By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
The jazz world's bossa blitz led to an informal cross-cultural musical exchange. American instrumentalists and singers visited Brazil to get a taste of the real thing. And a large group of Brazilians began making inroads here in the United States, most notably percussionist Airto Moreira and his wife, singer Flora Purim; trombonist Raul De Souza; percussionists Nana Vasconcelos, Guilherme Franco, and Cyro Baptista; guitarist-pianist Egberto Gismonti; guitarist Romero Lubambo; drummers Dom Um Romao and Portinho; pianists Eliane Elias and Manfredo Fest; and singer Tania Maria.
Claudio Roditi, who is slated to bring his Brazilian Dream Band to Baileys Club on Saturday, made his own crossing in 1970, landing at Berklee College of Music in Boston after being named finalist in a jazz competition in Vienna. The trumpeter, born in Rio de Janeiro and raised on a teenage diet of Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Chet Baker records, experienced something akin to an irresistible gravitational pull to the homeland of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane. "I wanted to further my studies," the 54-year-old Roditi says from his home in South Orange, New Jersey, where he's lived since leaving Brooklyn a year and a half ago. "I always felt that if I didn't come here and get acquainted with jazz here in its birthplace, I would never really have the feeling. I would never understand it on a deeper level." Three decades later his perspective has shifted slightly. "When I listen to some recordings I did while I was still in Brazil, [I realize] I was already playing jazz. I didn't think so at the time. It was just for my head that I came here. When I got to Berklee and I started looking around for these heavy-duty trumpet players, I found out I was right in there. It was a shock and a discovery."
The young musician, whose instrument of choice was the rarely seen rotary-valve trumpet (as opposed to the common piston-valve version), rapidly gained attention, for both his drop-dead technical facility and the heady sophistication of his improvisations. Roditi played around the Boston area with drummer-vibraphonist Alan Dawson and in 1976 moved to New York, where he hooked up with a long list of A-list jazzers, including flutist Mann and saxophonist Charlie Rouse. During the early Eighties, he began an eight-year stint in Cuban-born saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera's band. D'Rivera's La Habana-Rio Conexion, a 1992 disc reissued this year on Rounder, offers a reminder of the efficacy of the pair's partnership.
The association with D'Rivera and musicians such as drummer-percussionist Ignacio Berroa led to work with Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra, handily demonstrated on 1989's Live at the Royal Festival Hall. Playing with Gillespie, Roditi made a flesh-and-blood connection with a major force in his own jazz-trumpet education. "Thirty years before I had been listening to him," he says. "His recordings were the first I had ever heard of modern jazz. It was pretty unbelievable. But I never felt like I wanted to impose myself. Once in a while, he would say, “Come to my room. I've got some Cuban cigars.'"
Over the years Roditi also has found a home for his considerable talents in bands led by soul-jazz pianist Horace Silver, saxophonists Gary Bartz and Greg Abate, and singers Mark Murphy, Chris Connor, and Michele Hendricks. In fact the trumpeter is one of the few Brazilian-born musicians who can successfully navigate between Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, and bebop. His agility is evident throughout his discography as a band leader, stretching back to 1984's pop-influenced Red on Red. Double Standards, released in 1997, had the trumpeter alternating Brazilian-influenced material, featuring pianist Helio Alves and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca (who will both join Roditi at Baileys) with bop-based tunes abetted by rising-star tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene. Milestones, a 1990 live recording with D'Rivera and all-stars Kenny Barron, Ray Drummond, and Ben Riley in the rhythm section, was a burning straight-ahead session.
"I can safely say that I have been one of the rare horn players that have been moving into both worlds freely, from the Brazilian to the jazz scene and including into the Puerto Rican/Cuban scene also," Roditi says. "If you go look for someone else who has participated in these things, you're not going to find anyone. Between Brazilian music and jazz, it's like being bilingual. It's like me speaking English and speaking Portuguese, and I also speak Spanish. So I'm trilingual. You just try to understand each other's cultures. You try to fit. I never went into a gig with Tito Puente and said, “Well, I'm a Brazilian, so I'm going to play samba.' I tried to hear where the clave is and tried to fit with that. You try to understand the spirit of the music."