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.


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