When Novos Baianos Helped Me Speak Portuguese

When Novos Baianos Helped Me Speak Portuguese

Picking up where I left off in my last blog post, Finding Seu Jorge.

Sometime around 3:00 a.m., after a long night of making music with Seu Jorge in his Silver Lake home, he started showing me all kinds of YouTube music videos that I’d never seen before; really incredible stuff.

It was getting super late/early at this point and time to leave when he clicked on “just one more” and this one kept me captivated for another 45 minutes.

This video was like nothing else I’d ever seen before. I thought, “Who were these fascinating mystical hippies playing Rock-infused Samba?” 

I was completely enraptured and knew that these were my people and that I must somehow find them. 

It was Novos Baianos Futebol Clube documentary (1973).

Serendipitously, four years later, I found myself on a plane to Bahia from Rio, traveling with the band to witness their first reunion show since 1997.

These two shows were not a mere “nostalgia review” for baby boomers of that generation by any stretch of the imagination. Conversely, the outdoor amphitheater was by and large filled with thousands of young people under the age of thirty, who sang along with every lyric to every song. 

It was a continuation of the strong youth movement that Novos Baianos had generated some 45 years beforehand and a huge testimony as to the staying power and pertinence of their music. In a similar way that the Grateful Dead developed a decades-long following of counter culture, Novos Baianos has done the same (sans the Avant-Garde/Space improv aspect).

The turn of events that brought me into their fold is an interesting one, somewhat cosmic and would-be “random” to most people.

As I mentioned earlier (in my blog installation Finding The Girl From Ipanema), I had been brought to Rio in 2013 as part of a songwriting team for a World Cup song that Coca-Cola was sponsoring, produced by Mario C.

Over the years, I had met a lot of Brazilian musicians & producers through Mario. People frequently came to L.A. to work with him on projects, so when I finally arrived in Rio, it was like I already had a built-in group of friends.

After my week-long stint for Coke, I stayed on another week, hosted by my friend Kassin, one of Brazil’s top producers and musical masterminds.

At that time he was partnered up with another very highly regarded producer, Berna Ceppas.

One afternoon at their studio, I helped their audio engineer Daniel mix a big band song for a film they were working on.  

The following day at Kassin’s place I was scrolling YouTube, looking at Elza Soares videos, and happened upon an insanely cool TV performance from the ’80s of her in a duet with a performer simply listed as “Baby.

The two of these women just blew my mind apart with their version of “Brasileirinho.

It’s so interesting to note the huge amount of big stars Brazil has that we rarely (if ever) get exposed to.

I asked Kassin, “Who’s this ‘Baby’ person?”

He explained that Baby had been in a band in the ’70s called Novos Baianos and that Daniel (the engineer who I had worked with the day before) is the son of Dadi, the Novos Baianos bass player.

I didn’t look into it any further for whatever reasons, until after Seu Jorge happened to show me the documentary.

About a year and a half later, I found myself performing a week-long engagement with Jorge at the Blue Note in New York.

It was in the backstage area after one of those performances when I turned around and found myself staring face to face with Baby (currently known as Baby Do Brasil).

Taken by surprise, I just blurted, “Baby Do Brasil! What are you doing here?!”

“You know who I am?”

“Of course, I love Novos Baianos!”

I really had no idea at the time of just how iconic she is. To me, she’s like the Cher of Brazil and one of their biggest rock stars of the 80s.

Flash forward to 2015, again in Rio, at a Jorge Ben concert where I met Daniel’s father, Dadi Carvalho, who was playing bass in Jorge Ben’s band.

We struck up an immediate friendship and began working together on a musical project.

2016 – Back in Rio once again; after being there a couple days I finally got around to calling Dadi, and as it turned out, he happened to be leaving to go rehearse with Novos Baianos and asked if I wanted to tag along.

This was a “living the dream” moment for me in the synchronicity department, and to add to it, the rehearsal space happened to be only one block away from where I was staying. One Block. 

I walked in to find Baby, who took hold of me and began bringing me around to each member, personally introducing me, telling them about the Seu Jorge show at Blue Note.

The band was reuniting for the first time in 19 years and this was their first and only rehearsal in preparation for their big shows in Bahia that weekend.

They began running through the material and it was as if nothing had changed. They blew my mind playing all the music from Acabou Chorare, their 1972 masterpiece (and one of the most important records in Brazil’s musical history).

During the break, Dadi asked me if I’d like to come to Bahia with them for the shows.  Two days later I found myself at the airport with all of them, soon departing for Bahia.

I had started studying Portuguese three years beforehand but wasn’t yet conversational until Novos Baianos took me under their wing and began helping me out. This was a huge breakthrough for me and really something I hold dear to my heart, inspiring me to go further distance in learning the language.  

Three more visits followed during this time period and several more NB shows.

In 2017 I began writing an article about the band for Wax Poetics Magazine; the first article written in English for a North American audience.

It was a long process that was finally published in March 2020,  with interviews by several members – Paulinho Boca, Moraes Moreira, Luiz Galvão, Dadi, and also Tom Zé who was instrumental in the band’s formation (Tom Zé introduced the band’s two main songwriters to each other in 1967, pre-NB).

(Tom Zé’s debut LP, 1968)


I’m forever grateful for my experiences and friendships with these special people, for all the love and kindness they’ve shown me, and the positive influence that they’ve had on me as a person.

Wanna Hear About The Novos Baianos Backstory?

Stay Tuned For The Next Blog Installation!

Ciao For Now,


Finding Seu Jorge

Finding Seu Jorge

It was the summer of 2009. I had received a call from Mario Caldato Jr. (aka Mario C) asking if I would want to play bass with Seu Jorge for a show at The Hollywood Bowl.

At the time, I had to be reminded of who Seu Jorge is, as he wasn’t quite yet on my radar. Of course; “the guy from The Life Aquatic movie who sings Bowie songs in Portuguese”.

Most people in the U.S. know of Jorge as that character and are still not quite aware of the other aspects of his career. The same went for me but I soon learned that he is so much more than “The Bossa Nova Bowie Guy”.

For months I was in a holding pattern, not knowing if Jorge was actually coming to L.A. for the show or not.

He had concerns about bringing his whole band all the way to L.A. from Brazil for only one show, so Mario C stepped in to help him assemble a core rhythm section that would be accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

I was hired to play electric bass alongside a couple longtime friends – Eric Bobo (Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill) on drums, Mike Boito (from Jump With Joey) on piano, plus Jorge’s musical director Pretinho Da Serrinha on percussion and cavaquinho.

This was a big deal for me, as I had played almost every large (and small) venue in the L.A. area since 1981 with the exception of The Bowl and The Greek Theater. 

The special Brazil themed evening went three consecutive nights featuring the 80 piece Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, two sets by Seu Jorge and Bebel Gilberto, and a finale of carnival samba dancers, batucada drummers, capoeiristas, and fireworks.

The whole thing came together in the blink of an eye for me. 

We (the band) met up with Jorge on Wednesday afternoon to learn 5 songs together in three short hours.

The following afternoon our little group arrived at the Musicians’ Union Local 47 on Vine Street to rehearse the 5 songs with the full orchestra (We only got to play through each song one time apiece).

Friday morning, everyone assembled at The Bowl for a soundcheck and ran through the 5 songs one more time and we hit the stage that evening to an audience of around 17,000 people.

It was an unforgettable event and I felt as if I had to really be on point, especially that first night. The second evening was a bit easier for me and I felt like I reached my personal best with the material, and by night 3 it really felt like we were all playing together like a band.

Hollywood Bowl Backstage 2009 (L-R Pretinho Da Serrinhha, Joey Altruda, Mike Boito, Seu Jorge, Eric Bobo)

This was the first of many musical moments with Jorge, both onstage and off.  A few years after the Bowl show, he moved with his family to Silver Lake, fairly close to where I was living, and we got to spend a lot of time together.

Seu Jorge holds a special place in my life as someone who made me fall in love with music all over again.

Our musical connection and friendship come from a very natural place of love and intuition.

One evening, very late, my partner AmyJo and I sat in his living room watching YouTube videos, when he happened to show me something that changed my life. 

It was an old grainy documentary from 1973 called Novos Baianos Futebol Clube. 

This was like nothing else I’d ever seen before. 

I thought, “Who were these fascinating mystical hippies playing Rock infused Samba?”

I was completely enraptured and knew that these were my people and that I must somehow find them. 

Os Novos Baianos (The New Bahians)  

Are you curious as to what happened next?

Stay Tuned To Find Out!


Ciao For Now, 

~ Joey

Filling Empty Bellies

Filling Empty Bellies

Several years ago I was asked to play a couple tunes for a fundraising event my friend Dinah was putting together at her gallery. It was all local performers coming together, raising money for an organization that shows up at the local park six days a week and feeds people.


Of course I was happy to offer up my services and help however I could. I’ve played plenty of benefits in the past, but this one really got me thinking about things; namely, how can I make positive change and be of service to others more frequently?


For so many years past, I’d harbored this feeling of helplessness as I witnessed so much suffering in the world, yet couldn’t clearly see a way to make an impactful change.


What I really didn’t see for so long is that even the smaller actions help move the needle.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we can all be of help to the human condition, even if it’s something so basic as holding a door open for a stranger in a public place.


That night at the benefit, there were a lot of our local homeless people in attendance, there to speak and give testimonials about the organization and the woman who created it, Corri Buck. I got to meet some of them, hear their stories, and witness the deep love and gratitude they hold for this woman who’s been so profoundly helpful in their lives.


It went beyond food too – It encompassed things like helping people with the proper clothing and preparation for job interviews, applications, supplying public port-o-potties, hand washing stations, phone charging stations – things that most people take for granted.


Corri had created Filling Empty Bellies out of an urgent calling, at a time when her daughter was living on the streets with an addiction problem.


One day, feeling completely powerless to the situation, Corri went into her kitchen and made 8 sandwiches with everything she had available, then drove around the city, handing them out one by one to each homeless person she encountered.


This became a regular thing for Corri, and eventually evolved into a non profit 501c3 which has, to date, given out more than 50,000 meals, and not all the recipients are people living on the streets; sometimes they are families who can’t afford to buy food during rent week when their food stamps have run out, who work full time and still can’t make ends meet.


Some people within the city have criticized Corri, accusing her of being an enabler but I certainly don’t see it that way. Corri is someone who has had the guts and inspiration to actually do something positive for other people who are in immediate need.


I began making contributions after meeting Corri, hearing her story and what an incredible person she is, and that each dollar donated creates a meal for someone.


 This year I felt an urgency to ramp things up, so I created a project to support.


I’m relaunching my 2017 album, “Booze, Babes & Bongos” in High Resolution WAV File download format and donating $5.00 of each sale to Filling Empty Bellies.


My goal in the next 45 days is to sell 200+ albums and provide 1000+ meals.


Personally, this feels like the beginning to me in what I can personally do to help the human condition, and I know that as time goes on, I’ll think of more and more ways to be of greater service.


Be part of positive change by purchasing this album. Your purchase provides five meals for people in need. I thank you for your contribution! 

Click here to  purchase the album.

PS- To sweeten the offer, I will throw in a 2nd bonus “surprise album” when you share the link & tag me (or make a screenshot) on social media.




How I Found The Girl From Ipanema

How I Found The Girl From Ipanema

If you’re wondering how or why I became involved with Brazilian music 

it’s a cosmic turn of events that began when I was only eight years old.

1971 (third grade) – Every week I would accompany my father to the Super A Market in San Gabriel for the weekly grocery shopping. In the check-out aisle stood a rack of discounted records, marked down to only .89 cents per album. They were cheap for a reason – most all of them were stinkers.

My dad would often let me pick something out, knowing that I loved records and listening to music, and it was always a guessing game when it came to making a choice.

 The types of records that took up space in that rack were mainly generic in quality by unknown artists or “fake bands” (studio groups) and albums that were flops. Titles like “Some Call It Oompah”,  “Mexicali Brass Goes South Of The Border”. “Julie Harris in Skyscraper” etc etc. 

But one day something kind of “cool” caught my eye.

It was a colourful album design with groups that looked to be “rock bands”.

(at that age I was all about The Beatles and whatever rock music I could get my hands on). 

It was a soundtrack album for a B movie from 1964 called Get Yourself A College Girl. This record was my introduction to The Animals, The Dave Clark Five, The Standells and more importantly The Jimmy Smith Trio, Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto.


One of the tunes that caught my ear on this album was a version of The Girl From Ipanema, but not the hit version that everyone knows.

This particular version didn’t have João Gilberto in the band. It was a very stripped down sound of only sax, vibraphone (Gary Burton), bass and drums.  My guess is that this had been recorded specifically for its use in the film

For whatever reasons, it caught my ear but I had no context for some years that it was of Brazilian origins or that it had been an international hit nearly a decade beforehand. 

It wasn’t until I was around 13 that I heard the hit version of the tune on the radio.

(The Girl From Ipanema as performed by Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto in Get Yourself A College Girl)

In 1977 João Gilberto had released an album called Amoroso which received a lot of Jazz airplay, especially his rendition of Besame Mucho.

At that time it was an odd thing for a kid to dig Jazz. Most kids were interested in whatever was playing on Top 40 or Rock radio stations.

It was sometime around the end of my 8th grade year that I shifted from rock to predominantly Jazz listening, which wasn’t the easiest choice at that tender age. I endured a lot of shit taking from other kids at the time for my off centered musical preferences.

I was completely captivated by Besame Mucho and the intimacy of João Gilberto’s voice. It was as if he was right there singing personally to me.

This was also my introduction to the song Besame Mucho, which I thought was his composition because of how much he personalized his performance.

It would be years before I would find out that the song itself was an international standard in its own right.

One afternoon, around this same time period, the radio station played The Girl From Ipanema from the Getz/Gilberto album.

I immediately recognized João Gilberto’s voice as he sang the opening Portuguese lyric, followed by Astrud with the English portion. I was knocked out and had to wonder if maybe the two singers with the same last name were somehow related or maybe husband and wife.

I was now on a major quest to find that Getz/Gilberto Album

but it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. Most record stores back then were chain stores found in shopping malls and they carried very little Jazz. I had no idea that I could’ve ordered records through the store either, so it was really catch as catch can for me. 

I did however find an album by Stan Getz & João Gilberto that was more of a recent release (1976)  called The Best Of Two Worlds. It was a reunion album that featured a different female vocalist credited as Heloisa Buarque.

This was an excellent album, one that I eventually wore the grooves out of. (I also found the original Getz/Gilberto LP by the time I was in 9th grade.)

(L-R,Miucha, Stan Getz, João Gilberto)

Heloisa Buarque was not known in the U.S. but in Brazil she was quite a well known singer who was known only by one name – Miucha.

Many years later I would discover that Miucha had been João Gilberto’s partner after his divorce from Astrud. 

Being that the U.S. copies of the reunion album only refer to Heloisa Buarque (not Miucha) in the liner notes, I often wondered if she could be related to the legendary MPB singer Chico Buarque. For years I would  ask anyone who collected Brazilian music,  yet no one ever seemed to know of her.

It was an unsolved mystery to me for 37 years

until my first visit to Rio De Janeiro. 

2013 – I accompanied music producer Mario Caldato Jr. (aka Mario C) to Rio as part of a songwriting team for a World Cup song that Coca Cola was sponsoring.

During my stay I became friends with singer Bebel Gilberto,  whose father happens to be João Gilberto. One evening, very late at night, we sat for hours eating pizza and drinking beer in LeBlon (an upscale beach neighbourhood in Rio).

At some point in the course of our conversation she said, “You know, Chico Buarque is my uncle.”

Of course my reply was, “Do you know of the singer Heloisa Buarque? I’ve always wondered if she was related to Chico Buarque.”

Visibly startled, she asked  “Who did you just say?”

 “Heloisa Buarque. I always wondered if…..”

 “That is my Mother! How do you know her name?!”

Of course she was surprised – nobody in Brazil knew Miucha to be Heloisa Buarque, and here I was, this gringo with a very small knowledge of Brazilian music, mentioning her mother by proper name.

 So, yeah, as it turned out, Heloisa (Miucha) was Chico Buarque’s sister.

She had met João Gilberto in 1965 while she was an art student in Paris.The two had a daughter, Bebel in 1966.

Everything seemed to come full circle for me the next evening as we met up with Miucha for dinner

and ended up making music together at her apartment until the wee hours.

Her voice was clear and so youthful, even at 75 years old. 

At one point she began hounding Bebel to call her father and get him to come over and jam with us. He lived somewhere close by but was a famous recluse. 

 Unfortunately for me, it didn’t come to pass, but I took it as a supreme compliment as João Gilberto had been one of my all time heroes since childhood.

 Miucha’s apartment was filled with beautiful art and many photos of her with people like Antonio Carlos Jobim for example.

( L-R, Joey, Miucha, and Bebel) 

This was another instance in my life where someone popped out of the vinyl of my youth and into my real time life. The woman on that record cover; that voice that kept me company during some of the loneliest moments of my youth.

Some people might call it a coincidence but I believe there are no coincidences in life.

The following year, Bebel came to Los Angeles and hired me to play bass on her CD “Tudo” (produced by Mario C).

2014 With Bebel at Mario C’s studio – Eagle Rock, Ca

Many more visits to Rio would follow for me

and I would eventually discover a somewhat cosmic lineage and connection between João Gilberto, Novos Baianos, Tom Zé (who I have recently collaborated with) and the Tropicália movement.  

 Stay tuned for the next installation of this tale!

Ciao For Now,


Bo Knows

Bo Knows

I want to share a little story… 

about how I manifested some of my musical heroes into my life since childhood…

I’ve always collected records and music since I was around six years old, and it’s so interesting to see how I was influenced by the recordings, both musically and also culturally.  


Somehow along the way, a lot of the people from my record collection seemed to pop out of the vinyl and enter into my life in the here and now. Some of these were brief musical encounters and others were long time associations and multiple projects. The variety of genres and influences were to shape my own original voice in an overarching way.


One such encounter was around 1990 when I had been invited to play rhythm guitar in Bo Diddley’s band for a show at the Santa Barbara County Fair. It was at the height of the Nike TV ad campaign “Bo Knows” which featured the two Bo’s – Bo Diddley and athlete Bo Jackson, so there was a huge resurgence of popularity and awareness for Diddley with tons of screaming fans of all ages.

“This was like a “rock n roll” fantasy moment for me…”

… to be a part of Bo’s band, a man who’s music I had grown up with and who was one of the original architects and enigmas of the genre. He was a gentle giant, and I’ll always remember him handing me his signature square body electric guitar backstage to try out. The thing weighed a ton and the strings sat very high above the fretboard, making it practically impossible for most people to play, but Bo was a big guy and his hands were massive!

Photo: Toledo Blade, from the Article: “Diddley, Elvis was great, but he wasn’t an original”, May 2004

So many of us know and love the music of Bo Diddley, like “Say Man”, “Bo Diddley”, “I’m A Man”, “Who Do You Love”, etc etc, but in later years Bo got away from playing a lot of the music that his fans really wanted to hear him play at his live shows. 

Bo loved “keeping up with the times” and was known for playing loooong rambling funk jams that only had one or two chords in them; songs that should’ve only lasted a few minutes instead of 20 plus. He even made his attempts at rapping by the 80s/90s.

Such was the case when I played with him. We did play some of the hits, but at one point, we had to follow him through one of these tedious , open ended improvs that I just described and it seemed like it would never end!

After about 15 minutes of this, he cued the band to bring the groove down to a whisper, and he began a new verse:

“If you gonna leave baybee, take your dog.

And your ugly cat”

then , after a brief pause,

“Don’t forget the poopah scoopah’


All the band members looked at each other, practically dying from how funny and out of left field this line was.


The audience also ate it right up (of course).

Here's What Bo Sounded Like...

by Joey | (Push Play to Hear!)


We were waiting for what was coming next, and then, once again…


“If you gonna leave baybee, take your dog.

And your ugly cat”

(brief pause)

“Don’t forget the poopah scoopah”


The crowd still ate it up but not as much as the first time. Same with the band.

And, as you can probably guess, once again:


“If you gonna leave baybee, take your dog.

And your ugly cat”

(brief pause)

“Don’t forget the poopah scoopah”


This  continued repeatedly, like when a four year old unintentionally makes a “funny” and  all the grownups laugh, and so they do it again and again and again and again……..


So yeah, it  was all “part of my Rock n Roll fantasy” with Bo Diddley at the  Santa Barbara County Fair in 1990.


I still feel deeply grateful to have had this experience on so many levels.

Bo knew how to keep it real. 


More Stories To Follow!

Ciao For Now,


P.S. Leave a comment below if you liked this story!  And don’t forget the poopah scoopah!