SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Matuto, a band from the heart of New York City’s diverse musical culture, will bring its honest love for roots music, genuine Brazilian styles, and improvisational experimentation to the Lake Superior State University Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 29.
The band got its start in 2002, when guitarist and singer Clay Ross says he embarked on a musical odyssey that brought him closer to home. The South Carolina native moved to New York to pursue a jazz career and several years later found himself in Recife, Brazil studying the region’s folkloric music. Along the way, he rediscovered the straightforward songs of his native South.
Ross titled his Ropeadope Records debut “Matuto,” after a Brazilian slang reference to a man from the backcountry. Described as “Weird and wonderful… unorthodox and delightful” by Jazz Times magazine, the set allows Ross to carve a niche in a musical tradition created on another continent. He performs North American folk songs such as “Home Sweet Home” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “John the Revelator” over South American rhythms Maracatu, Forró, and Coco, typical of the northeastern region of Brazil.
In recording the album, Ross called upon the talents of New York’s most sought-after musicians, including master accordionist Rob Curto. Born in New York, Curto is widely regarded as forró’s foremost ambassador in the states. An early devotee of North American swing music, bebop piano, funk, rock, and blues, he has combined these influences with his mastery of their Brazilian counterparts forró, chorinho, samba, maracatu, and frevo to produce stunning new results. He spent years living and playing in Brazil, completely absorbing and interpreting the country’s musical traditions. Curto was a member of the original scene that established forró, the dance music of northeastern Brazil, as an official dance craze in downtown New York.
Ross and Curto began exploring a shared musical vision and set about combining their individual repertoires into an extensive library of Pan-American influences. Focusing their talents, resources and experience, Ross and Curto set out to establish Matuto as a band.
In February 2009, they received a prestigious Fulbright Grant and completed a six-week residency in Recife, Brazil. There, with drummer Richie Barshay (Herbie Hancock Quartet) and bassist Edward Perez, the band thrilled audiences at the Garanhuns Jazz Festival and the massive Rec Beat Festival, finding equal comfort alongside jazz and blues legends, folk music traditionalists, and indie rock experimentalists. They also led educational workshops in underserved communities and performed public concerts in theaters and auditoriums across the city. Later that year, they headlined the American Folk Festival in Bangor, Maine and the Montmagny World Accordion Festival in Canada.
Employing renowned musicians across New York’s diverse jazz, roots, and world music scenes, Matuto features violin, guitar, accordion, bass, drums, and various Brazilian percussion instruments: the alfaia (a large, wooden, rope-tuned bass drum), the pandeiro (a Brazilian tambourine), the berimbau (a single-string on a bow struck with a small stick), and the agogô (a pair of small, pitched metal bells.)
In May 2013, the band released its second full-length album, “The Devil and the Diamond,” on Motéma Music. This recording reflects the inspiring live show that the band has developed over hundreds of performances around the world. Appalachian fiddle tunes bounce with a Northeastern Brazilian lilt while the one string Berimbau resonates with a strangely effective blues riff. Curto spins long chromatic melodies over intricate arrangements and infectiously funky folkloric rhythms. Like a true southern preacher, Ross delivers colorfully satirical lyrics reminiscent of David Byrne, Tom Ze, and Caetano Veloso.
Tickets for the concert are $15 for general admission, $12 for seniors, and $8 for students. They are available through the Norris Center box office, 906-635-2602, the LSSU Arts Center web page and at the door on the night of the event. Check out a video clip of the band on the Arts Center web page, too. -LSSU-
CONTACT: Tom Pink, 906-635-2315; firstname.lastname@example.org; John Shibley, 635-2314, email@example.com; Tom Davis, 635-2184, firstname.lastname@example.org