By Stephanie Ozer
We thought it was going to be just a simple vacation – and that would have been enough. We thought, 10 days away from the kids, in an exciting city far away, the city of the music we love so much…. It was Tuesday, our second night in Rio, and we are thrilled to fi nd that our favorite Brazilian vocalist, Leny Andrade, was performing in a club downtown. Sitting in the front row, listening to her deep and poetic singing was like being in heaven. She commanded the room with an unmatched grace, authority and intensity that was amazing.
Part of the way through the set David whispered to me, “After the show, we’ll go backstage to ask Leny if she’ll record with you while we are here in Rio. I need you to go along with me on this. Okay?” I said, “Do I have to decide right now?” He said, “You’ve got two more songs.” Then we were backstage with Leny and her posse, explaining the links that connect us to her: my mentor Marcos Silva who performed with Leny before he left Rio years ago and, of course, our common love for this music.
And we say, “We thought maybe you’d be in California some day, and we could record with you, but here we are in Rio, would you record with us?” And she says, “So you want me to come to California to record?” We say, “No, we are here in Rio, we want to record here.” Leny Andrade pauses, and then mentions a recording studio close from the club and says “I want you to try the piano, and if you like it, then we will talk. Call me Thursday”.
We rented a practice keyboard and called her on Thursday. But she told us to call her again on Saturday. Finally she picked us up at the hotel and went to the studio. She took us across the Guanabara Bay, where we gazed back at the amazing views of the marvelous city, and then to São Francisco in Niterói to a little stone block building, where a smiling, jolly gentle man, Fabio Motta, the studio owner and Leny’s friend for decades, welcome us. I sit down and start to play. David hears them comment: “she doesn’t play like an American, she plays like a Brazilian.” After I played, Leny drove us home. It was around 11:00pm she asked us if we were hungry. We told her that we were tired and hungry so she took us to the restaurant across from the cafe where Tom Jobim wrote “Girl from Ipanema”.
The following evening at 7:00pm we were at Fabio’s studio again. Leny ask me if I needed a drummer, and I said, “Yes”. So she pulls out her cell phone, makes a call and says, “You are lucky. There is also a bass player coming. He is Ivan Lins’s bass player, Nema. He’s coming with the drummer Erivelton. At 9:00pm they both arrive and then, after a lot of strong coffee, we start recording – it is midnight. At 3:30am Leny said, “What’s next, anything else?” And I said, “Yes.
One last song: Rio.” As dawn crept over Ipanema Beach, Leny dropped us off at our hotel. I started thinking that I was in a dream. In a lovely musical movie waiting for the credits to roll down the sky. The next night, again, all through the night, tracking vocals and leaving the studio with four tunes in a rough mix. Then it was Wednesday, our last day in Rio and Leny insisted on taking us to the airport. With many hugs and kisses (this is Rio!) we say goodbye saying, “we will be back to Brazil, but maybe you can fi rst visit us in California”.
My butt has been kicked, my soul inspired. I practice a lot and call some of the most wonderful musicians I know in the Bay Area to schedule rehearsals and sessions to complete what the magic of Rio de Janeiro has begun. So here it is, “O Começo”, the beginning, another beginning in life, in Rio, in music.
* Stephanie Ozer is a american musician based in San Francisco who loves Brazil. She is a friend and have worked in musical projects with Brazilian legend Leny Andrade. To know more about her visit her website: www.stephanieozer.com