“Jazz is freedom. You think about that.” – Thelonious Monk

How many lockdown weird habits did you acquire so far? Now don´t be shy, we are all together in this pandemic crazy cruise and it is absolutely fine to find a chill-down activity. My thing is to re-watch cartoons, mainly The Simpsons. Name an episode, any season and I´ve seen it at least twice. To be totally honest with you, the show has been my comfort content for quite a while (check out season 15, episode 22 and find out how I got inspiration for the name of this blog), but since the pandemic started it got way worse, proportionally to my need of being comforted. Before you think I could have found a less silly way of being comforted, let me say that the references on the show already led me to many interesting discoveries, such as the oeuvre of Edgar A. Poe, whose poem The Raven was the basis for my song Nevermore and, lately, the 1967 British television series The Prisoner.

The Orwellian, avant-guarde, psychedelic social critic saga of former secret agent Number Six (“I´m not a number! I´m a man!”), brilliantly interpreted by Patrick McGoohan trapped in an idyllic, yet in many aspects creepy place known as The Village comes as a reference in the sixth episode of The Simpsons’ twelfth season. I could not understand the many hints to the series at first, but after a little research… boom! I got totally hooked on it. I watched all the episodes, read the critics on them, saw the interviews with cast members about the many behind-the-scene stories, learned about Portmeirion and the Six of One appreciation society and, most of all, I enjoyed the music of the show. The irresistible mixture goes from classical music to Carmen Miranda, from spirituals to The Beatles. And jazz. A lot of jazz. 1960´s jazz combined many elements from Africa and Latin America, so expect congas and a very intense mood, which fits quite well the tense plot.

The inspired soundtrack alone could be the reason for my enchantment, not to mention that many issues addressed in the series, such as living under the constant surveillance of cameras and the limits of freedom are more relevant than ever, but I believe that the main element that made me fall in love with The Prisoner was empathy. Being one of the “happy few” still strictly following the hashtag #stayhome, I immediately related to the anger and confusion of the protagonist and his urge to get out, although lockdown in the Village sounds like a super premium triple upgrade to me right now.

Having a home is a huge privilege and I am sincerely grateful for mine, so do not consider this a complaint. I am just pointing out that sometimes, as the main tune in the last episode of The Prisoner says, all you need is love. Love is all you need.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Life on Mars? is a 1971 song by David Bowie and I could not help remembering its verse “Oh man, look at those cavemen go”, as I watched the Perseverance rover landing on the Red Planet. It is amazing what an increased brain size (even if it consumes about twenty percent of the body’s energy) and a opposable finger in the palm can do for a species! Come on, don´t you feel a little bit prouder to be part of the human being club, when you see the achievements of knowledge? I cried my eyes out during the live broadcast!

It was deeply moving to see the gender and age (although there´s still room for racial) diversity of the team at NASA and their true commitment to the mission. Talking from my own experience as a singer/songwriter and as a researcher, I know that passion is a key element to both art and science, together with what I call a contract with the human kind. The contract goes far beyond the simple awareness of being part of humanity, let´s say, accidentally by birth, but also the further step in the direction of actively contributing to its legacy. Think about songs, movies, photos, smartphones, glasses, wheelchairs… you got the idea.

I am afraid and ashamed to say that the pandemic made me have serious doubts about that contract. People having parties and going to crowded beaches, refusing to wear a mask or sabotaging the immunization process, emergency funds being misused, the list is long and I am only giving examples of what happens in my own country. How to keep that contract in such a context? How not to become profoundly disappointed with human beings? How to avoid perpetual bitterness? How not to give up? I believe Perseverance is the answer.

Oh man, look at those cavemen go.

Be seeing you!

G.F.


Karma Chameleon is one of the hits of the 1980´s UK new wave band Culture Club. Bandleader Boy George once said in an interview it was “about the terrible fear of alienation that people have, the fear of standing up for one thing. (…) Basically, if you aren’t true, if you don’t act like you feel, then you get Karma-justice, that’s nature’s way of paying you back.”

The song came to my mind last week, when dear musician friend S. asked: “What is it, that makes you so passionate about Jazz?”. Good one, don´t you think? The kind of question that demands some time of reflection. My answer was: “It makes me feel at home”. I thought it was quite a clever one, somehow enigmatic, sincere without being obvious, but then I got greedy and added: “And a bit of Karma, as well.” Do you know the saying: There is no greater disaster than greed?

S. asked me to elaborate. Karma, jazz, home. Each one of these words represent a complex concept, but first of all, I shall clarify that I meant Karma not as fate, but rather as destiny, your mission, you know, the one thing that you got to do in order ‘to be true’. So far, so good? Great! Now read the title of the post again and I will explain the ‘feeling at home’ part.

Chances are you´ve recognized the first original verse of ‘Desafinado’ (Off Key), by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça, worldly famous in the voice of João Gilberto. The lyrics begin with: ‘If you say my singing is off keymy love…’, a sentence that resonates to most comments to my singing style made during my childhood and teenage years. Unfortunately, I did not know this tune so well by then and therefore lost the opportunity of replying using another verse of it: ‘Isso é Bossa Nova, isso é muito natural’ (this is Bossa Nova, naturally).

I do remember quite well though, saying to playmates who claimed I was always “changing the songs” and “singing them wrong” that there was no point at all in simply imitating the singers. How old was I? Six, maybe seven. A little jazzy soul trying to explain that it don´t mean a thing, if you ain´t got that swing. Did they get me? Nope. Nor did many musicians who crossed my way during my learning years.

Sometimes it takes a while to find your way home but, once there, it all makes sense.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Hey, there! How is your February going so far? Weird? It could be worse, trust me.

If you ever been to or lived in Rio de Janeiro you know that February is deeply related to Carnaval, which is deeply related to dancing and singing in the streets, which is deeply related to being happy. Let me remind you that not even World War II had the power to interrupt the popular tradition. The perspective of a February without Carnaval is for me one of the most eloquent signs that things are far from being back on track. Since we have been dealing with the expression “new normal” for quite a while now, I would like to propose a reflection on what is “normal” to you.

As far as I remember, l have been called weird by family members. The reasons would vary: tastes, looks, opinions. Weird is my old normal, so to speak. One of the most frequently given reasons was the way I move my hands. Like Italians, Brazilians also speak with their hands, but apparently my gestures are too big, too wide, too much even for Latin standards. Of course I hated the comments and felt a bit ashamed for not fitting in, until I understood what was so peculiar about my gestures after all: they were perfect to fill the stage. No wonder they felt misplaced in mundane, domestic situations! Now try them during a performance and they seem meaningful and unique. In other words: weird in a nice way.

Changing the approach to things can be a very interesting, sometimes also very painful, but always rewarding exercise. Does it prevent you from still being called a weirdo? No. Do I gently smile each time I hear it? Yes, noblesse oblige, but let us be honest: who needs normal, when you can have grand?

Here is a practical example, so that you can make your own opinion about my stage gestures (feel free to subscribe to the channel!) https://youtu.be/tCfYWRK5VE4

Be seeing you!

G. F.