Vanderlei Pereira and Blindfold Test: Vision for Rhythm

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The drum set, that invention by Black American drummer Baby Dodds – and rooted in the ingenuity of drummers from Mr Dodds to Papa Jo Jones and Sonny Greer, Kenny Clarke, Roy Haynes, Max Roach to Elvin Jones, Rashied Ali and others – came late to Brasil. By the time the instrument arrived, via the airwaves from across the continent, Brasilian percussionists had already mastered the rhythms that were rooted in Africa and the Amazon. Still, drummers – as in drummers of Jazz ensembles – are a smaller tribe, one in which Vanderlei Pereira ought to be considered a venerable elder; a master whose musicality far exceeds his versatility which, by the way, also just happens to be of the highest artistic order.

Vanderlei Pereira is a drummer who – like his predecessors, such as Milton Banana, Claudio Slon, Dom Um Romao, Mário Negrão, Airto Moreira, Paulinho Da Costa and Robertinho Silva to name some – has mastered every nuance of every Brasilian rhythm and can play fast and slow tempos like every one of his ancestors. Which is why the fact that his debut album had to wait until 2020 to be recorded is almost incredible. Still, the fact that it has come so late in his career as a professional musician also means that we now have a grand stand view of one of the finest drummers ever to bestride music in and from Brasil. His album, Vision for Rhythm is unique for many other reasons, one of which is the fact that unlike Mr Pereira – who is completely blind – all of the other musicians on this date are “seeing” musicians who make up his group Blindfold Test and who [often] perform Mr Pereira’s diabolically difficult music with blindfolds on just to experience its sound in his “unseeing” world and feel its emotion just as he does in all of his music [including on this album].

The result is a performance that is quite special; an extraordinary rhythmic journey through Mr Pereira’s Brasilian world that changed from a “seeing” one to an “unseeing” one; a world where because of this vision is now at the highest level both in concrete and in figurative terms. So that every beat of every pulse in every bar of every song is not simply a dot on paper, but a splash of colour imaginatively used to paint a picture that even a blind person such as Mr Pereira can not only experience musically but also see in his “unseeing” world. This is what the title Vision for Rhythm really means. Much more than music written by himself and other Brasilians this is the experience of someone who can actually “see” music in its elemental and mystical reality. To be able to make this visible to us in the “seeing” world, is the true measure of its success.

Photograph courtesy of the artist

This is why “O Que Ficou” is one of the most beautiful pieces of music on this album. It is bittersweet and reveals something that resembles the most precious scraps of a photograph that the brain has taken to be recalled when the eyes are no longer able to see it. It therefore becomes the photograph for the “unseeing” eye. It is the prequel to an invitation to the party of the blind – to “De Volta à Festa” written in the frevo music and dance pattern, and from there on to Mr Pereira’s finest work on this album his “Vision for Rhythm”, which is also his statement of purpose and his musical palimpsest.

The recording also comprises repertoire that includes work written by some of the most accomplished contemporary Brasilian composers such as two great pianists, the pedagogue Antonio Adolfo and Jasnam Daya Singh, the masterful accordionist and writer Toninho Ferragutti, guitarist Nando Lauria, the incomparable musician, saxophonist and bandleader Zeca Freitas, inimitable composer and singer Edu Lobo. The pianist and writer Kimson Plaut contributes “Mercado Modelo”. Of course, the most memorable contributions come from the musicians in Mr Pereira’s Blindfold Test band which includes among them some of the most accomplished Brasilian musicians – including Jorge Continentino and musicians from the US – especially Deanna Witkowski and Paul Meyers. Special mention must, however, be made of the role played by Susan Pereira, who is Mr Pereira’s wife. For the music on this album, however, Susan Pereira is much more than simply the vocalist for she also “plays” the musical “voice” of Vanderlei Pereira. This is an album to absolutely die for.

Track list – 1: Misturada; 2: Ponto de Partida; 3: Chapéu Palheta; 4: Mercado Modelo; 5: O Que Ficou; 6: The Cry and The Smile; 7: Partido Leve; 8: Corrupião; 9: Les Matins de Rixensart; 10; Alma Brasileira; 11: De Volta à Festa; 12: Vision for Rhythm

Personnel – Vanderlei Pereira: drums and percussion [2, 9]; Jorge Continentino: flute [1, 8], alto flute [4], pífano [8] and tenor saxophone [2, 3, 5, 7, 11]; Rodrigo Ursaia: tenor saxophone [6, 9, 10]; Susan Pereira: voice [1 – 4, 6 – 11] and percussion [1, 4 – 9]; Deanna Witkowski: piano [1 – 11]; Paul Meyers: acoustic guitar [1 – 11]; Gustavo Amarante: electric bass [1 – 5, 7, 8, 11]; Itaiguara Brandão: electric bass [6, 9, 10]

Released – 2020
Label – Jazzheads [JH 1242]
Runtime – 1:10:16

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