mussorgsky’s delicate and highly civilized melody played out of the harsh cacophony of the barbaric nature of a Night on the Bare Mountain (1867), here, in the Hamilton de Holand Quintet surfacing frequently from the oceanic depths imaged by Márcio Bahia’s tympani.

Márcio Bahia, looking like an olive-oiled Turkish wrestler, is a hard-rock Drummer in every sense of the words – I had never heard such petrifying (puns intended!) sounds of cold stone, with heavy-metal hammers, mining massive pieces of musical rock, as if to re-build Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem …
With elaborate rock-band psychedelic stage-lighting, Márcio Bahia could scare the pants off the female members of the audience! He is a one-man rhythmical cement-mixer, holds everything together, and is not even a show-off … He kills you with the power of his stone-age music.

The Hamilton de Holanda Quintet illustrates the remarkable South American revolutionary musical innovation that needs to be urgently globalized – Brazilians and Venezuelans seem uninhibited in orchestrating the most unusual instruments into harmonious ensembles of contrapuntal polyphony.

Endowed with a towering height, Hamilton’s musical fusion with his orchestra is so noble and giving and loving (non-diva like …) that he physically seems to melt away in amongst the average heighted music-makers of his group, although his solo appearance seemed quite the reverse, and rightly so (I am all for the British-style mixed economy actively imitated by the Chinese Communists ...)

There is no doubting Hamilton’s strong egalitarian bond with his musicians, to which was owed the intense beauty of the music created about a large Brazilian animal called the Ant-Eater – Hamilton’s emphasis (in his verbal explanation) on the “little”- ness of the ants was significant and indicative of its ample reflection in the music – a clash of complex contrasting rhythmic patterns woven contrapuntally in harmonies that could explode the cavernous Royal Albert Hall.

Hamilton the Great came to his own yet again for the last encore of the evening – In an act of extraordinary socialist fraternal graciousness, he invited the most civilized Cheo Hurtado back onto the stage to accompany him in a masterly interpretation – a series of wonderful variations on Besame Mucho. It left me in no doubt whatsoever that Hamilton must be a great lover of Johann Sebastian Bach – the Jehovah of all music.

Even if Hamilton himself would belie me, I couldn’t and wouldn’t believe him.
I long to hear one day live, his interpretations of Bach and even perhaps Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart … I would hop on a plane to Brazil for it – provided of course that there won’t be yet another junta burning down the Amazon forests to fatten the American hamburger-eaters.
Explore further Prof HIP's archival website (s); Just click on any of the following;

Ideas that Enlighten and Change Your Mind