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Vasco Debritto

Vasco Debritto:

A Brazilian

in the Land of the Rising Sun

Egídio Leitão



Born in the state of São Paulo, Vasco Debritto is a Brazilian artist now living in Tokyo, Japan, where he keeps a very busy schedule. Debritto started his musical career at an early age, but it was not until 1978 that he had his first professional appearance as a singer and songwriter at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro. After doing the college circuit and television programs, Debritto released his first album, Um Dia a Coisa Muda, in 1981, and things did change -- for the better, of course. Among the special guest stars in that release, Debritto featured Maurício Maestro, Jaime Alem, Alberto Rosenblit and others. From that point on, his career did not stop. He performed with Antonio Adolfo, Maurício Tapajós, Boca Livre, Paulinho Nogueira and several other big names in Brazilian music. In 1984, he traveled to Japan for the first time, where he stayed six months. This visit to Japan was only the beginning of a long love affair that would get stronger in a near future. After several shows in venues that specialized in Brazilian music, Debritto also toured Europe. From 1991 to 1993, he made France his home, but soon he returned to Tokyo. His performances at the Blues Alley Japan, Sabbath Tokyo, Key Note and other similar clubs eventually led him to release his 1999 CD Visions. The album was well received by the critics and public in general and was nominated for the Golden Album in Brazilian Music in Japan, in the same category as Caetano Veloso and Milton Nascimento that year. In 2001, Debritto went back to the studio to work on his new project, the album Praia dos Corais. The album was an incredible project full of heavy names from the Brazilian and world jazz scene, including Ron Carter, Romero Lubambo, Marcelo Mariano, Robertinho Silva and others. After the album was released in Japan and Germany, Praia dos Corais was released in Brazil in December 2002, followed by several live performances in Rio de Janeiro. In the middle of all this activity, and between Tokyo and Rio, Debritto took a few minutes off to chat about his work.



Vasco Ron Romero

EL: What was it like to leave Brazil?

VD: Well, I've been away for over 10 years. In reality, that time was divided into two distinct phases. The first went from 1984 to 1990, when I came Japan for the first time. During that time, I'd only stay six months there and six months in Brazil. That was all the time I was granted for each visit. You know, all the bureaucracy... The second phase was from 1993 to the present, when I finally got permission to remain in the country.

EL: Why did you pick Japan?

VD: I'd like to say that it was not a voluntary decision, something I worked on. A musician friend of mine who used to work in Japan gave me some ideas and directions to check with the Japanese Embassy about the possibility of this exchange. This friend said that my musical style fit the Japanese market very well, and since the situation in Brazil was getting worse for musicians making live music, I decided to face this adventure. I've been here since then.

EL: What is it like to make Brazilian music in Japan? Are audiences very demanding?

VD: As I said previously, I used to stay here for about six months. I'd work at night performing at houses that featured Brazilian music, some restaurants, playing Bossa Nova. You know, a stool, the acoustic guitar, "The Girl from Ipanema," and in between one song and another, I'd perform one of my own compositions. The Japanese public seems to be very curious about our culture and they value Brazilian things a lot. Undoubtedly, some Japanese people have a lot of interest and know our culture, too. There is a strong relationship between Brazil and Japan, as you know, since the time of the large Japanese immigration to Brazil at the beginning of last century. Coincidentally, my first stop here was in the city of Kobe, the same city from where many Japanese left to go to Brazil. Kobe is a port and sister city of Rio de Janeiro.


EL: Which Brazilian artists would you say have in one way or another influenced your artistic formation?

VD: You see, I heard a lot of Brazilian music in all my childhood. My grandmother had music room in her home, and every afternoon I'd go play there and created these fictitious radio programs in which I interviewed all the important stars at that time. I'd record the interviews in one of those large reel to reel tape decks.

Vasco on hammock

The most important artists, I'd have to include Dorival Caymmi, the music of Noel Rosa, the guitar of Paulinho Nogueira, Canhoto and Baden Powell and all those music festivals, Jobim and Chico Buarque. I cannot forget, of course, the poetry of Drummond and Bandeira and the "little poet" Vinícius. The list is as long as our music is rich. I have to apologize for any omissions, of course. I could not possibly recall all names, but they all occupy a large portion in my heart.

EL: And what about future projects, what can you say?

VD: I have two new projects I've been working on at the moment. One of those projects came up after meeting with several Japanese producers. They would like to produce an album and have asked me to perform and arrange songs not widely known from well-known composers. It's a very roots type of album that is keeping me very excited, but the budget has not been approved yet. The other project is my new album with original songs, this with an approved budget and scheduled to be released in mid-2003. I'm finishing the new songs and arrangements. I'd like to explore more of the versatility and fast pace of Brazilian music. I can't quite disclose the full details because sometimes the ideas and concepts change when I'm already in the studio.




Vasco Debritto
Koala Records KL-0002 (1999)
Time: 35'20"

Click to enlarge cover

Stars, air, blue, sea, love -- that is how Vasco Debritto's kaleidoscope begins in Visions. With a daring gesture, Debritto opens the CD with heavy synthesizers. Even though that is a bit dissonant with the rest of this acoustic CD, the synthesizers somehow fit the theme of this title track. The initial impact transforms into a ballad where Paulo Cesar Gomes's piano along with ANdy Wulf's soprano sax soften the introductory instrumentation. From that point on, we can hear and experience a different Vasco Debritto. With strong Caribbean flavor, "Águas" is a lighter tune. The infectious rhythm and Peter Saint Ledger's brass arrangement are the key that make Debritto's lyrics even more beautiful. This song is an example of Debritto's affinity with nature in his lyrics. Nature plays an important role in his verses, and we'll hear more about that in other tunes. His lyrics move and play with our emotions and tie us to nature. Pain and regrets are cleansed and taken down stream where all sadness disappears, says the lyrics in "Águas." The next track, the beautiful waltz "A Bailarina," the listeners enter a world of fantasy where angels and children dance happily. Peter Saint Ledger's arrangement is one of the most beautiful moments in Visions. The right balance between strings and flute gives the songs a light an breathtaking sound. The ballerina stage comes to life. With "Já Passa da Hora," the introduction will definitely make you draw a parallel between Vasco Debritto and Tom Jobim. The similarity is remarkable without being banal. The song is in fact a tribute to some of Jobim's great tunes. The lyrics mention "Amor em Paz," "Brigas, Nunca Mais" and more directly take us to "Estrada do Sol":

Aquelas bobagens,
As brigas de amor
Me dê sua mão,
Me faz um favor
Escuta a canção que fala
Da estrada do sol.
That nonsense,
Love fights
Give me your hand,
Do me a favor
Listen to that song about
The Sun path.

Voice, arrangement and harmonies unite in a theme about love to be regained. Debritto shows his many sides here. Besides singer and songwriter, he also has a great guitar solo in this track. We'll hear more of his guitar artistry throughout the CD. Following this track, we hear a tribute to Rio de Janeiro. The words echo someone's feelings of being far from and missing the Marvelous City, as Rio is known in Brazil. Besides the natural beauty, the composer misses the sea, the open spaces, the Carioca (Rio native) way of walking and, of course, the woman with suntanned body. "Rio de Janeiros" is a nice bossa and one of these tunes that embellish the beauty of Rio de Janeiro. With "Pressentimento," the live samba rhythm tries to disguise the sadness someone feels because of the end of a love affair. To be happy, the way out is to dance a samba and "let imagination take wings." If the purity of the waltz "A Bailarina" was surprising at first, it was merely the prologue for "Longe Daqui." Think of this song as the twin sister for Tom Jobim's "Lígia." The music grows from a simple arrangement of piano, bass and drums. Beautiful! Paulo Cesar Gomes is a master on piano, Kase Toro is moving on bass and Dennis Bradford gives the right beat on drums. Slowly, violins bring a certain melancholy feeling and sensuality to this composition. There is an inevitable sadness to these Quixotic verses mixing happiness and fantasy:

Me faz viajar
Mais longe que eu podia sonhar
Por onde eu nem ousava pisar
Além dos caminhos,
Além dos moinhos.
Make me travel
Farther than what I could dream
Where I didn't dare to set foot
Beyond the paths,
Beyond the windmills.

To wrap things up, Peter Saint Ledger (piano) does an instrumental solo on "Somewhere in Tokyo." However, before that, Debritto once again gives us the samba "Meu Papel" followed by a tranquil duet with Romero Lubambo in "Do Amor," where love takes center stage one more time.


Track listing (all songs by Vasco Debritto)
    1. Visions
    2. Águas
    3. A Bailarina
    4. Já Passa da Hora
    5. Rio de Janeiros
    6. Pressentimento
    7. Longe Daqui
    8. Meu Papel
    9. Do Amor
    10. Somewhere in Tokyo



Vasco Debritto
Praia dos Corais
Polystar PJL MTCW-1007 (2001)
Time: 37'44"

Praia dos Corais
Click to enlarge cover

Vasco Debritto's most recent release, Praia dos Corais, is a very polished album from beginning to end. The same quality in presentation seen in VIsions is maintained and the arrangements are better and more refined. By looking at the liner notes, one immediately has a general idea of this beautiful CD. The album is dedicated to Britto's wife and four of the most important songwriters in Brazilian music: Noel Rosa, Dorival Caymmi, Chico Buarque and Antonio Carlos Jobim. In addition to those names, a number of stellar performers also appear in this album, such as Romero Lubambo, Nilson Matta, Maurício Maestro, Marcelo Mariano, Ron Carter, Paulo Braga and Robertinho Silva. Vasco Debritto wrote and arranged all songs, except for the lovely vocal arrangement in "Pindorama," which was done by Maurício Maestro.

Choosing "Pindorama" to open Praia dos Corais was a wise decision. The vocal harmonies by Leticia Carvalho, Sanny Alves and Solange convey a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere that captivate the listener. The lightness of the arrangement as a toada is like a lazy breeze by the sea shore. Here Debritto talks about "sea whispers" and a tropical forest full of delicacies that cover both fruits and minerals under a "blue, crystal-like" sky. The next track, "Por um Fio," is a lively forró with a bouncing flute solo by Roberto Stepheson throughout the whole arrangement. The lyrics jokingly tell us about what Brazilians take for granted:

A certeza que Deus é um cara bem brasileiro,
Que nasceu em Belém, o Belém lá do norte, Belém do Pará.
The certainty that God is a true Brazilian,
Who was born in Bethlehem, the one up in the north, Bethlehem, the capital of Pará.

Moving into a relaxed mode, Debritto performs the slow samba "Just Look at Me." The samba precedes the bolero "Navegante." Once again, Debritto comes back to the sea and safe harbor that are present in several of his compositions. Here his love is a ship that sails freely. With only a trio made up of Romero Lubambo's guitar, Ron Carter's bass and Paulo Braga's percussion, "Navegante" is one of the best moments in the album. Debritto's voice has a certain sad tone as he sings his lyrics. To lift up his spirits, "Sapateou" comes along. Rich with its swing and brass accompaniment, this samba moves the whole body. With a master's touch, we move to a slower samba in "Fiz um Samba," very full of bossa and quietness. With two thirds of Trio da Paz - Romero Lubambo's guitar and Nilson Matta's bass -- Paulo Braga's drum and percussion complete the instrumentation. The streetwise guy in the song tries just about anything he can in order to get his beloved woman to understand how much he loves her, but it's all in vain. All in all, it's a great song, great arrangement and rendition!

One of the qualities in Vasco Debritto's music is its versatility. He composes toada, samba and bolero and yet he's comfortable doing the blues. That is precisely the case of the duet in "Invenção," with Leticia Carvalho singing with Debritto about dreams (the inventions in the song) of happiness. It's a utopian world with no danger, no beggars, no fear. All of this serves as the background for the grand finale of this release, the title track, "Praia dos Corais." This song closes the album majestically. Robertinho Silva's berimbau, Leticia Carvalho, Sanny Alves and Solange's vocal and Debritto's arrangement give this track a Jobim aura. The lyrics talk about the sea, the fish, the breeze and the reef. Morning rises and life begins. The circle announced in "Pindorama" is complete.


Track listing (all songs by Vasco Debritto)
    1. Pindorama
    2. Por um Fio
    3. Just Look at Me
    4. Navegante
    5. Sapateou
    6. Fiz um Samba
    7. Invenção
    8. Já Passa das Duas
    9. Ligando para o Bar
    10. Praia dos Corais (Prologue)
    11. Praia dos Corais


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