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A Night with Prodigious Pipoquinha
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A Night with Prodigious Pipoquinha

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By Percy Mabandu, arts journalist and author

 

Last night, the 21-year-old bass protégé Michael Pipoquinha stepped on to the DSG Hall stage with much expectation from the gathered crowd. They all came to see if the viral videos of his prowess were true. The prodigious Pipoquinha played with calm sincerity. Fitting.

The singular distinguishing feature of the gig was his faithfulness to his Brazilian musical traditions. The repertoire was made up primarily of rhythms and themes from the South American country’s various regions. The band featured fellow Brazilian, Mestrinho on accordion, Alex Buck on drums and Swiss pianist, Malcolm Braff on piano.

Mestrinho’s accordion often took on the role of leading melodic instrument. A part shared by Braff’s lyrical piano too. This meant Buck and Pipoquinha held a larger part of the rhythm section work. Though, Pipoquinha’s six string bass did a good share of singing while Braff rejoined the rhythm section too. This is in fact part of the show’s power. We all came out to see Pipoquinha’s range on the instrument and he delivered. This was no easy feat when one considers how gigantic his pianist tends to loom as a soloist. Braff’s solos were nothing less than electric; thumping and scratching the Fender Rhodes and the baby grand piano into a singular voice.

However, this was a collaborative bill and the ensemble’s capacity to play together is what makes jazz music exceptional. It was great to see them put in to make it work in spite of their individual yearning to strike out.

Mid way through the show, they reached for a tune called “Lament”. The song is built off of rhythmic traditions of northern Brazilian music. It’s full of longing and celebration. It launched the band into a call and response pattern of short improvised statements; Playful, yet spirited.

 

Pipoquinha’s music was propulsive, bright and full of energy. For the most part, the selection of tracks was marked by a refreshing vitality comparable only to the verve of life at the height of spring in the tropics. Think of the sparkle and brilliant wash of light at dusk. Not a sunset. But the light that hangs over the near firmament with the kind glare of the sun smiling back at the world from the horizon. What a joy.

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