My Free Film Noir DJ Mix

My Free Film Noir DJ Mix

As a kid growing up in the 70’s I watched a ton of old films on our black & white TV set and since there were only a limited amount of channels (no cable or VCRs or YouTube yet) there was a certain commitment to paying strict attention when my favourite movie was showing.

My siblings and I were privy to these old movies on a daily basis and it was commonplace for the various stations to show several per day, spanning from the 60’s all the way back to the silent era of the ’20s.

 

Some of my very favourites were from the Film Noir genre of the ’40s & ’50s, which really shaped a certain aspect of my personality and manner of speaking.


This was very much like time travel for me, viewing into the past before I was here on this current visit to Planet Earth. The cars, architecture, fashion, cinematography, set designs, and of course, the plots drew me in like a fly to honey. 

One thing that really stuck with me was the music which sparked in me an almost obsessive desire to create similar music inspired by the genre.

I began collecting old 78 r.p.m. records when I was 9 years old and oftentimes I would find a song that had the haunting quality of those old Noir movies. Along with the records came a fascination with old photographs, especially the old wind-up Victrolas.

 

To listen to a record from that era on a record player from the same time period invoked a magical feeling of time travel inside me, one that still remains to this day.


With the advent of modern technology and specifically YouTube, I decided to share this with others, creating a series of “time travel” videos which I like to refer to as
Jazz Impressions Of Film Noir.

Each video is a presentation of records I selected from my collection that were either songs that had been featured in old Noir films, or that give out the same vibe. These are played on my 1947 RCA Victor radio/phonograph combo along with a brief introduction and some context about the record. 

And as a special bonus, I’ve created a special Free 80 minute DJ Mix Link that you can find in the description of each video of music hand-selected and sequenced from my record collection.

The first in the series is Harlem Nocturne, which is considered to be the quintessential Noir anthem, followed by Jungle Fantasy which was an all-time classic from the film Criss Cross starring Burt Lancaster and Carolyn Jones (aka Morticia Addams).

I’ll be releasing more of these on a frequent basis so stay tuned into the Jump With Joey Altruda YouTube Page.

AND ~ Don’t forget to “Like, Subscribe, Comment & Share”.

Ciao For Now & See You On The Flip Side,
enJoey

My Recent WFMU Interview with DJ Small Change

My Recent WFMU Interview with DJ Small Change

On April 15, 2021, I had the pleasure of being interviewed on WFMU, NY by Jim Dier aka DJ Small Change.

This guy knew practically everything about my professional career, even the more obscure recordings of my trajectory. 

I think it was one of the best interviews I’ve ever done, primarily because Jim is so engaging and enthusiastic, but also because he has first-hand knowledge of my story, having followed me in all my various musical twists and turns since the ’80s. 

Here’s the edited version of the interview plus the link to the episode archive which contains a lot of killer music that we both selected for the show.  

enJoey

 

Jim Dier of WFMU, New York

Jim Dier: All right, Mr. Joey Altruda. I don’t even know what to say. You’re one of my musical heroes. You know, I think you’re one of the reasons I got a fake ID back in the day to go to The King King Club. 

Joey Altruda: 
Wow, that goes back some 30 years now. It’s a pleasure to be here with you. 

 

JD:  We used to go quite a bit. It was Wednesdays, right? 

JA: Yeah. Jump With Joey every Wednesday night at The King King on 6th & La Brea, and I also hosted a Tuesday night Afro Cuban jam session there.

 

JD: Yeah. I think we went to one or two of those as well actually.  You had a couple of nights. One was a little more Ska though. You guys always sort of mixed sounds, you know? 

JA: Yes, exactly. One was a straight-up Afro Cuban Latin Jazz night. And the other one was Jump With Joey, that was Ska and Jump Blues. And then we really ended up infusing the Latin element into the Ska after a couple years, which was really cool. 

 

JD: Yeah, like the Skatalites were kind of hinting at stuff like that with [songs] like “Latin Goes Ska” back in the day. So it’s obviously a lot of musical exchanges between the islands, you know. 

JA: And a couple of Skatalites were Cuban. Roland Alfonso and Tommy McCook, were both Cuban.

 

JD:  I did not know that. That’s crazy. And yeah, you played with them at some point?

JA: Yeah. Roland. Alphonso. I was friends with all of The Skatalites that were founding members when they were reunited and touring a lot. And Rohan Alfonso. Actually, the first time he played with our band was at The King King. We had been together for about a year, in 1990 and he came in as a special guest, and then we had a long friendship after that.

He came to Japan with us for a tour along with Ernest Ranglin, as a guest in the band and we did some recordings together. It was phenomenal. It’s such a great honor for me to be validated on a level where they were so pleased to play with us because we made it so easy for them to play their music, you know? 

 

JD: Yeah, you guys really knew the music inside and out, which I think was something that even in my youth, coming up in the third wave Ska, some of those bands were fun, but you guys really brought the chops and a musical jazz history that The Skatalites themselves also had.

JA: Yeah. they were jazzers. Tommy McCook loved John Coltrane, for example. They loved all the BeBoppers of the ‘40s and ‘50s. But they were also very much into the modernism of John Coltrane, and they were hearing that and really doing their best to achieve that level of knowledge and chops.

 

JD: There’s a Studio One record, “I Cover The Waterfront” that’s almost like a sort of like a Jazz/Ska record in a way. 

JA: There’s one called “Jazz At The Workshop” on Studio One. That’s with Ernest Ranglin in the band and several members of Skatalites. And also, “I Cover The Waterfront”, which is Roland Alfonso and a pianist named Cecil Lloyd. 

They were also doing hotel gigs playing Jazz and at the same time, they were doing Ska music in other venues for a whole other audience. 

 

JD: Exactly. I guess the hotel gigs paid.

JA: Right. Ernest Ranglin had a completely separate career as a Jazz guitarist, playing in hotels like the Playboy Hotel every week during those times of Ska, and it was a highly coveted type of job to have at the time.

Ska music was very frowned upon by the upper class. It had the stigma of something like gangsta rap or something.  Ernest Ranglin didn’t want to jeopardize his employment by letting people know that he was making ska music, but a large quantity of those Ska records were under his direction and production. He was the first real person in charge of producing records at Studio One and Coxsone label. Although Coxon put his name as the producer, Ranglin was the overseer. 

 

A little of my backstory

JD:  I had no idea you were really steeped in music at a very early age, right? You started playing music when you were literally a kid, like four or five? How did you?  Or did you kind of just start doing it? Remember that?

JA: I remember the moment. My parents had lots of musical instruments around the house. My dad was Italian and his best friend was from Germany, and they played mandolins, guitar, violin, piano, accordions. They like to play music of the old country, like waltzes and polkas and things from Italy and Germany; “happy music” and very simple to learn. 

My dad had one of those little half-size accordions with the 12 button bass on it. As a child, four years old, I remember vividly, picking that thing up and my parents were watching me in the adjacent room through the doorway. I started to play one of the songs from one of the records they always listened to. It was one of the songs that my dad and his friend Otto always played. I was playing that by memory. I was playing it with the little keyboard part of the accordion, and my mom and dad were like,” He’s playing one of our songs! “How’s that even possible?” 

They weren’t listening to the record at that moment and were marveling at how I had memorized the melody and was pecking it out on the accordion.

I had a natural knack for it but I did a lot of work over the years to learn how music is constructed, the architecture of it, and the ear training and things. 

 

JD: It wasn’t just like that stupid book about the 10,000 hours or whatever?

JA: Yeah, you know, I mean, it’s all kind of silliness. But I definitely think you do need to put in work for it, and not everyone’s a 10,000-hour person. Some are 6000, and some are 25,000 hours, you know what I mean?  if you don’t put in a substantial concentrated effort into whatever you’re doing, you’re never going to achieve a high level at it. 

 

JD: What was the difference in playing versus writing arrangements and charts and production?  What was more challenging for you or didn’t come as easily?

JA: Actually, playing Jazz music and understanding the more complex chord progressions and how to improvise a melody and a solo over chord progressions. That was one of the biggest challenges I ever faced in understanding because I was an ear player for years and played Blues, Rockabilly, Oldies, this type of stuff.

And so it was always a mystery to me of how to solo over chord changes and how to even hear it when you’re listening to an album. An equal challenge was, how to construct an orchestration; how to assign the different instruments to a group of players for it to be balanced within the different ranges of the instruments – bass, mid-range, high end; how to get them all to phrase together.

 

JD: It’s kind of like cooking it away because you have these ingredients that you need to have balanced otherwise it’s “too salty”. 

JA: Actually, it’s exactly the same thing in that regard I’ve been collecting records since I was six, in 1969 – a lot of hand-me-downs and thrift shop records; a lot of random finds and a lot of duds. I was always fascinated with my parents’ old 78s so I started collecting those as well. By the time I was in my late teens, I started finding Bebop 78s, and certain arrangements on them were so cool. I had this burning desire to understand how to arrange music that was like that. It just opened up a Pandora’s box for me of sorts, you know?

 

JD: Yeah, and one of the things you mentioned in another interview that was interesting to me was about you being in high school and being kind of a Jazz nerd and getting made fun of by people who wore Led Zeppelin belt buckles and had feathered hair.

JA: I liked Bossa Nova in a time where it was probably at the lowest point of popularity for that type of stuff. 

 

JD: And there was like a Bossa Nova craze in the 50s and 60s, and then by the 70s, it was probably more like Arena Rock or whatever.

JA: It’d be Rock of the late ‘60s, then you had Arena Rock/Soft Rock/Corporate Rock, but at the same time there were interesting things coming out in the later ‘70s like Aja by Steely Dan for example. It’s highly informed and crafted. Right at that same time, we had our first Punk records – Nevermind The Bollucks by the Sex Pistols and White Riot by The Clash, things that were like a complete overthrow of the Corporate Rock, which I loved. 

I wasn’t that crazy about the music itself, but I loved its intent. And I loved the spirit of it, like Eddie Cochran because I loved people like Eddie Cochran. So I totally understood that. And I also saw that as a record collector, if you were to invest in buying these records, they’re going to be worth a lot of money someday, like original Sun 45s by Elvis or something. 

 

JD: Sure enough, they’re worth hundreds of dollars, some of these.  It’s kind of funny how it came out, like just on so many independent labels just throwing stuff together but then those actually became the records that people (collectors) wanted

JA: Yeah, so funny, right?

 

JD:  Yeah, I think what’s interesting is that you kind of come from a whole jazz background, but your first band was kind of more in that sort of Rock vein, right? 

JA: It was a Post-Punk band that started in ‘81, called Tupelo Chain Sex. Right around that period of time, L.A. had had Punk since ‘77 when our friend Brendan Mullen opened the Masque. That was L.A.’s first Punk club. And there were a lot of very original, expressive bands. It wasn’t like hardcore mosh pit type Punk yet by any means. Everyone had their own thumbprint in their own style, their mode of dress, the sound of their bands.

By the early ’80s, it gave birth to an even bigger, wider palette of freedom of expression. You had the license to do anything you wanted and because of that, we got the Red Hot Chili Peppers, putting Funk with Punk right at the same time as we made Tupelo Chain Sex. And Fishbone, of course. What we did in Tupelo Chain Sex is what people now call Mash Up, taking anything you want and pasting it against each other or delving into three different sections of a song that had three completely weird, different musical influences and stuff, but somehow it worked.

 

JD: Yeah. And I didn’t realize you had Don “Sugarcane”  Harris in your band for a while, so that’s pretty insane. I mean, that was one of the other things in that recent interview that kept coming back, is the people “leaping off the records”, like you collected these records for a long time and then over time, you’ve now worked with all these legends. That must be a real trip and kind of beautiful in a way.

JA: it’s such a trip and it feels like a pre-planned destiny of sorts like my story was written before I came here, or what people call manifestation, where it wasn’t conscious. I had such an honest, pure love for those records I was hearing and I guess it was what I was put here to do.

As a teenager, I was listening to Cal Tjader and Mongo Santamaria, and like I said, White Riot by The Clash was one of the first Punk records I heard. I was hearing The Specials with Rico; all these things. And I ended up like working with Joe Strummer 10 years later, having a great friendship and working relationship with Rico Rodriguez; I got to work with Mongo Santamaria, Ernest Ranglin, Roland Alphonso, The Skatalite members – people like  Lloyd Knibb [Skatalites drummer], and you know, even got to be friends with Esquivel; all these different things. 

 

JD: Yeah, exactly. “What’s going on here?!”  Most recently it’s Tom Zé. You have a single coming out. God I mean, it’s beautiful;  it makes sense. 

 

On Collecting Records Pre-Internet

 

JA: There was such a serendipitous joy about it in a way because it was like bumping into a light post with a blindfold on once in a while. You’d buy a record, just because the cover was intriguing, or a person at a record shop would see what you were looking at and they’d say, “Oh, if you like that, you’d probably like ‘this guy’ or ‘that album’ “. It was all analog. We would make cassette tapes of our friends’ records that weren’t available in stores, because they were out of print already, and hope someday that we would find our own copy of that record.

There was no internet, no way to find someone on eBay to obtain that copyright now or Discogs, There was none of it. There was no way to go to YouTube and see the entire body of work of a specific artist. There was very little written about a lot of music that we like. So by happenstance, you would meet someone who would have some information about the person (artist/band), who would give you some of their backstory. A lot of it was oral history for many years, especially Afro Cuban music. It was word of mouth; it was a whole different ball of wax. 

And you know, one thing about having the limitations of that, and only the cassettes from your friends, or your limited amount of records, was that you digested those things. You’d listen to them relentlessly because you had less options for listening.

 

JD: That’s a really excellent point. 

JA: I mean, you’d embody that thing. You’d put that cassette in your car, you took it to every party, everywhere you went, and listened to it endlessly. 

Even to this day, I listen to records more often, not out of snobbery or anything like that. It’s because I’m actually digesting it. So I might be in my house, doing some housework or something and put a record on and be too lazy to turn it over and listen to the same side all afternoon. And so I’m really internalizing the music on the record. 

And also, you know, I’ve had so many occasions where someone says, “Hey, give me a hard drive and I’ll load it up with 500 African albums for you”  and I don’t want it. I tell them to just give me the top 5 or top 10 that are the most killer out of that batch first, so I can really digest and internalize the music.

My parents had a stack of 78s that they’d had since the ‘40s (this was in the ’70s) and they bring them out for parties once in a while, with their old-timer friends. It was so fascinating because the records spun so fast, 78 revolutions per minute. That format was outmoded in the states around 1959 and we weren’t raised with “new” 78s in my generation. There was something almost haunting about how fast they spun and the sound of them. It was like time travel as if someone was opening a door for you in the back of your head to look into what life was kind of like before your visit to the planet this time around.

 

JD: Yeah, I mean, it’s funny, like you, I was listening to Jazz and a lot of music that was a lot older than me when I was coming up in the ‘80s. It’s kind of a trip, but it’s sort of like trying to get a window of how people even were, the kind of music that they were listening to. There’s something about hearing some of those original records,

JA: I do love that we have YouTube with such a plethora of the most obscure and hard-to-find music. When I found the music of Tom Zé for example, I went to Wikipedia, looked at his discography, and started plugging the album titles into YouTube in chronology so I could see what his trajectory was. Then I would find some reissues

I love music and don’t care whether it’s a reissue or an original pressing. Of course, it’s fun to find an original artifact that someone brought home from the store when it was a brand new genre. There’s something fun about that, and lovely. But even with a third-generation duplication of a cassette with a lot of hiss, you were just stoked to hear the music. And so I’m so grateful that we can just plug in a title of a song that you read about somewhere on the internet and go listen immediately.

 

JD: I could be spacing here, but didn’t you pull a prank with some fake Latin record back in the day on NPR?

JA:  I was part of a publicity stunt but that would take us a whole other hour to actually go into it. But yeah, someone devised a funny publicity stunt with someone at an NPR station years and years ago. They used my music and it was portrayed as something that was old music, that was finally going to be issued onto a CD for the first time. The DJ didn’t even investigate it. He just bought it and acted as if he’s responsible for bringing this to the public. 

 

JD: Like he broke it. 

JA: Yeah. and there was a certain level of “competence”, let’s say, that he had that made him sound like he’s an authority speaking about it, as if he’d investigated and he found out this, that the other about the artist from the fake bio that he was given.  It was fun and something almost legendary at the time.

 

JD: And there were also those records which I don’t think get talked about too much, but some of the stuff you did for the Pure label in the early ’90s, all the Funk stuff. I don’t know if you guys ever did a full-length funk record, but like The Fish and that compilation, “Some Other Kind Of Meat”. You are all over that record, right? 

JA: Well, yeah. What’s interesting is that Pure label was a reissue bootleg label out of Paris, reissuing really rare Funk 45s and compiling them onto LPs.  One of the guys from the label came to visit LA. We were mutual friends with a bunch of people, and they recommended him to me.  He wanted to produce something new. He was telling me how much he loved Zigaboo Modeliste from The Meters, and I told him that my friend works with him, and maybe we could get him on a session, so we got him on a session. 

Zig then got Leo Nocentelli [guitarist of The Meters] on the session and we made a couple of songs – The Fish and Shuvlin’, They were done in the style of the early Meters’ Josie label songs, instrumentals. It was me on bass, Mike Boito from Jump With Joey playing the organ, Leo on guitar, and Zig on drums.  During the session, Leo and Zig said, “you know, this is a lot of fun because as we progressed as The Meters, our music got more and more sophisticated and it wasn’t like those first instrumental things we cut. And this reminds us of how much fun it is just to play those simple grooves.”  The guy from Pure label actually had the intention of making a Joey Altyruda Quartet album with Leo and Zig but for whatever reasons it just never happened, after a whole lot of talk and pumping us all up about it.

 

About tom Ze

 

JD: Let’s talk a little bit about Tom Zé because you just wrote an article recently for Wax Poetics.

JA: Yeah, it came out a year ago in March [2020], but you could call it recent. Have you ever heard of the band Novos Baianos by any chance? 

 

JD: Yeah You know what’s funny is that name sounded familiar because you have a track on the playlist that we’re gonna play, and I have that record. 

JA: Right. Acabou Chorare is the name of the album that they made in 1972 and Rolling Stone Brazil cited it as one of the topmost important albums in MPB (music popular Brazil) of the century.  They were a band that came together in the late ‘60s. Two main songwriters of the band, Moraes Moreira and Luiz Galvão were introduced to each other by Tom Zé. Luiz Galvão, Tom Zé, and João Gilberto were all from Juazeiro, and friends for years before Novos Baianos. Moraes and Galvão went on to form the band, and in 1969 they made a really cool Psych Rock album [Ferro Na Boneca].

João Gilberto was a mentor to them. Luiz Galvão brought João to hang out with them. They lived together in this hippie commune.

 

JD: Yeah, I was going to say it sounds like some kind of commune living back in the day.

JA: Yeah, it totally was.  And João Gilberto loved that. He showed them the book of Yogananda, “The Autobiography Of A Yogi” and it was profound for them. They played him these Psych Rock songs and he said,“That’s good but I think you should look within yourself more and put more of our culture into what you’re doing and use some Brazilian instruments, use some Brazilian rhythms and things”.

Novos Baianos went on to make several albums and by the late ‘70s, they disbanded, only because several of them went on to solo careers. By 2016 I was coming to be friends with a couple of Novos Baianos and I was invited to their rehearsal and to fly with them from Rio to Bahia for a whole weekend of concerts. I returned for a couple more visits and a couple more concerts in Rio and Recife. They really brought me in like family. It’s been a life-changing experience, such a deep, profound honor for me to be in the company of such loving people and such incredible, inventive musicians, each one having something really special to offer. 

Novos Baianos aren’t really known in the U.S. hardly at all, only deep, deep crate-digger type people know of them, but even a lot of those people don’t know of them.

 

JD: Yeah, I had one of their records but I didn’t know their whole backstory or anything. 

And I think that’s kind of cool that you went and interviewed them there and put it in English so that people can learn about this stuff. 

JA: Yeah, Seu Jorge, who’s a great friend of mine, showed me a documentary about them from the early ‘70s and I was like, “Who are these people? Where are they? These are my people, I must find them”. It was like I made my statement of intention and it happened a couple of years afterward. And there I was, on a plane flying to Bahia with them on their comeback tour. It was a pinch-me-am-I-dreaming moment and honestly, I felt like there’s a reason why I’m connecting with these people. There’s a bigger reason but I don’t know what it is. 

And then it occurred to me, one of the reasons is I need to show them to more people, people that don’t know about them. There’s zero articles written about them in English, if you look on the internet I don’t think there’s one. And, I’ve got an actual series on joeyaltruda.com. If you go there, into my blogs, you’re going to see an entire trajectory of five different blogs that start with How I Found The Girl from Ipanema, how I was a kid and ended up 37 years later working with Bebel Giberto, and how I found Seu Jorge who showed me Novos Baianos and then more and more the stories unfold. 

The most recent installation is about how Tom Zé was involved directly with them. These are a series of blogs that contain some of the same material as Wax Poetics but further elaborates my personal experience of seeing it from an outsider’s perspective, which then led ultimately to the blog post about my own involvement with Tom Zé. I got to interview four members of Novos Baianos for the Wax Poetics article, and in so doing I got to ask Tom Zé some questions through email, to get more specific and fill in some gaps about some of the backstory. 

He was really congenial and we continued a pen pal friendship since then. I had heard his song “A Babá” when I found a single of it in Brazil and I was like, “God this is so good. This would make such a great Ska version.”, so I just approached him about that. 

He didn’t know what Ska was so I sent him a short description of what Ska was in its Jamaican roots, a few YouTube videos of some Skatalites, early Wailers, and stuff. His musical director Daniel Maia knows what Ska is because he’s around my age and he helped facilitate recording Tom Zé’s voice. Daniel put the guitar part down, and one of the chorus singing parts and sent me the ProTools session. I rounded it out with Oliver Charles (the drummer from Ben Harper’s Band) who was also in a Traditional Ska revival band called Ocean 11 in the ’90s. It was all done remotely and it wasn’t a COVID thing honestly, because I had been collaborating remotely for a long time doing home recording with digital software and such for years.

 

JD: You were kinda ready for this in advance. 

JA: Yeah

 

Working Remotely to Produce a song

 

 

JD: How did that start in terms of doing the remote thing? Was it just because of geography and stuff, or what was it that was the inspiration?  

JA: No. Sometimes it would just be building a song and I’d have some virtual drums on it temporarily, then have my buddy record drums for it in his drum studio and he would email me all the files for the drum kit. Just a convenience thing really. 

We got Roger Rivas from The Aggrolites playing organ and piano on this. Marlon Sette on trombone who is Jorge Ben’s trombonist. Artie Webb on the flute, who was with Tito Puerte and Ray Berreto ‘70s. Plus, Kassin is in the vocal chorus; one of Brazil’s top producers for years now. Also, Dadi Carvalho who was the original bassist of  Novos Baianos and Jorge Ben’s Africa in Brazil album in ‘75.  I put the bass and the guitar on, and then Victor Rice did the mix. Victor Rice, you know, of Easy All-Stars…

 

JD: Yeah, I was gonna say his name looked familiar. But yeah, Easy All-Stars.

He’s been around for a while for sure. 

JA: Yeah, he’s lived in São Paulo, Brazil for 20 years, so he did the mixing, and, oh wow, he just killed it. We also did a Stepper’s Dub version of the song with a whole different rhythm section treatment and Victor did some incredible dubbing on that.  He actually gave me four different dubbed versions for each treatment of each song and each one has a deeper and deeper dub, and he sent me videos of his hands at the controls doing the dubs so…

 

JA: Nice. So, it’s like Scientist style on the fly type.

JA: Totally.  And so I’m going to be dripping those out on my YouTube channel. If you go to the Jump With Joey Altruda on YouTube, you’re going to find the channel. Like, Comment, Share, 

 

JD: Yeah, smash that subscribe button too!

JA: So those are going to be dripped out with an extensive interview of Victor Rice along with Roger Rivas, and a bunch of other fun stuff. The song A Babá is coming out digitally on a label called Avocaudio  (avocaudio.com) It’ll be on all the streaming platforms and stores and such. Also, I’m going to make a special limited edition vinyl pressing 45 of this that’s going to be a pre-sell. It’s going to have a nice cardboard cover and probably be colored vinyl.

 

JD: Yeah I think I remember the El Diablo Ska on red vinyl back in the day.

JA: Yeah, which is like $75 or more on eBay right now. Quite cheap.

 

JD: Quite crazy.

JA: Yeah, that’s such a great compliment, ya know. 

 

JD: I remember when that came out. We were like,  “Jump With Joey” has a new record out, we have to go get it.”

JA: I made a waitlist. If you go to https://joeyaltrudabiz.com/tom  you can get on the waitlist and once I get 1,000 people, I’m going to send emails to everyone. It will be a pre-sell and then we’ll manufacture it. It’s the best way actually to go about things these days so that we’re not dealing with record distribution and stores and everything else, ya know? And it makes it more exclusive for the buyer.

 

JD: Yeah, Definitely. That’s kind of the way to go now ‘cause it becomes a little bit of a boutique market.  I didn’t realize until a few years back that you were DJ-ing. You had some nights in L.A., right?

JA: Yeah. I’ve had a lot of nights in L.A. I’ve been DJ-ing since 1987.

 

My Time as a Dj

 

 

JD: I didn’t realize that you were a DJ back then. So then maybe let’s talk about that before we get out of here, the difference in DJ-ing versus playing out like a pro.

JA: Oh sure, I would love to. You know, it’s interesting because The King King Club, before it was a club, was a Chinese restaurant called King King and it was kind of on its last legs, selling lunch specials during the day.  A couple friends of mine were club promoters and they ended up renting this space out one night a week to do a Funk night, at a time when Funk was just starting to be revived. Before that, you couldn’t even give away Funk and Soul records at the swap meets. They weren’t valued yet. So they did this whole Funk night called Smokey Ho’s Funk Bar on  Thursday nights. It became so popular that they added a second night of the week.

I would go in and DJ for a set and I was bringing in vintage ‘50s and ‘60s Afro-Cuban, like Beny More and Arsenio Rodriguez. No one was playing records in clubs like this. I was bringing in some obscure Salsa records and Boogaloo, Joe Cuba, this type of thing. No one was doing that yet. There wasn’t a market for collecting it yet and it was all relatively cheap if you could find it because It was all random finds, pre-internet. 

But what happened was that people reacted so hard to this stuff that my guys gave me my own night there doing what we called Smokey Ho Guaguanco. It was a Latin-themed night. I also did a live band there, playing guitar with a band featuring Buck Clarke on percussion. Buck Clarke was with Eddie Harris & Les McCann for the Soul To Soul concert, playing for a million people in Africa. He’s had his own couple of solo albums on Argo label. He was a great friend so we just had such a ball doing that. And, I obviously ended up collecting Funk records because of everything that surrounded me. 

Our Jump with Joey night… Our friend bought the club. It was the doorman Mario Melendez. He bought it in ‘89, converted it into The King King Club, and actually put me in charge of the musical direction creating…

 

JD: Yeah, I didn’t realize that you were the music director.

JA: Yeah, and I stocked the jukebox for them, and I stocked it with all kinds of fun records that would be like the “dream records” that you could find on a jukebox, like Eddie Jefferson, Lambert Hendricks & Ross, Skatalites, etc. I mean it was such a plethora of fun. I hired different bands to play on different nights, created house bands, you know, the whole thing. 

Jump With Joey, before the actual band started, started out as a DJ night. I had friends come to sit in and it was just collectors, fun music, come bring what you want, ya know?

 

JD: Those are the most fun nights without a doubt.

JA: So through my trajectory as a DJ, I learned a lot. I learned how to be sensitive when selecting music, what songs should come next logically, how to build a story in a mix, how to go from one record to the next, how to make a nice, smooth transition from one song to the next, even how to match beats if it was apropos. How to control volume.

 

JD: Yeah, I think that’s one of those real key DJ things, just matching the volume. You know, if something comes up that’s too low or too high it can kind of effect the crowd.  The crowd is sensitive to that.

JA: Right. Honestly, another “pinch me” moment in my life was my friendship with Sir Coxson Dodd, who created the Studio One record label. He told me that when he was a DJ, he started the night off at a soft volume and would increase the volume little by little as the night progressed. And, you know, that’s key because a lot of people call themselves DJ’s just because they who own records, and they don’t have any concept of the sequence of the records, or they want to play what they want to play right now, but they don’t realize that it doesn’t serve the audience. You know, all these factors… and they abuse volumes. Certain people just abuse volume and they just don’t understand the finer points of the psychology behind what will build the energy of a room. 

 

JD: Right, right. 

JA: You know, even how to read a room. It might be a record that you are dying to play but it’s not the right time to play it.  So you’re going to play something else. Maybe something real obvious that everyone knows, and not some obscure thing in order to get everyone excited and throw them a bone so that they’re going to be excited. And that makes sense, you know? 

 

JD: ‘Cause I know you were also playing on the patio at Funky Soul. 

JA: I played the patio at Funky Soul for years whenever I wasn’t working on a Saturday night. I lived 5 minutes away so I would do that. Yeah, that was a ball. 

 

JD: Another classic party… And you had like a soundtrack night? Because, you know, I would come back to L.A. to visit my folks, you know. I think it was like with Clifton Soft Touch.

JA: Oh yeah, sure. We did Shanghai Noir, which was the name of it, in Chinatown at the General Lee bar, which is an art deco bar. It was just so fun because we would play soundtracks but also good eclectic things like Latin sets etc.

 

JD: Yeah, because it’s like open. 

JA: It was open, and we would always have a guest like Cliffton or Cut Chemist came through. A lot of different and great DJs came through. Daedalus, Roger Rivas, Señor Amor….

 

JD: Yeah, yeah. But just to kinda play a more spacey set. Is that kind of like…

JA: Exactly. You could bring records that you normally couldn’t play on your dance nights, for example. And there was a little dance floor which was fine, but it was really a social and a lounge, you know, Carlos Nino would come. 

 

Unknown Speaker:

Carlos Nino, great people.

JD: Yeah, no doubt. Joey, It was an absolute pleasure to talk to you. You’re one of my heroes, you’re really nice. And uh we’ll get into this Tom Ze business.

 

JA: Thank so much Jim. It was really a pleasure.

My Moraes Moreira Interview

My Moraes Moreira Interview

My friendship with Moraes Moreira was brief – only four years, yet profound and deeply soul connected.

 

Moraes entered into my life only a few months after my father had died from being hit by a car. It had been a long winter with the sounds of Christmas music providing the soundtrack for this great tragedy, and then Spring arrived. I found myself in Rio De Janeiro, in the company of new friends who took me in as family –  Moraes and Novos Baianos. 

 

Novos Baianos is one of my favorite Brazilian groups and one of the most important bands in Brazil’s rich musical history.

 

Moraes was a founding member, songwriter, key personality, and incredible guitarist, personally mentored by one of my all-time heroes, João Gilberto. 

There are so many factors about Moraes and his great influence on musical culture in Brazil, especially from the aspect of his involvement in Bahia’s Carnaval history.

And, although we shared many moments together at shows, cafes, and random encounters on the streets of Rio, there were still so many more conversations that we would never have. There were songs we had planned to work on together that never got birthed.  

There was music yet to be played and guitars left unpicked.

 

Sadly, Moraes left the planet on April 13, 2020, from a heart attack.

He was a very social creature and had a strong presence in his neighborhood in Gavea, seen daily walking his dog, taking coffee at the local bakery, chatting with friends. Everyone loved Moraes and they say that being locked down in his home for a month due to Covid was what really did it. It was more so a broken heart than a heart attack. This was my first “Covid loss” and it seemed to happen out of the blue, taking me by complete surprise.

I’ve always felt that my involvement with Novos Baianos was predestined, that we were meant to cross paths at that specific moment in my life.

My life was forever changed by them and it became apparent to me that the role I was to play was in telling their story to an English-speaking audience.

Nothing had ever been written about them in English and it was now time.

I set out to write an article for Wax Poetics Magazine (March 2020) in which I interviewed several of the band members, including Tom Zé who was highly influential in the formation of the group.

This led me to my recent collaboration with Tom Zé and a series of blog posts telling my own story of how I became involved with Rio De Janeiro’s music community.

The following interview was conducted in a little bakery in Baixo Gavea, where Moraes loved hanging out.

Dadi Carvalho, bassist of Novos Baianos was also there with a few answers and great anecdotes about the story of Novos Baianos.

Only a few quotes from this were used in the Wax Poetics article and here it is in its unedited version from 2016.

– enJoey

Moraes Moreira Interview

 

JA: What kinds of music were you listening to in the 60s pre-NB?

MM: I listened to lots of Rock, Dorival Caymmi, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and later The Who, Pink Floyd. Also a lot of traditional/regional music from the Northeast of Brazil where I came from, which used accordion, especially Luiz Gonzaga. The very first NB album (Ferra Na Boneca) was a total Rock album.

 

JA: What about (guitarist) Roberto Mendez? You both play with a very similar right hand technique.

MM: We were from two different regions of the Northeast, and it is a total coincidence.

 

JA: Where did you learn this?

MM: Tom Zé. He was my first formal guitar teacher. He also taught me theory, but the right-hand technique is something that I developed myself. 

 

JA: Does Tom Zé compose his own arrangements?

MM: Yes. I just read a Tom Zé interview in the Globo Newspaper, discussing his new album, which is all erotic songs. He is 80 years old now, and appears in the photo nude, with the guitar covering part of his body. He is always surprising. And crazy.

 

JA: How did you come into association with Tom Zé, and what year? What is your story?

MM: In Bahia, there is a school that is part of the university. It is very conceptual. 

 

JA: Luis Galvão said that you studied percussion in the school.

MM: Actually, I was originally going to study medicine, but while I was waiting for the medicine course to begin I started getting into music and that is when I met Tom Zé. I already had music on my mind.

JA: And you became a different kind of doctor. 

MM: Yes (laughs). Tom Ze appreciated my musicality and thought I had talent, so he decided to teach me to play the guitar. It was at this time that Tom Ze also met Galvão and decided that the two of us should create music together.

(Galvao was a poet and also an agricultural engineer  who had designed a garden for Tom Ze.) Galvao wanted to make music with Tom Zé but Zé told him, “You’re not going to make music with me. You’re going to make music with Moraes.”

JA: So Tom Zé sent Galvão to the boarding house where you and your brother were living, and he moved in.

MM: Yes. He moved into the pensao (boarding house), and we wrote music non-stop. By the end of the first month, we had completed a dozen songs together. Afterward is when Paulinho De Boca Cantor came into the picture.

 

JA: Were the three of you performing music together before Baby and Pepeu joined the band? At parties, clubs, etc.?

MM: At first it was just Galvão and me, playing in the house, but soon, people in our social circle in Bahia began coming around to check us out. Baby was from Noteroi She had run away to Bahia when she was 16 years old and stayed with us. We participated together in a show that was a farewell concert for Caetano (Veloso) and Gilberto Gil before they left for London to live in Exile. Desembarque Dos Bichos was the name of the show at Teatro Velho.

 

JA: Os Leifs were also part of the show ?

MM: Os Leifs was Pepeu’s group, featuring his brothers Jorginho, Carlinhos, and their friend Lico. They played music of The Beatles and other bands, putting their own Portuguese lyrics to the melodies mixed with portions of the original English lyrics (sings “Hey Joe”, then Portuguese… laughter)

 

JA: What role did Caetano Veloso have in the formation of NB? He helped you guys, no?

MM: We already knew Caetano and Gil from their fame as young composers when they recorded their first albums pre Tropicalia. We were already fond of their work, but when they started the Tropicalia movement it was what inspired them to also become artists.

 

JA: How would you say that Tropicalia differs from NB, because some of it is very similar, especially the first album.

MM: At first, it Was very similar, but it was the influence of João Gilberto that really brought us into our own thing and set us apart.

 

JA: Which brings me to the question, when João Gilberto introduced the song Brasil Pandeiro to the band, how did he present it? Did he have a record of it?

MM: No. He played and sang it for us in our home. João Gilberto had a dream of being part of communal living with music, and when he found out that Novos Baianos were all living together and making music he sort of lived out his dreams through them. He would come to our house and hang out with us, playing music all night.

 

JA: Is it true that he also came to you guys to buy weed?

MM: Yes. He knew that there was smoking going on in our place and wanted to also partake.

 

JA: And João Gilberto was a singer for a short time in Anjos Do Inferno, the group that had originally recorded Brasil Pandeiro. Assis Valente (author) had originally presented the song to Carmen Miranda but she didn’t want to do it.

MM: João’s background had been in vocal harmony groups like Garotos Da Lua, Anjos Do Inferno, etc. He loved vocal groups like Os Cariocas and would assign different vocal parts to the members of Novos Baianos.

Do you know the song De Um Rolé? When João first came to meet us, the first song we played for him was De Um Rolé – Rock N Roll, Blues…

João said that it was all right but “you guys need to look into yourselves”, meaning that we should look into our Brazilian heritage. He wanted us to be more Brazilian so he showed us Brasil Pandeiro, Aquarela Do Brasil, the music of Ary Baroso, and other classic Brazilian singers. At that time, Novos Baianos were more focused on international music and Rock, so we began to change our sound, mixing Brazilian traditional music styles with Rock instruments.

 

JA: Did Leo Avilar of Anjos ever hear the NB version of Brasil Pandeiro and what did he think of it? 

MM: When we released Brasil Pandeiro, people just assumed that we had written it because we really personalized it in our arrangement and expression. That is when we had to come forth and let people know that song was actually written by Assis Valente.

 

JA: Did you know Dorival Caymmi? What did he think of Novos Baianos’ version of Samba Da Minha Terra?

MM: He liked our recording of his song, especially the way we put the Be Bop scat singing into it.

 

JA: What did Caymmi think of Pepeu’s guitar part?

MM: (smiles) He liked it. I think his son Dori wasn’t that into it because he likes more traditional styles, but the other son Danilo (or Daniel?) really dug it.

 

JA: Do you have a favorite record that you loved as a kid and still listen to, that never gets old to you?

MM: (thinks for a while) Everything/Anything by Luiz Gonzaga. He was a huge influence on me.

JA: (joking) Then why didn’t you play the accordion?

MM: I did. It was my first instrument.

JA: It was mine too. I was 4 years old when I played the accordion. I switched to guitar when I was eight.

MM: When I was young, I learned the guitar part to Richie Valens’ La Bamba and I thought I was the best guitarist. I was the big shot of the whole Certao (laughing)

Years later, João Gilberto would visit our house, he would play the guitar for us, using his own special chord voicings that we’d never seen before. Pepeu and I would watch him intently, studying what he was doing, and as soon as João would leave we would ask each other, “How many did you get?” Pepeu: “I got six.”  Moraes: “I got five.” And then we would play them and compare notes. That is how we learned the vocabulary of Bossa Nova.

 

JA: What about the story of Pepeu taking the television apart and using some of the parts to make a distortion pedal? 

MM: There was a guy living with us on the sitio (ranch) named Salmão who was like “the MacGuyver of electronics”. He removed the tubes from the TV and made the distortion pedal. It was Pepeu’s idea, but it was Salmao who built it.

JA: Yes, because I had heard the story that Baby had bought the TV to watch the World Cup, and one day she came home and it was broken and she couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working.

 

JA to Dadi Carvalho: Who played the bass in the band before you joined? Who played bass on Ferra Na Boneca? 

MM: Pepeu played bass on two of the songs. The other bassist was a studio musician but I don’t remember his name. 

JA: Who was the organist?

MM: Chiquim Do Moraes who was also the maestro. There was also one other maestro. At that point (1969) we didn’t yet have an entire band, only the singers, so I went to the arranger/maestro of the studio, who based all the (orchestral) arrangements on my guitar concepts.

 

JA: Where was the album recorded?

MM: Studio Caseta in São Paulo

 

JA: And what about Tangolete? This song is genius. You wrote it?

MM: Galvao and I wrote all the songs on the album.

 

JA: Was it the same arranger?

MM: It was an Argentinian arranger.

 

JA: I feel like Acabou Chorare is the classic NB album that everybody recognizes, but Ferra Na Boneca is an entirely separate genius piece of work. Where are all the written orchestra parts now? Does someone have them? 

MM: I don’t know. It was my first time in a recording studio. I had never seen a studio before in my life. There were no headphones (in that era).

JA: Because you need to make a big show of this material in Japan.

 

JA: How long did it take to make the album?

MM: Not even a month. João Araujo (father of Cazuza)  was the producer and kept everyone on task.

 

JA: You guys turned the chicken coop on your ranch into a recording studio. True?

MM: Yes, Acabou Chorare was recorded on a Teac 4 track. We would record the band and bounce the mix down in order to have an open track for vocals. There are NB tapes pre Acabou Chorare that have ever been released. 

 

JA: Why don’t you guys release this stuff?

MM: It’s raw material. We just got the tapes back. First, we’re going to listen to everything and see what is usable. 

 

JA: Did you have acoustic treatment in the chicken coop? 

MM: We cleaned out the chicken coop and put some amplifiers against the walls. There was no proper acoustic treatment, only the natural ambiance/reverb of the room. 

 

JA: Did Novos Baianos ever play in the US?

MM: No.

 

JA: What about drugs? Whenever I read articles about Novos Baianos or Galvão’s book, there is always mention of drug use, primarily weed and acid. What do you have to say about this? Are you comfortable talking about it?

MM: I am fine with it but I don’t mention it much during interviews because Baby doesn’t condone it anymore.  I used acid nonstop.

 

JA: Would the acid lead you to musical ideas?

MM: Many 

 

JA: Any specific songs? 

MM: All of them (laughs) Most all were created under the influence.

NB would have never been the same without the acid. Someone had told the police about an American here in Brazil who had 200 hits of acid, so the guy gave them all to Marilia (ex-wife), so we had a good supply. We would play shows while tripping.

We never used cocaine; only LSD and smoke.

 

JA: It’s a good combination.

MM: It wasn’t like today, where people take acid to go to parties and raves. It was used as a spiritual guide.

Dadi Carvalho: I remember Moraes, one day at the sitio, tripping, and playing a riff on his guitar, searching for the new song.

MM: Galvão’s lyrics never followed a set meter like 4/4 (for example). There were occasional areas in his poetry that would have a few extra beats or something rhythmically unorthodox (in respect to clave) that I would have to navigate around and find an organic musical bedding for.

 

JA: Pepeu talks about a “magical tree” on the sitio.

MM: All the trees were magical. (everyone laughs)

We would read the bible and it was apocalyptic. We saw a big black cloud and believed that Christ would descend from it.

 

JA: And speaking of the Bible, Galvão was very into Indian philosophy, Zen, alchemy, etc. 

MM: Yogananda. Self-realization. I was at the Self Realization Center in Santa Monica. I was in LA and all I wanted to do was to visit the SRC. It was João Gilberto who gave me the book of Yogananda. This was the book that really guided the spirituality of Novos Baianos. We were influenced by all the major Indian gurus. Baby was very spiritual and (for example) if the car broke down or ran out of gas, she would take a piece of spiritual fabric, place it on the car, and believe that our spiritual energy would fix the car. 

 

JA: Would you say that Novos Baianos then became a big influence on the youth movement?

MM: Yes, and it is interesting that we had an influence on the youth of the ’70s and now we are becoming influential on the youth of today. 

 

JA: How did Dadi join the group?

Dadi Carvalho: Novos Baiaonos arrived in Rio from SP to play a show with only Moraes, Paulinho, Galvão, Baby, and Pepeu, but they needed a bass player. Marilia knew me and she knew that I played bass. I was at Arpoador with my friend,  hanging out, playing guitars together on the beach.  Marilia and Baby happened to come up to us and she told Baby that I play bass. They took me to the apartment where I met Moraes, Pepeu, and the others. At the time I didn’t understand their Bahian slang and accents. 

MM: Dadi easily absorbed and adapted to all our craziness. Before Dadi, Pepeu had tried other bassists, none of whom were adept enough to handle Pepeu’s intricate bass parts (Pepeu is the band’s arranger.), but Dadi had no problem, and the rest is history.

 

JA: When did Didi (Gomes) join the band as a bassist?

MM: Some years later (5 years, 1975)

Dadi: After I left the band.

 

JA: But why did you leave the band?

Dadi: Because Moraes had recently left the band (1974) and the harmony/vibe of the group wasn’t the same. Galvão was really great as our mentor but he could also be a taskmaster. It wasn’t as fun anymore.

MM: We two were the rebels. And when I left, my wife and I had started having kids, and the living situation on the sitio was really bad. We didn’t have money; there were always people coming and going, and sometimes we didn’t even have milk for the children. And among all of us, there was no one with the talent to organize the living logistics.

 

JA: What about Paulinho’s wife, Marilia?

MM: She did her best. She tried. And whenever a new band manager would come into the picture, he would try to organize everything but would end up falling into the craziness of everything and forget about his job as a manager.

 

JA: It was a very turbulent time because of the dictatorship. What was it like for you guys to be doing what you did? Because Gil and Caetano were exiled. What were you doing? 

MM: It was very dangerous. There was a lot of repression coming from the authorities who suspected people of being communists, but they looked at NB and thought that “these people are way too crazy to be communists”. It was commonplace to be stopped and frisked by the police on the streets because we had long hair. We finally left the city to live together on the sitio, where we could be left alone.

 

JA: Do you think that the exile of Gil and Caetano signified the end of Tropicalia?

MM: Yes, in a way it was the end of Tropicalia. I heard an interview of Caetano and he was asked when Tropicalia ended, he said that it ended when the police came and arrested him and Gil.

 

JA: What about the story when the police came to NB show and questioned everyone while you guys were tripping on acid?

Dadi: There was a guy who got busted for weed somewhere outside of Rio, and he lied to the police, telling them that he had bought it from us, so they came to our concert to get to the bottom of things. Every time one of us would exit backstage, we would be questioned by the cops, but the concert was so beautiful that they didn’t want to stop the show. Paulinho spoke with a stutter and I was watching him (in horror) speak with the police while tripping, stammering, and doing his best to convince them to allow us to come into the station the next day to answer some questions. And somehow it worked and they let us finish the show! (laughs)

MM: The police were fans of NB. Sometimes they would show up at the sitio and their car would be parked at the entrance. We would be freaking out, thinking that we were going to get busted or something, when all the cops really wanted was to hang out and talk to us (laughs) It was really magical.

 

JA: Do you ever miss life on the sitio?

MM: Yes. When I started my solo career I was kind of missing it. I went to take a look at the sitio, and the person who owned it at the time was selling it. So I bought it, restored it, and lived there for five years. Nowadays it’s used as a place that is rented out for parties.

 

JA: Do you think that someday NB might do a special commemorative show there?

MM: Yes, I have already thought about this.

JA: Vamos Agora! (Let’s go now!)

MM: Years after the sitio had closed, people would still look upon it as a special place, making pilgrimages there just to park and smoke, like their little temple. Now it’s lost some of its mystic charm.

 

JA: Let’s talk about the documentary. A German company came in 1975 to make a documentary about you guys for TV, right?

MM: It was a German TV company who hired someone to make a documentary about anything they wished, here in Brazil. Solano Ribeiro chose NB and recorded the audio portion on a Nagra tape deck (the highest quality/industry-standard portable reel to reel tape deck at the time). They only used one boom ambient boom mic and one handheld mic for the vocals, yet miraculously you can hear everything, even the acoustic guitar!

It was magic. We would do shows in the seventies with no stage monitors, no pickups on the acoustic guitars etc, yet you would be able to hear everything!  There were no electronic guitar tuners then but everything would be in tune.

JA: (joking) Maybe it was the acid that made you think it was in tune.

MM: (slaps his knee, rubs his hands together, nodding, smiling)

We took acid because we were composers and we used it for sensorial support and I think that if the Beatles hadn’t used acid that they wouldn’t have made Yellow Submarine, Sgt. Peppers, etc. In that era, it was all about expanding your head. It was a time when we learned a great number of things in a very short amount of time. What would’ve taken 20 years to learn, we learned in 5.

 

JA: Was the documentary aired on Brazilian TV  at the time?

MM: It went directly to Germany but it was also aired in some regions of Brazil. It wasn’t until years later that it gained wider recognition because of the internet.

JA: Because Seu Jorge showed me the documentary 4 years ago, and I said, “Who are these people? I need to find these people. These are my people. And then 4 years later I am on a plane flying with these same people from Rio to Bahia for their reunion.”

MM: (heartfelt laughter, shakes my hand)

JA: It’s very special for me. Is there anything else that you would like to say?

MM: The intensity of NB and the story we have together comes from living together and our love of music.

JA: And all of their children are amazing people as well and all very talented musicians and artists. 

MM: Yes – All of the NB children are very talented musicians and creative people.

 

JA: Did your kids ever rebel against you when they were teenagers?

MM: No because they were free to do whatever. We were all friends. My son Davi went on the road with me.

 

JA: What’s it like for you to be playing again now with all of the other Novos Baianos?

MM: It’s fantastic. With every show we play, it gets even better, getting closer and closer to the NB vibe.  Now it’s beginning to groove.

 

JA: Do you think you guys will do more shows?

MM: There has to be because there is a lot of demand for it. What really makes me tick is making new music.

Tom Zé Finally Meets Joey!

Tom Zé Finally Meets Joey!

Remembering the rotary dial wall phone in my family’s kitchen during my childhood, I would’ve never believed at the time that we would someday all have push buttons, call waiting, answering machines, voice mail (that we never listen to!), smartphones (i.e. personal pocket computers), internet, texting, video chat, etc., etc., etc.

We live in a technological age that brings miracles into our everyday lives and sometimes it’s easy to forget this. 

I can really credit the internet in how I became involved with Tom Zé, made a musical collaboration, and was finally able to meet him face to face. Without this invention, the odds would’ve been slim to none.

As you know from reading my past blog post “Tom Zé Records Ska With Joey”, I was able to record his voice from his home in São Paulo, Brazil, and add the other various band members by remote from Los Angeles and Rio De Janeiro (another miracle of the internet age).

This combined with email and social media connections with his musical director Daniel Maia made our collaboration a reality.

Funny thing though, throughout all this time of knowing Tom Zé via email, we never actually met face to face until this week, during an interview we did for Dublab via Zoom. 

To listen to Tom Zé speak is to listen to a great genius take you on a journey of deep intellectual metaphors combined with clever wordplay and a fascinating wit.

When asked about our collaboration, I could feel his love pouring through my computer screen as he responded, telling me with great enthusiasm how much he looks forward to us creating more music in the future. 

This was such a deeply personal moment for me, to feel the confirmation of his true friendship towards me, and the honour of being treated as a peer by such a unique musical genius.

What had been slated as a half-hour interview turned out to be over an hour and a half due to his great enthusiasm and eagerness to tell us more and more of his personal stories.

The video interview was conducted in Portuguese and will be subtitled in English through the folks at Dublab. I’ll be sure to create a blog post and email about this when it’s made available in the next few weeks.

If you’re not yet familiar with Dublab, I suggest you take a look at what they do. You’ll discover endless amounts of amazing music from an array of DJs who are great specialists in their respective musical fields.

I can’t wait to give you the next installation!

AND – For All You Record Lovers & Collectors, I’m planning on releasing a high-quality vinyl 45 of our new songs in the near future as a Private Limited Edition Pressing.

Join The Wait List Here!

Ciao For Now & See You On The Flip Side,

Joey

Tom Zé Records Ska With Joey

Tom Zé Records Ska With Joey

(photo: Liz Luppi)

In my last blog post titled When I Found Tom Zé… 

I recounted how I had found his music, connecting the dots between Novos Baianos, João Gilberto, David Byrne, and the Dada Movement.

While writing my Wax Poetics article about Novos Baianos, I had the great fortune of connecting with Tom Zé for an email interview, leading to a long-distance pen-pal friendship and our recent musical collaboration.

 

The Nanny

 

I have to confess that although I had heard of Tom Zé for years, I was late to the party only actually hearing his music in 2016 (I have no idea how none of my music collector friends ever showed him to me before).

During one of my trips to Rio De Janeiro I happened upon a single of his from 1972 called A Babá (Portuguese for The Nanny). I figured it was time for me to finally check out Tom Zé, so I put it in my pile at the used record shop and continued forking through the bins.

Luckily, my friends who were hosting me had a turntable and I began dropping the needle on all my new finds as soon as I got back to their apartment.

 

When I got to A Babá, sparks started flying through my brain as the spooky vibe of this song popped out from the grooves. I played it again. And again. And again.

 

Dancing around the room, my first thought was, “This would make a killer Ska remake!”. 

There was something so similar in its tempo, melody, and chord changes that was a no-brainer for Ska; also as a Dub Reggae version.

I imagined a Skatalites or Prince Buster version of this.

One of the bigger payoffs though was finding the lyrics online and plugging them into Google Translate. They were prophetic in describing the current state of the world in our new century.

For Example:

“Who is making nightmares in the head of the century?

Who is passing dynamite in the head of the century?

Who is now making so much fear in the head of the century?”

 

Thus began my new musical obsession. I raced back to the record shop to grab the four Tom Zé reissue albums that I’d seen in their “new releases” section.

1972 single “compacto” record of A Babá

Flash forward to 2019, still hearing that imaginary Ska version playing in my head, I sent Tom Zé an email, pitching the idea for a remake with my musicians, emphasizing the relevance of the lyrics during the deep political challenges that Brazil is currently facing.

“Can you give an example of what Ska music is?” was his reply.

I got right to work, sending him some YouTube links of Skatalites, early Wailers, and a short historical context of Ska’s Jamaican origins. 

With fingers crossed I pushed Send, holding positive expectations.

 

Much to my joy, he responded with great enthusiasm, really loving the idea of using my musicians to breathe new life into his song.

 

BUT, this recording didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of patience and faith on my part.

Since Tom Zé is constantly busy with other projects and obligations, it took almost three months to finally receive his vocal track.

Daniel Maia (Tom Zé’s guitarist and musical director) was a key figure in facilitating this and I’m deeply grateful for his help. 

We’d had a Facebook friendship for quite some time and he really had my back in making this a reality, recording the basic guitar and lead vocal part in Tom’s home in São Paulo.

 

You can’t imagine how magical it was when I first downloaded the email files and heard Tom Zé’s solo vocal part for A Babá popping from my laptop. It was truly one of those  “power of the imagination” moments for me. Bigtime.

 

Through the magic of the internet and home recording, I was able to gather together all the best musicians to make this into a full band performance with everyone recording their respective parts from home. We ended up making two different renditions – one in the Traditional Ska treatment and the other in a deep Dub Reggae version. 

The “Dream Team” came together with long time friends Oliver Charles (drums- Ben Harper Band), Roger Rivas (organ/piano- The Aggrolites), Artie Webb (flute – Tito Puente),  Marlon Sette (trombone – Jorge Ben Band), and special background vocals by Kassin, his wife Chiara Banfi, and Dadi Carvalho (bassist of Novos Baianos). I added my bass and guitar parts and sent it to São Paulo to be mixed by master engineer Victor Rice.

The result far exceeded my expectations and now, a year after receiving Tom Zé’s voice track, it’s officially released through Avocaudio and available on all the major listening platforms.

I highly encourage you to go to Avocaudio and make the purchase of $2.00 for both versions of the song. 100% of this goes to Tom Zé in gratitude for his participation. During these times of Covid combined with Brazil’s current economic crises, your purchase will be deeply appreciated.

AND – For All You Record Lovers & Collectors, I’m planning on releasing a high-quality vinyl 45 of these songs in the near future as a Private Limited Edition Pressing.

Join The Wait List Here!

Ciao For Now & See You On The Flipside

~Joey

When I Found Tom Zé…

When I Found Tom Zé…

My first time hearing Tom Zé’s music was like finding a long-lost chamber full of hidden surrealist paintings by an intergalactic master.

Even though I didn’t understand the language, it was truly mind-blowing. Each musical piece is incomparable in its construction, complexity, and forward-thinking originality.

Understanding the Portuguese language and Tom Zé’s wordplay is really the bigger picture though. This became part of my personal quest in studying Portuguese and delving into the double entendres of his social commentary. Little did I know when I began plugging his lyrics into Google Translate that I was opening up a Pandora’s Box of sorts.

I knew that I had to connect with him no matter what and it felt like a small miracle that we both occupy the same planet at the same time. My vision of a musical collaboration preoccupied my daily thoughts for years as I continued my attempt to “deconstruct” Tom Zé.

Even without understanding the lyrics, his playful nature shines through in the way he expresses himself through his voice. The musical element serves more like a soundscape bedding for each story he tells, always with rhythmical surprises and a sense of smartassery; just as you think you’ve “figured it out” he hits you with something else that messes with your head all over again.

Concrete Poetry & the Dada Movement are also big elements in his music.

“Who is making nightmares in the head of the century?

Who is passing dynamite in the head of the century?

Who is now making so much fear in the head of the century?”

(from his 1972 song A Babá

(1972 release Se O Caso É Chorar containing the track “A Babá)

(1972 release Se O Caso É Chorar containing the track “A Babá)

Released during the height of Brazil’s military dictatorship 50 years ago, the above lyrics still hold such deep prevalence and seem somewhat prophetic in the context of our current times.

 

Another “aha moment” was discovering that Zé was highly influenced by the irreverent humor of Brazilian comedian/singer/writer Juca Chavez.

Juca Chaves

One by one, the pieces began falling into place. 

Tom Zé had been a student at the Bahia Music Seminary during the early sixties, studying cello, composition, musical analysis, instrumentation, supplementary piano, counterpoint, etc. 

He was also very close with one of my other heroes, João Gilberto as well as  Novos Baianos’ lyricist Luiz Galvão. The three friends hailed from Jauzeiro, Bahia originally, and stayed connected through their involvement and mentorship of Novos Baianos, as chronicled in my last two blog posts  João  Gilberto, Novos Baianos & Me and Tom Zé Lit The Fire Of Novos Baianos.

Novos Baianos

(Novos Baianos)

We have David Byrne to thank for bringing Tom Zé to the attention of the world during the early ‘90s. Thank You, David.

Because of how severely the artists of the Tropicalia movement  were targeted and bullied by the Military dictatorship in the ’70s, Zé decided to stay out of the spotlight and really stopped making records for over a decade (with the exception of one release in 1984.)

 

David Byrne had discovered the music of Tom Zé quite accidentally while record hunting in Brazil and immediately recognized the true genius of this profound artist when he made it back to New York and put the record on the turntable.

 

Consequently, Byrne sought him out and rejuvenated his career with Best Of compilation CDs, new album productions, world tours, and a couple of subsequent documentaries.

Tom Zé with David Byrne

(Tom Zé with David Byrne)

In recent years I developed an internet friendship with Tom when I wrote an article for Wax Poetics Magazine that was centered around Novos Baianos. He kindly answered some key questions about his involvement with the group and we stayed in touch, leading to something quite extraordinary which I’ll tell you all about in my next post. 

Ciao For Now & See You On The Flip Side,

~Joey