Featured Musician - February 2006
Name: Jorge Zamarano
Early Years/Education: Grew up in the Washington, D. C. area in a household where my parents were into every kind of music. My dad would put on the Supremes, then go to Nat Cole, then to Spanish flamenco and classical guitar. My mom was an opera and Broadway show tune fanatic...in the morning we'd hear classical then it would progress to show tunes then later in the day Motown and jazz. They started me on guitar at seven but since my sister was taking piano I took that too. By the time I was eleven or twelve playing the guitar was very much part of my life. A turning point came when I started studying music theory from my girlfriend's father, accordionist Carmello Pino.
He was the one who pushed me into taking it seriously. He was my first exposure to a professional musician. As it turns out he was a master improviser and composer but nobody's heard of him because he plays accordion. I never really liked rock, too simplistic, I thought. So I chose classical guitar instead. Then one day when I was fifteen I heard a Peruvian kid playing "Girl from Ipanema" and got hooked on Brazilian music. At parties my parents would encourage me to play, but my music was so serious it would bring everybody down; they'd complain," Why don't you play the Bee Gees or the Beatles like the other kids?" I did join a rock band but I couldn't hang with pop music very long. At seventeen I did some touring with a pop band and got a glimpse of what it was really like playing in bars and being a professional musician on the road and it kind of scared me into going to college. Somewhere along the line I really got into Frank Zappa and the guys that played with Zappa. That's when I realized they all had a jazz background. That really motivated me to learn about jazz, too.
While in high school I attended the Peabody Conservatory prep school, then went onto the University of Maryland and finally the Manhattan School of Music. The Manhattan School was mostly classical at that time and I was completely focused on the Latin-American composers. The classical students were so intense the only people I could relate to were the jazz guys so I joined the jazz band simply to be around normal people.
Plus, I was one of the only students who brought along an electric guitar. Fortunately, for me, half of the jazz band was made up of professionals imported from the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. There weren't enough students studying jazz back then. Tommy Newsom would bring in his arrangement of the stuff he couldn't play on TV and so we'd play them in jazz ensemble class. An important teacher/mentor for me was the late Rich Matheson from North Texas State. He had a profound impact on me as a musician.
My first professional gig out of college was at Charlie Byrd's supper club in D.C.
He didn't know another classical guy in the area who was legitimately playing Brazilian stuff. There I got to play with everybody....Milt Jackson, Clark Terry, to name a few.
Bossa Nouveau: This band is a product of years of frustration at always being a sideman. I got together with one of my dearest friends, bassist Thomas Williams, and together we've created our own thing. Bossa Nouveau is part bossa, samba, frevo, as well as Brazilian pop music. It also reflects many other cross-cultural music genres like flamenco, Afro-Cuban, and American jazz, rock and blues. I'm also a member of the Indian Fusion group, FACING EAST. I also teach privately out of River City Music in Vancouver. My students include adults as well as kids. Currently, I've got five or six musically gifted young prodigies.
Musical Influences: Romero Lubambo, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Egberto Gismonti, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Caetano Veloso, Villa Lobos, Hermeto Pascoal, Djavan, Ivan Lins, Sergio Mendes, Oscar Castro Neves, Bola Sete, Toninho Horta, to name a few.
Most Satisfying Experience: Definitely working with my oldest son, Jorge Airto. When I was recording, "You're Not the Bossa Me!" my younger son told me about a flamenco piece Jorge Jr. had written. I added some poetry from my father, which was taken from a letter he wrote to his yet unborn grandson and put it in at the beginning of the tune. We produced it for the new CD and called it "Tres Generaciones".
This tune was selected as the theme for the PBS documentary Nuestra Familia about corruption and politics surrounding Latino prison gangs in California. It's already been seen at the LA Latino Film Festival and the San Francisco Film festival. It will be shown here in the spring on OPB. Another really satisfying experience was recording a duo with good friend and bassist Tom Williams.
We sat in my living room for two weeks and played all day every. We then went into the studio and recorded a kind of "stream of consciousness" CD that is my next project I'll be releasing in the spring. We didn't rehearse or work at it, we just knocked out eighty minutes worth of music on the spot.
Favorite Recordings: The soundtrack to "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands" has some very profound music I adore; Luciana Souza's "Duos" with guitarist Romero Nubambo; any recording by Trio De Pas, that's amazing music!; I love Gil Evans and Miles Davis big band sessions. My favorite tune from them is, "The Duke;" I like everything by Chu Chu Valdes; also the great Brazilian Hermeto Pascoal. One of my favorite jazz guitarists is Tuck Andres, he can get up before hundreds of people and swing so hard just with his guitar; my other favorites are Bela Fleck and (classical)Edgar Meyer.
Discography: Bossa Nouveau is currently working on two new CD's scheduled for release in 2005. One with duos and trios featuring myself on guitar and Thomas Williams on bass and flugelhorn. The second is a mix of original material by me and Thomas that features the quintet: Joe Janiga on drums, Liberty Broillet on flute and Dan Davis on bass. In 2004 we released "You're Not the Bossa Me! (World Music, Samba, Bossa and Mambo for Gringo) which featured bassist Thomas Williams, saxist Renato Caranto, vocalists Jane Wright and Alyssa Schwary, Jorge Jr. rapping, flutists John Wubbenhorst and Liberty Broillet, drummer Graham Lear and percussionist Caton Lyles. I also did two Christmas Northwest CD's vol I and II. With the Indian Jazz Fusion group Facing East I did the CD "Facing Beloved." I've been working as a sideman in Portland since I moved here in 1992 and can be found on lots of Portland artist CDs. I've also got a tribute to Jobim CD in the works.
Gigs Coming Up: Bossa Nouveau will be presented at the Portland Jazz Festival on Saturday, February 18, at the Marriott on Broadway. No cover.
Future Plans: Since I was diagnosed with cancer last May I've made a conscious effort to get out as much music as I can. I'm playing more from the heart and with much more conviction now. I'm trying to get out the CDs as quickly as possible.
Other Comments: I love polyrhythms and grooves; I think of myself as playing everything on the guitar.
Interviewer's note: This is just a thumbnail sketch of a very accomplished musician, another reminder of the rich musical fabric of Portland. Jorge Zamorano can be reached at www.bossanouveau.com.
-- Interviewed by Rita Rega