“I would like to play a song for you called ‘The Monster and the Flower,'” Claudio Roditi told his audience on the evening of his April 7 concert at Memorial Chapel. “There is a story why this is called “The Monster and the Flower,” he continued, “but I cannot tell you that story.”
The quartet’s Brazilian harmonies were delicate like a flower, but in the hands of these talented musicians the music could also strongly assert itself, perhaps like a monster. As a performer, Claudio Roditi is known for playing post-bop elements over Brazilian rhythms, all blended in his assured style.
The Claudio Roditi Brazilian Quartet performed bossanova and samba from the Brazilian tradition of jazz. Brazilian trumpeter Claudio Roditi was joined by the U.S.-born pianist Nick Rolfe, Brazilian drummer Mauricio Zottarelli and Brazilian bassist Itaiguara Mariano Brandão. The performance also featured appearances by Colgate Associate Professor of Music Glenn Cashman on saxophone and first-year Andrew Mercier, also on saxophone.
The night began with a take on João Donato’s bossanova “A Rã (The Little Frog).” Roditi explained that Donato wrote this song about his lady lover who he affectionately called his “rã.” However, in their rendition the quartet traded 8s until the piece took on the animalistic feel of a twilit, pond-side chorus of frogs exchanging night-calls. Brandão’s bullfrog of a bass took eight verses, followed by another eight of Rolfe’s piano plinks and so on with the rest of the quartet.
The gentle fragrance of the night deepened with a tender performance of German jazz composer Kurt Weill’s “Speak Low,” a song about love lost “too soon.” “Piccolo Samba” drew out light-hearted vibes from the samba of Carnival, with Roditi playing on a piccolo trumpet. “The Monster and the Flower” was another fun piece that Roditi especially shined on.
Roditi emphasized the American jazz tradition in Brazilian samba with his song “Goodbye Alfie,” dedicated to jazz pianist Johnny Alf who died in March 2010. Johnny Alf was a jazz pianist known for first incorporating some of the modern harmonies of American jazz into samba music, acting as a precursor to bossanova. “Goodbye Alfie” summoned up the gentle command that Alf brought to his bold innovations.
The second act, undimmed by sad reminisces, led early on with the joyful and warm “Felicidad” by Carlos Hobim from the movie Black Orpheus. Roditi spoke admiringly of this film that celebrates the samba music and dance of the black Diaspora in Brazil.
Commenting on this set piece in particular, first-year Chris Guiney said, “It was some of the best jazz I’ve heard. All the performers were just really tight. They took Carlos Jobim, one of the best jazz composers, and did him justice.”
First-year Andrew Mercier and Professor Cashman joined the quartet on “Piccolo Blues.” Mercier was chosen to play with the quartet after the group listened in on sessions of the Colgate Jazz Band earlier that day. Mercier was therefore given a very short time to learn the piece.
The concert closed with the open-ended “Roditi’s Blues.” On this one, virtuoso bassist Itaiguara Mariano Brandão finally was given a good run with an extended solo. After confidently supporting the quartet for the length of the concert, he sauntered out on his own with a deft delivery. In the midst of flowery fragrance, the monster wreaks havoc.