"What is this?" The answer to this question which is always asked when I play the record at the renown New York City jazz bar, the 55 Bar, will soon be known in North America. Other parts of the world - France, Japan, South America, particularly Brazil - have already caught onto this exciting, powerful guitar voice which has wowed guitarists and musical civilians alike. Kiko Loureiro has excelled in the musical realms of rock, Brazilian metal and instrumental guitar-based music. He even has DVD's of guitar lessons and other musical instruction. And with his latest recording Universo Inverso, he is poised to break out in America and other places where his guitar virtuosity has yet to be known.
Musicians hanging out or setting up in this venerable jazz and blues establishment have commented on the skilled playing -- melodically and harmonically ear-catching -- and unique musical cross breeding on this record. Known for his guitar technique, it must be said that, like many a great musician (not to give this man, a mere human after all, the kiss of death by mentioning these names, but...) - Hendrix, Zappa, John Coltrane, Lee Morgan - chops are in service to strong emotional statements, and a cascading flow of spontaneous and carefully constructed music ideas, soulfully logical like a good Sunday morning Baptist preacher. This is the flow-through between this showcase of various musical styles in the early jazz rock style of the seventies, before the crass excesses of fusion befouled our musical waters.
Universo Inverso is indeed an inverted universe, where seemingly disparate modes and tenors of expression all fit, like an old fashioned FM college station and in the free form musical minds of inspired artists and open-minded listeners longing to be delighted, turned on, challenged, and liberated from station managed existence. This record works a whole and not just a collection of songs; like the best jazz albums and those by creative rock artists such as the Beatles and early (very early) Genesis, this record takes you on a journey through the Kiko's musical life and mind.
[Mark Kirby] What was your childhood like? What type of family did you come from - poor, middle class, upper class?
Kiko Loureiro I come from a middle class family. My parents could afford to buy a decent guitar for me, and pay for some private guitar classes when I started.
[Mark Kirby] What kind of music was played in your home as you grew up?
Kiko Loureiro Primarily bossa nova and other types of Brazilian music, which my mother liked to play; as well as the classical music that my father was into. The Brazilian music was always the music I respected and admired the most. I mixed that with the rock and heavy metal music which I was discovering from records and video clips.
[Mark Kirby] When did you start to study music? What incident or occurrence made you decide to take up music when you were a child?
Kiko Loureiro I was 11 when I started taking classical guitar lessons. I had private classes for acoustic guitar for two years. In 1984, when I was 12-years old, Kiss came to Brazil. It was the "Creatures of The Night Tour" and it was a big thing. I got even more passionate about music and rock. At the age of 13, I received my first electric guitar. That year we also had a great festival in Brazil called "Rock in Rio." It was a huge media event. Queen, Iron Maiden, Ozzy, Scorpions, AC/DC and Whitesnake were all performing there. That event made me get into music in a serious way.
The following year, I discovered North American rock guitar virtuosos such as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Greg Howe. But at the same time, I was playing cool stuff such as Baden Powell while discovering the magic and complexity of Wayne Shorter, Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and others. I always had private classes with good teachers from the Brazilian music community. To this day, I keep both styles in my music. I play my rock guitar style on my solo album No Gravity and Brazilian music such as that featured on Universo Inverso.
[Mark Kirby] Are there differences, musically, between Sao Paulo & Rio and the Northeast of Brazil? Are there regional and ethnic differences in the music of the different parts of Brazil?
Kiko Loureiro Hell yes! Brazil is bigger than Europe! We have an incredible variety of styles, cultures and ethnicities; we are a mix of Native Indians, Europeans and Africans. The Indians were not eliminated as they were in the US, Chile and Argentina. Africans could somehow keep their cultural traditions, unlike in the US, playing percussion and doing their Macumba (voo doo thing). That's why our music is really based on percussion and chants, a bit similar to Cuba and Caribbean countries.
Kiko Loureiro & Sandro Haick - Samba da Elisa
The thread throughout the songs is Brazilian music in its various forms. The opening cut "Feijćo de Corda" is based rhythmically and melodically on the folk styles of baićo and maracatum whose roots stretch back to the music and dance of Portugal's Congolese slaves back in the 1700's. The song "Anastacia" -- also a baićo, but slower and dynamic, compared to "Feijćo de Corda" -- is a virtual homage to the jazz rock musical expansion '70's-era Carlos Santana, when he made the albums "Caravanserai," with its mix of African-influenced freedom jazz, fusion and deep Afro-Cuban music; and "Illuminations" with Alice Coltrane, a gem of an overlooked record that merged his blazing guitar with her modal, raga-tinged jazz. "Arcos da Lapa" is an easy-going Rio samba, but played with burning rock energy.
Throughout this CD, Kiko shows his grasp of harmony in the sometimes dancing, sometimes searing guitar leads. His metalish roots show to best effect in his guitar solos, where no matter how intelligently he's playing, he never fails to we-will-we-will rock you. And like Jeff Beck, he ends his phrases and licks with ring-out blue notes. "Samba da Elisa" is an almost pure samba, a fitting homage to influential Brazilian composer Paulinho da Viola. Whereas the guitar work on "Feijćo de Corda" and other tracks illustrate Kiko's command of a variety of complex and innovative techniques -- two-handed finger hammering on the strings, different types of picking to manipulate distortion and effects -- here he plays in a simple, traditional jazz style.
"Monday Mourning" is based on a Brazilian waltz style that any Brazilian composure worth his salt aspires to tackle, the way that a classical composer seeks to write a concerto or a jazz player to take on the blues. It is in the mode of the work of composers such as Tom Jobim, Edu Lobo and Heitor Villa-Lobos. The song has a kind of let's-turn-it-down a notch mellowness that is a staple of jazz records. It shows Kiko has the skill and sensitivity to play a straight Latin jazz guitar sans pyrotechnics. "It has a sad melody, a dark and complex harmony," says Kiko. "It's another opportunity to listen to me playing with clean guitar and a jazz improvisation."
The Brazilian musical forms are modernized and integrated by Kiko and his group -- pianist, cellist, and prime collaborator Yaniel Matos, bassist Carlinhos Noronha and drummer Cuca Teixeira -- into a modern jazz rock presentation. This is accomplished with the help of Mr. Matos, who, in addition to writing three of the album's ten songs, has long encouraged Kiko to show all sides of his musical world. Though this record is a tour de force for Kiko, all the players stand out, bringing their own interesting musical personalities to bear.
[Mark Kirby]How did you find the drummer you use on the CD, Cuca Teixeira? What is his status in the Brazilian music scene and who has he played with? This guy is incredible! Especially on "Ojos Verdes." How did you find Carlinhos Noronha and what other musicians and bands has he played with?
Kiko Loureiro I have know Cuca for a long time, he comes from a family of jazz musicians.
Now you can listen to him playing jazz fusion; and also he plays with one of the most famous singers in Brazil, Maria Rita, daughter of Elis Regina. Carlinhos comes from a samba-based musical family. He is also very well know among the musicians in the Brazilian music community.
Like any musically open and serious musician, Kiko soon found himself led to the unique combination of fluid form and personal musical expression known as jazz. There is an undeniable jazz influence in the structure and approach to the songs on this record. Mr. Matos' "Havana" makes use of jazz structural ideas such as the bass intro and the complex harmonies and melodies throughout the "head" section, the primary melody. The song's rhythmic underpinning is the traditional Afro-Cuban beat found in Latin jazz. "Recuerdos" is a modal ballad in the spectral, atmospheric style of the old school Nordic jazz found on the ECM label.
Kiko Loureiro Brazilian harmonies and melodies which are heard in a jazz context helped me to appreciate more jazz and jazz fusion music. That is a passion I have had dating back to my teenage years.
[Mark Kirby]In order to get some random insights into your identity as a musician, I like you to respond to the following names: Randy Rhoads. Frank Zappa. Miles Davis. Chico Science and Manque beat.
Kiko Loureiro I listened to a lot of Randy Rhoads! Great solos, well constructed. I've listened much more to Van Halen, for instance; and I was never the "Les Paul guy," but I admire Randy's talent. Frank Zappa is very interesting, but when I listen to more experimental music I go straight to the 60's jazz scene: Miles Davis Quintet, Coltrane or the great Brazilians such as Egberto Gismonti and Hermeto Pascoal. I know all of Miles' different periods; I like them all. He is the jazz Forest Gump, he was there and things happened; his biography is a historical document. Chico Science and Manque Beat was a small movement in Brazil in the 90's. I like the idea of bringing the traditional percussion element with the rock and electronic elements. Chico was very important to rescue and bring to the young generation the respect for the Brazilian music. He showed that it was possible to do the cultural cannibalism, bring the information from abroad and mix it with the primitive music from our country.
[Mark Kirby]Is this Universo Inverso a solo project of yours or is this an ongoing group?
Kiko Loureiro It is a solo project of mine, because all the musicians have their own projects and careers going on. As they are pretty much busy, it is hard to develop an exclusive group with this set of musicians.
[Mark Kirby]Where have you played outside of Brazil? Any possibility of you playing in the United States?
Kiko Loureiro I've been playing abroad a lot, so far mainly in Asia and Europe, besides Brazil and South America. With Universo Inverso, I haven't had the chance to travel to perform this music much, but we are working on that now. I would love to come to the US of course to perform my music!! New York would be the big thing for me!