Friday, October 03, 2014

The Amazing Journey of Filo Machado

Filo Michado (with grand-son Felipe) and Jovino Santos Neto
Wednesday Oct 8th, 7:30pm
The Triple Door $25
Filo Machado
Felipe and Filo Machado
Filo Machado will be coming to Seattle for a very rare appearance here, at the Triple Door, Wed Oct 8, brought by the Brazilian Nights Series co-produced by Produced by Giordano Productions, LLC, the Honorary Brazilian Consulate in Seattle and Morningsong Productions.

I was going to recount some of Filo's overwhelming bio here, but due to space considerations we'll  stick with the short version:  Filó  has performed all over the world including Carnegie Hall. He's been in many Jazz festivals, as well, such as Pescara, Barquisimeto, Maranhão, Ceará, etc. Between albums and concerts, he's being part of duets with Michel Legrand, Romero Lubambo, Cesar Camargo Mariano, João Donato, Djavan, etc. His most recent tours include Moscow, Ukraine and Japan. He is now touring the NW for the first time with his grandson - prodigy 11-year old Felipe.

He will be backed at the Triple Door by Seattle's own Brazilian music luminary, Jovino Santos Neto performing a delicious solo piano set for us. I can't think of a more incredible line-up, to be honest. Combined with the Triple Door's awesome sound system and great food and service, we're in for quite an evening!

Filo graciously granted me an interview soon after his arrival in Seattle, and I was in for a recount of a very moving story of Filo's amazing journey through music and life.

Filo Machado was born in Ribeirão Preto, located in Brazilian state of Sâo Paulo, of course the same state of Brazil as Sâo Paulo city. His father was a musician who played the the tenor guitar, a 4-string Brazilian guitar. Filo relates being 5 years old and sitting between his fathers knees, while his father helped him hold the guitar and worked with his fingers on the fretboard to learn songs. It was the beginning of a father-son musical mentorship that would end, tragically, all too soon, but would nevertheless launch Filo on a lifelong quest to learn and perform music. It is a journey that would land him in USA, Japan, Europe, as well as Brazil, performing with the top jazz and Brazilian artists of today, as well as becoming one of those top artists himself.

I arrive at the home of Adriana Giordano, herself an accomplished singer from Sâo Paulo, who has helped put together the wonderful Brazilian Nights series at the Triple Door in Seattle. Filo Machado is the third and final international artist being presented this year through the program, which Adriana hopes to continue in 2015 and bring more great Brazilian artists to Seattle.

Filo and his grand-son Felipe, whom Filo is mentoring on guitar and vocal, are in the living room, Felipe copying his grand-dad's moves on guitar while learning a new bossa nova song. Felipe, at the tender age of 11 years, is turning out to be quite a musical prodigy himself, and often sits in on a few songs with his grandpa during performances. Between the two of them, it's a 1-2 knockout punch. As if it is not enough to be overwhelmed by Filo's virtuosity, Felipe, follows up with a yet another stunning display of musical genius.
Felipe Machado at Egan's
The chemistry between them has a natural, easy flow. Even though it's Grandpa teaching his grandchild, it has the feel of two old friends sharing music and enjoying each other's company. Since Filo's English is still in the beginning stages, Adriana agrees to interpret. Also, I decide to break the ice with music - we play a jazz song together. Then instruments are set aside and Filo relates his amazing, and at times heartbreaking, story.

The story begins with an early heartbreak: his mentorship with his own father was not to last more than a few months. Filo recounts finding his father laying on the floor of their home one day, with his mother leaning over him, trying to give his father a drink of water. Filo's father was in the midst of a heart-attack that would prove fatal, and died there on the floor while 5-year old Filo and his mother watched helplessly. It was the beginning of a difficult childhood marred by additional tragedy later on.

Filo's mother had the vision to encourage Filo to continue to learn and play music after his father's passing. Filo's learning was unorthodox and largely self-taught. He would attend musical performances, and after the shows, approach the musicians and ask them to give him some musical knowledge - write down a song, teach him a song on the spot, or tell him something to help his musical progress. Then Filo would take these tidbits home, and study them with his guitar and voice. In this way, Filo tells me, he did not just have a single musical mentor, but the whole world became his mentor. He tried to learn music from all the musicians he met, and also listening to the radio and trying to pick out the songs and play along. Later he would use recordings and tapes to play the songs he wanted to learn. In this way, he was teaching himself American jazz as well as the Brazilian popular music of the time (that body of music, comprising many of Brazil's greatest bossas and popular sambas, is nowadays called MPB).

Filo had 5 brothers, and his mother, and they struggled to make a living in Sâo Paulo in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Filo's contribution was to make some money for the family by performing music, and at the age of 11 was already performing in venues to make money.

Fate was to deal Filo and his brothers another cruel blow when his mother became ill and passed away during Filo's teenage years.  Before reaching adulthood, Filo had watched both his parents die in front of him. Nothing was left for him except his brothers, himself and the music. He was moved into a hotel in Sâo Paulo, and continued practicing and performing music all his waking hours to survive.

He began to become known around Sâo Paulo and in Brazil during the period when Bossa Nova exploded onto the scene - a time of political turbulence and social revolution during which the now-famous composers of the Bossa Nova and Brazilian jazz movements would forge their identities and bring out the songs that would become iconic of the style.

He relates that a key turning point in his career is when he first came to America and was able to collaborate with the brilliant jazz pianist Kenny Barron. He recorded an album in the USA, "Cantando um Samba" which was  nominated in 2001 for a Latin jazz Grammy and received rave reviews in Down Beat, Jazziz, Jazz Now and Rhythm and other newspapers and magazines. He was invited to perform at the historic 9/11 memorial concert at Carnegie Hall in October 2001 and shared the stage with all the great musical luminaries in that show.

From there, he was able to tour with and meet many other famous musicians, and build a musical resume of performing with, or being billed on the ticket with, a list of musicians that reads pretty much like a who's- who in the world of Jazz and Brazilian music. If they have achieved fame in these styles of music, the chances are good that Filo has performed on the bill with them.

Filo is bringing his musical virtuosity, and that of his grand-son Felipe to the Triple Door on Wednesday, Oct 8th in a not-to-be- missed show that also features Seattle's resident Brazilian music superstar Jovino Santos Neto. It turns out that Filo and Jovino have known each other for about 4 decades, dating back to the time when a very young Jovino was beginning his musical apprenticeship with the legendary Hermeto Pascoal in Rio.

After the interview and  a sumptuous dinner courtesy of Filo's welcoming daughter Camila (who is also Felipe's mother and their producer), we head over to Egan's Ballard Jamhouse, where we meet trumpeter and band leader Bobby Medina, who is previewing his recent work. Bobby graciously invites Filo and Felipe to perform a couple of songs. Of course, everyone's jaw drops and the cameras come out. It's the perfect plug for the show on next Wednesday at the Triple Door. In fact, I can't think of a better way to spend a musical evening than with this virtuoso Grandfather-grandson team of Filo and Felipe Machado.