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Guitarist Bernie Baker is a featured artist with the band “Brazilectro,” performing at 7 p.m. Sunday at Old City Hall as part of the Dave Short’s Jazz at Old City Hall series. I spoke to Bernie recently about his connection with Brazilian bossa nova music, and this is what he had to say:
Bernie, you have always been one of my favorite jazz guitarists and you play all styles of jazz, but somehow you really seem to have a special relationship with bossa nova music. Why is that?
Bossa nova is uniquely different from other forms of jazz, such as bebop, swing and fusion. The songs have beautiful melodies that seem to literally float over the rhythms, and the rhythms themselves are complex with unusual chords and voicings. As a guitarist, I have a lot of freedom with what I play, and am not locked into any repetitious lines, but can vary things constantly. My perspective on the music is that of a “non-Brazilian” so I approach it quite differently than if I was from Brazil and had this music as part of my culture. However, bossa nova was so popular when I was younger that a somewhat Brazilian/American form of it grew out of it.
Do you remember when you first heard bossa nova?
Not only when, but where and how! Some time in the 60s when I got my license, I drove my mother to the market in our blue and white ’56 Ford Victoria. While she shopped I listened to a local Nashville AM radio station. They played a Stan Getz tune, “The Girl From Ipanema,” and I was riveted. All I could think about was when I could hear it again.
Was it soon afterward that you started playing bossa nova?
Not only soon, it was immediate. I began learning all of the songs and played them constantly. When I played music in the service, bossa nova and samba were very popular. We would be asked to play the classics at every occasion.
Some of the tunes are sung in English and some in Portuguese. Do you have a preference?
It depends on the tune and the lyrics. Just like opera, sometimes you are better off not understanding the words, which may be quite superficial and trite, and distract you from the beauty of the music. The Portuguese language is so smooth and fluid that the voice itself can sound like a musical instrument. I really enjoy the way Noel (Brazilectro vocalist Noel Ross) captures the bossa nova feeling in her vocals whether in Portuguese or in English.
What: Dave’s Short’s Jazz Series Presents: Brazilectro!
When: Sunday, October 3, 7 p.m.
Where: Shasta County Arts Council, Old City Hall, 1313 Market Street, Redding.
Tickets: $10, available at Bernie’s Guitar, 3086 Bechelli Lane, Redding. Student admission is free.
Dave Short, M.D., is a Redding family physician. He has been active in the jazz scene since moving back home to Redding in 1980. He loves to play the tenor sax, and has recorded three albums with the band Sax Therapy. His favorite project is “Dave Short’s Jazz at Old City Hall,” a monthly concert series that features the finest north state jazz musicians. to learn more about Dave Short’s Jazz at Old City Hall, visit daveshortjazz.com