This morning, flush with success on my arrangement of Enrolado, I pull out the fantasia on a theme from a friend that I started before I came down here, and climb out of Brasileiro to tackle finishing it. I’m leaving in a week, and suddenly the pressures of home seem to be upon me. I make some progress and then head downtown in the late afternoon to meet a colleague and a Chilean student for various musical discussions. To the right the Teatro Municipal in the main square. PaulE shows up at the end and we take the metro down to Copacabana and sit in one of those beachfront cafes having a caipirinha and snacking on fried alpim, something I’ve always wanted to do, but couldn’t face all the pestering vendors on my own. To the left, a beach bikini vendor (yes, really) taking a break. We wander a bit farther down the beach, as the wind picks up, and have a mediocre dinner (yes, really– bad food is ubiquitous) and head over to Bip Bip for a roda da samba. This little hole-in-the-wall bar is in every guidebook and has won a cultural landmark plaque as it began hosting rodas da samba in 1968 and everyone famous has played there. I haven’t been for awhile but all is the same– grab a beer from the refrigerator and get your name on the list with the owner, then every time you get another beer wave it at him so he marks it down, and you pay up at the end. I am remembering my first visit here and my amused observations then, that you can find in my first Rio Log from 2007. As we are waiting for the musicians to assemble it starts to rain. We huddle under the awning but soon it becomes a torrential downpour. And neither of us has an umbrella– bad planning. It soon becomes clear this is not going to end soon, so we pay up and leave, dashing between awnings to the street, finally abandoning hope of remaining unsoaked. We finally get a taxi and the driver drops PaulE at his hotel and heads to Urca, and I suddenly realize how serious this is. Stalled taxis are everywhere, we are surf-driving down a street that looks like a river toward Praia Vermelha and I can feel the current beneath my feet. My driver is great, perseveres, and I have no idea how but he gets me to my door, and seems genuinely surprised and pleased at his big tip. Hazard pay. I have a hot shower and snuggle under the blanket as the fury of the storm lashes my window. Such a crazy night.
This morning begins with A. on the piano. She quickly leans how to play while dancing, start the pre-programmed tunes (disco Ode to Joy– ack!), and change keyboard sounds. Her favorite in #98 that she describes as “piu-piu” and sounds like cartoon fireworks. It is a blue-sky day and I am blissfully free, and still have no food in the house, so I wander down to pick up a sandwich and sit on my neighborhood beach, eating “brunch”. To the left Pao de Acucar from a different angle, looking over the refurbished Casino. Then I head to the grocery store to pick up supplies. I am feeling the effects of too many late nights, too many fried snacks so take it slow today, catching up on email, figuring out how to make an mp3 from a Finale music file. PaulE, who has gone to the top of Pao de Acucar today (link to a fun musical video someone made of the trip) for fabulous sunny views of the city, comes over in the evening and we have a healthy dinner at the local Garote da Urca then stroll over to Praia Vermelha so he can see the Chopin statue, and we watch the night fishermen and talk.
Finally, the sun! Fluffy white clouds and blue sky await just outside my window. But I simply enjoy it across my desk this morning as I am in the throes of finishing up and tweaking my new arrangement. I have coffee for breakfast, but precious little else and don’t want to take time to run out to the store, so I munch on crackers and requejao, a runnier version of cream cheese, feeling like an impoverished student. I finish just in time to send the score off to Marcilio to crit before heading downtown, with my friend PaulE who takes a taxi over after his morning adventures in Rio, to meet Fernando. Surprisingly PauloS is also there in the Odeon cafe and another bandolim student I’ve met. I have an espresso and order a salad too– feeling in need of something energizing and something healthy– an odd combination. We chat for a bit until classes call, and then F leads the way to 2 bookstores I have never been to, and a music store, where I find the Milhaud book I have been searching for and a couple of other things. We even stop by the workshop of Rogerio Santos– a luthier recommended by Luciana yesterday– and PaulE tries out the cavaquinhos, while I admire a gorgeous 7-string. The funny photo to the left happened when I was trying to get a picture of the wood grain holding my camera behind the guitar and shooting blindly. Fernando is to the left, and Rogerio is leaning on the pole while PaulE plays. Fernando has to head off to the airport to fly home, but the intrepid PaulE and I catch the show at Trapiche with Marcilio. It’s so good we stay for both sets and so I get home late. But Marcilio’s suggestions for my score await in my mailbox, and I need to extract, edit and pdf parts to email to my group for tomorrow’s rehearsal, so I am up until around 3:00 AM, editing on my keyboard with my headphones on, oblivious to time slipping away.
I work all morning and half of the afternoon on my arrangement of a new piece of music for my group Enigmatica. This is the first time I’ve arranged one of my own compositions for them, usually I’m doing a piano piece by Nazareth or Bach or a band arrangement of Pixinguinha. It’s a far different experience creating the different parts to support your own melody and harmony than it is assigning notes written by someone else to each part. Daunting, but interesting as well. At first the empty slate makes me nervous– too many choices– but gradually I settle in to the process, imagining each player, making each line interesting, checking the interactions between notes. My friend P takes a taxi over late afternoon and we head out by metro to Gloria and I try to remember how to find the Escadaria Selaron that lead up to Santa Teresa. I love these stairs and have walked up them when the artist was working, he, alas, now dead in bizarre circumstances. The tiles to the left are from a section new to me, completed just before his death, and make me think of my daughter and my friend C. and their babies arriving next month. We walk up the stairs and continue up and up the winding road in the drizzle to Sta Teresa itself, but it is immersed in construction, my beloved Bar do Minero is closed. The bondinho too is discontinued as they repair the tracks. The neighborhood is looking more seedy, less artistic, which is sad. However we do find a lovely outdoor bar to drink a caipirinha in a leafy bower, and then head to a delicious seafood restaurant to meet Anna & Luciana to hear Rui on clarinet playing with accordion, harmonica, 2 guitars and percussion. A fine day is had.
It’s a 2-roda day, and my friend PaulE is arriving from the US for a week’s visit to Rio– his first time here. Romulo has helped me arrange a car service to pick him up at the airport as I can’t go myself, having promised Ana I would be at the Sao Salvador roda at the same time for a tribute to Walter, a revered older 7-string player. It is pouring as I start out, alas, but I go anyway and we sit in a bar for awhile debating whether to play or not. Finally they decide to put up the tarp and we have a cheery session, although Walter’s tribute is postponed for a week. The pic to the right was taken at my request to show the chair hanging from the edge of the tarp to pull the edge down enough for the water to run off, so it doesn’t get too heavy and descend on us mid-set. It’s immediately dubbed the “Sao Salvador waterfall”. I go back home to drop my amp before heading out to meet my friend at his hotel. Walking in the door of my place I see A’s little shoes– so tiny and cute. I can hear her upstairs listening to one of my CDs and probably dancing around. She pokes her head in to say good-bye to me when her mom comes to pick her up, having overcome her shyness of strangers. Then it’s off to greet Paul, whirl around the Feria de Hype, get him something to eat, and make it to the roda at Forte Copacabana in time to play. Afterwards the musicians all go out for a beer and a bite to eat. Then I drop P. back at his hotel and head for home, tired, but happy at all the music played.
I go to Choro School this morning, arriving in time to hear the end of a demonstration by a Colombian mandola player. She has been here since I met her in September, studying with several bandolimists, including Marcilio and Ronaldo. I stay for Bandao and afterwards talk to Marcilio– thanking him for all his help on my music– and find out that his group, Agua do Moringa, one of my alltime favorite bands, will be playing at Trapiche on 12/10, my last night in town. Excellent news! He’s holding down the bandolim section by himself on the left. I also see Luciana, a bandolimist friend from Boston who has now returned to Rio, her hometown. And then Romulo bops over to say hi. He’s playing sax in the orange shirt in the photo below. He invites me over in the evening to sample his new beer, which is delicious. He and Cecilia and I then go out to hang out at a bookstore/restaurant in Ipanema, skirting the traffic jam for the ceremonial lighting of the Christmas tree in Lagoa. How far away Christmas seems to me here. I, of course, just have to buy some irresistible CDs and DVDs, although I try to limit my acquisitions. R&C are shopping too, and afterwards we have a lovely late dinner and head home around midnight.