Sunday, December 28, 2008

Vitor Assis Brasil - A Forgotten Alto Saxophone Player

Vitor Assis Brasil - Een Vergeten Altsaxofonist ( Nederlands) Vitor Assis Brasil - A forgotten alto saxophone player (English)
( To an almost complete Vitor Assis Brasil Discography.)

Hans Koert
Some weeks ago I happened to find a CD titled Trajeto by Vitor Assis Brasil and I bought it because I learned from the liner notes that Claudio Roditi was one of the musicians playing on that record. Claudio Roditi is a Brazilian trumpet player, born in Rio de Janeiro, May 1946, who plays his instrument in a Brazilian-orientated style or in a straight-ahead hard bop style. I heard him in concert October 2004 at the Porgy en Bess Jazz Club in Terneuzen in the southwest part of The Netherlands with his trio featuring Claudio Roditi, trumpet, flügelhorn and vocal ( Rapaz de bem), Klaus Ignatzek, piano and Jean Louis Rassinfosse, bass.
When I played the record I became fascinated by the music as played by the leader of the band, Vitor Assis Brasil. This unknown Brazilian alto saxophone player is an underestimated jazz musician now almost complete forgotten. He was born in Rio de Janeiro August 1945 as the oldest one of a twin; his younger brother Juan Carlos Assis Brasil would also become a jazz musician. Vitor, or Victor as he was called later, started to play the alto saxophone he received from an aunt at the age of 17 and got lessons from Paulo Moura. He became known thanks to jam sessions in the legendary Little Club in Copacabana, one of the breeding places for Bossa Nova music. He started to play at school concerts and tried to make a mix between Bossa Nova and Jazz.
In 1965 he was one of the musicians that played in the Clube de Jazz e Bossa and one day, one of the musicians to play there was the Austrian piano player Friedrich Gulde, who invited him to participate into an International Jazz Contest in Wien. It was his first time to play outside Brasil and he got the third prize for his sax playing and, later, in Berlin the first prize as a soloist. Thanks to these awards he decided to become a professional musician.
In 1966 he made his first record, titled Desenhos, with a quartet featuring Tenorio Junior at the piano, the 19 years young Edison Lôbo and Chico Batera, on drums, of course ( Bateria means drums in Portuguese). Tenorio Junior disappeared in Brasil and became one of the victims of the regime. On this album, now a collector's item, you can learn that Vitor has listened to John Coltrane and Phil Woods, who did influence him. He was able to study at the famous Berklee School of Music late 1960s for some years and there he founded his own band, with musicians like Claudio Roditi - the band that recorded the album Trajeto. A great album - different from the Bossa Nova records from that period. It contains jazz music influenced by Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk and the band sounds to me an entity; or, as I read somewhere: There's much greater subtlety and depth, and a more cohesive, controlled feel overall then in the ordinary Bossa Nova stuff of that period. Listen, for example to the first track Stolen Stuff - it sounds really great. Claudio Roditi is one of the players on this album, (except on Round About Midnight, which is played by a trio, with some good guitar playing by Helinho), only 23 years of age at that moment. I really like Roditi's warm hard bop trumpet playing, but also musicians like Edson Maciel, trombone player and bass player Sergio Barrroso are worth mentioning. He won an award at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1969 being the best saxophone player of the festival. Studying in Berklee he was able to play with jazz musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Richie Cole, Clark Terry, Chick Corea and Ron Carter.
In 1973 he returned to Brasil, still teaching about his music and musical roots like Wynton Marsalis is doing nowadays in the States. He became one of the most important jazz musicians of Brasil, fighting for the recognition of his music, the Brazilian jazz - without ignoring his Brazilian roots, but without any concessions to the Jazz music too. In 1978 his playing is a success at the Jazz Festival of Sao Paulo and, one of the visitors of that festival, Leonard Feathers said about him (quoted from a Brazilian interview): Victor Assis Brasil, um esplêndido saxofonista, não deixou que sua longa estada nos Estados Unidos confundisse seus valores, apresentando uma música firmemente plantada nos solos dos dois países. (= Vitor Assis Brasil, a great saxophone player, who lived and studied jazz music in the States for years, who plays his music founded in both cultures, without any concessions to its values.) His role of a pioneer is to be found in the music of a new generation of Brazilian jazz musicians like Claudio Roditi, who lives now in Europe most of the time.

He passed away in April 1981 due to rare complaints in the blood circulation. In his house, his twin brother John Carlos Assis Brasil, who became a known jazz piano player, found four hundred unpublished compositions after his brother passed away; for piano, orchestras, strings, pop music and jazz. John Carlos made a CD titled Self Portrait - Assis Brasil by Assis Brasil - Assis Brasil Quartet, an album I love to hear sometimes.
This alto saxophone player passed away only 35 years old - too young to be able to prove that he could have been developed to one of the greatest jazz alto saxophone player.

Hans Koert -
Enjoy a fragment of the Vitor Assis Brasil Quartet at the Festival de Jazz de São Paulo 1978. Victor Assis Brasil alto saxophone, Fernando Martins, piano. Paulo Russo, bass and Ted Moore, drums. Love For Sale

An (almost complete) VITOR ASSIS BRASIL Discography
He made eight records - I found the names of seven titles. Most of these records are collectors items now:

VITOR ASSIS BRASIL - Desenhos ( 1966)
VITOR ASSIS BRASIL - Trajeto (1968)
VICTOR ASSIS BRASIL toca Antonio Carlos Jobim (1970)
VICTOR ASSIS BRASIL - Esperanto (ca 1972)
VICTOR ASSIS BRASIL - disco em concerto, no Teatro da Galeria ( 1974)
VICTOR ASSIS BRASIL - MARLOS NOBRE Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira - Suíte Para Sax Soprano e Cordas ( 1976)
Keep swinging

Hans Koert
Some links to sites you should read:

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Blogger Pepê Mata Machado said...

thank you thank you thank you thank you very very very much. muitas graças. por colocar a memória desse gênio em ondas cibernéticas!

7:56 PM  
Blogger Pepê Mata Machado said...

thank you thank you thank you thank you very very very much. muitas graças. por colocar a memória desse gênio em ondas cibernéticas!

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this information about Victor Brasil. Some of us at Berklee have been talking about him and wanting to learn more about him. I'm glad his tracks are available on Amazon and There's a novel by his former wife Joanne Brasil called "Escape from Billy's Barbecue" in which Victor plays a role, although it's fiction. I understand this book is controversial with some of his friends (at least one) but I enjoyed it, and it sparked my interest in him 25 years ago. It's great to hear him and remember his music. Thanks again!

5:17 AM  
Anonymous Carlos Ferreira said...

Thanks for this blog on Vitor. I had the privilege to see Victor Assis Brasil, Paulo Moura, Juarez Araujo, Oberdan Magalhaes, Ion Muniz, Claudio Roditi, Sergio Barroso, Claudio Caribe, Helio Delmiro rehearsing & playing in the 60's & 70's.. Claudio Caribe (drummer) was my neighbour in Grajau (a suburb of Rio) so I met a lot of great musicians through him.. I also had the privilege to play with Edson Maciel, an outstanding trombone player... good golden old days!!
Carlos Ferreira

4:36 PM  

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