Tuesday, July 24, 2007
"Music Is My Drug!" Arthur Verocai.
In 1972 a repressive Brazilian military dictatorship frowned on artistic impression that might influence the youth of the country. However, producer, arranger and guitar player Arthur Verocai released a self-titled album on Brazilian based Continental Records that challenged the musical conventions of the day. His subtle protest experimented with new musical directions, and used figurative language to sneak under the censorship radar.
Luv N'Haight records is honored to release its first full-length Brazilian album. It's super rare and will appeal to fans of the folksy soul and lo-fi electronic experimentations of American artists like Shuggie Otis or the orchestration of producer Charles Stepney. Closest Brazilian comparisons would be to Tim Maia and Jorge Ben. This unique recording has a touch of folk, more than a hint of funk, jazz style soloing, amazing 20 piece string arrangements, blending of electronics and keyboards with organic sounds,
and superb soundtrack style music.
"I used to listen to Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago, Stan Kenton, Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Web, Frank Zappa, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans and Miles Davis, Milton Nascimento, Bossa Nova, among others," explains Arthur Verocai. "In Brazil we had many musical influences, and by that time there wasn't a hegemonic one in the market. In this way my album reflected a search and musical experimentation. I was in an adventurous mood on this album and that led me to explore new melodic, harmonic and rhythmic paths.
Verocai arrived at the 1972 album with a number of accomplishments under his belt. He'd produced the Ivan Lins 1971 album "Agora" which was influenced heavily by the sound of North American soul. He had contributed string arrangements to Jorge Ben releases, too. "I also produced two albums by a singer named Célia for Continental and the president of the company was delighted with the results. He invited me to produce an album using my own compositions and I agreed as long as I was able to choose the musicians to perform with me. All the strings sessions featured 12 violins, 4 violas and 4 cellos, always with one or two percussionists. The idea of mixing strings with contemporary sounds came from my desire of searching for new paths. I think this album was very rich in terms of both quantity and quality of musicians!"
Verocai wasn't messing around with his line-up of musicians, which included Brazilian legends like Robertinho Silva, Pascoal Meireles, Luiz Alves, Paulo Moura, Edson Maciel, Oberdan Magalhães (Banda Black Rio), Nivaldo Ornelas (Milton Nascimento band) and Toninho Horta.
Born Arthur Cortes Verocai in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 17/6/1945, he studied music with Léo Soares, Darci Villaverde, Nair Barbosa da Silva, Roberto Menescal and Vilma Graça. In 1966 Leny Andrade included his song "Olhando o Mar" ("Looking at the Sea") on her "We Are There" album. Two years later Verocai participated in Musicanossa an event that brought together composers, musicians and singers in presentations to play live in the Santa Rosa Theater in Rio de Janeiro, for which he wrote his first arrangements. The live recording of the event included the songs "Madrugada" and "Nova Manhã", composed in partnership with Paulinho Tapajós.
By 1968 his main gig was working in Civil Engineering in Rio de Janeiro. He still managed to perform and participate as a composer at many of Brazils famous Festivals of Music. He was working with artists like Paulinho Tapajós, Elis Regina, Creuza Maria, the Golden Boys, and Evinha. In 1969 Arthur Verocai began his professional career as musician and arranger. He scored the music for the theater show "Is The Greater", and wrote his first arrangements for orchestra. He arranged records by the Terço, Jorge Benjor, Elizeth Cardoso, Gal Costa, Quarteto em Cy, MPB 4, Célia, Guilherme Lamounier, Nélson Gonçalves, Marcos Valle, and others. His music also appeared in the musical "The Life of Braguinha", alongside Elizeth Cardoso, Quarteto em Cy, MPB4 and Sidney Magal. By 1970 he was writing for other groups and regularly composing music for multiple TV shows and incidental music for TV series.
The 1972 self-titled album allowed Verocai to take his interest in instrumental music even further. "I always wanted to compose soundtracks in great style, as in the cinema, but this wasn't possible with television work," he says. "My opportunity came when I was recording this album. I created a rhythmic cell in the acoustic guitar with the harmonic line. I added bass and the non-conventional drums and the percussion with a very smooth orchestration in blocks (four trumpets and a flute) plus the delicate touch of the strings (12 violins, 4 violas and 4 cellos). At the end of the song, Oberdan Magalhães played and sang with his flute." The resulting track is "Sílvia".
"Presente Grego" is perhaps the funkiest track on the album. "This song was influenced by American soul and funk," says Verocai. "By 1972 many of the musicians of my generation were feeling the same influences. Because of our exposure to all many musical influences, we put a distance between us and the conventional recording styles. "Presente Grego" means "Greek gift." It is an expression that comes from the horse of Troy, a gift from the Greeks that hid the warriors that defeated the Troyans. Likewise, the military dictatorship, under the appearance of a good government, practiced censorship and oppression", he explains.
In addition to the funky soul elements the album features many solos from artists obviously well schooled in Jazz. Check the soloing in "Pelas Sombras" or "Karina", where saxes blow hard and true against the backdrop of Brazilian rhythms. "My musical preferences go from J.S. Bach and Villa-Lobos, to jazz musicians like Tom Jobim, Milton Nascimento, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Wes Montgomery and Bill Evans," explains Verocai. "I remember Edson Maciel, was invited to a studio session at 9 AM and was to perform a solo on "Karina." He asked us to wait for a while because he wanted to be inspired by some "cachaça" (a Brazilian liquor made from distilled sugar cane juice). While rehearsing, he asked for a little more "cachaça" to bring on some more inspiration. This happened twice until he found his inspiration and performed a tremendous solo!" remembers Verocai.
In the years after the album release Arthur Verocai became a music advertising executive, creating and producing albums for customers like Brahma, Fanta, Petrobra's, South America, Souza Cruz and was even honored with the Colunistas Prize in Advertising. Since 1983 he is the main proprietor of Studio "V" - House of the Sound and in 2002 he released a solo album "Arthur Verocai - "Saudade Demais" featuring a collection of his work as composer, including some unreleased songs.
Arthur Verocai's musical peer Ivan Lins has this to say about his great friend, "Arthur is a very dedicated musician. He has always been. Not only dedicated but very talented also. He made this record years ago just for the fun of it without much publicity. And now will strike back. That's great!"