The folkloric rhythms of Northeastern Brazil combine with deep Americana as Matuto takes the stage at the Mainstay in Rock Hall, MD on Saturday December 6 at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $20. For information and reservations call 410-639-9133. Information is also available at the Mainstay’s website www.mainstayrockhall.org.
Matuto: Submitted Photo
Matuto’s songs are hip-swaying, toe-tapping and full of deep insights. Drawing on Northeastern Brazil’s folkloric rhythms like forró, maracatu, or coco, and on deep Americana—from bluegrass to spirituals to swampy Louisiana jams—Matuto uses unexpected Pan-American combinations to craft appealing, roosty, yet philosophical tales of love, self-discovery, nostalgia, and true peace.
With an honest love for roots and world music, genuine Brazilian styles, and improvisational experimentation, Matuto’s rolling drums and quicksilver accordion licks, their earthy vibe and thoughtful reflections mingle to create an inspired Appalachia-gone-Afro-Brazilian sound from the heart of New York City’s diverse musical culture.
Band founder Clay Ross, a wide-ranging Americana and jazz guitarist, is no stranger to the Mainstay having appeared there years ago with Canadian fiddler April Verch. Since then his interest in Brazilian sounds and rhythms has led to a partnership with 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.
Ross and Curto played on each others’ recordings a few years ago and began exploring a shared musical vision. They set about combining their individual repertoires into an extensive library of Pan-American influences and in 2009 they received a prestigious Fulbright Grant for a six-week residency in Recife, Brazil.
What began as a curious exploration of their shared musical loves, Matuto (a Northeastern Brazilian slang term for “bumpkin”) has blossomed into a platform for expressing broad truths, ideas inspired by Buddhist sutras, personal epiphanies, and the musicians’ down-home upbringings.
This mix has proven to have real legs, taking the band from club dates in the Deep South to diplomacy-minded State Department tours across Eastern Europe and West Africa. Matuto is available in several configurations. For this mostly acoustic exploration of Brazilian gone Americana composite, Ross and Curto will be joined by Aynsley Powell on drums, and Mike Lavalle on bass and percussion.
Matuto are part of a broader, loosely defined movement of hard-to-define acoustic innovators, musicians savoring their own heritage as they commune across genre and cultural bounds. Friendship and co-creation honed the original Matuto idea. Ross and Curto turned what could have been little more than a zany side gig into a serious musical venture, in which seemingly disparate threads and brainstorms are woven together organically. “Our sound has really gelled,” explains Curto, “and our style had become more codified, from a musical stand point.” Their most recent recording is “The Devil and The Diamond” released on Motema Music in May 2013.
A concert can start with an unexpected arrangement of an old chestnut like “Wayfaring Stranger” (resulting in “Diamond”), or with harmonium lines from a jam session with an Indian vocalist (“Tears”). Inspiration may come from Recife (“Toca Do Sino”) or from Carolina childhood horseplay sessions (“Horse Eat Corn”). But it all comes together, as far-flung sounds converge in coherent, seamless songs, in music leaping beyond the fun of fusion, to express a bigger artistic picture, be it a tale of thwarted desire or the challenge of tussling with inner demons.
“Matuto does what we do out of love,” reflects Ross, “and our message is simple: Follow your passion, if it leads you to Brazil, or to Cajun, klezmer, or hip hop music, it doesn’t matter. Just follow your bliss. Follow it and don’t worry.”
“We feel that way playing music together,” Curto adds. “We can just look at each other and start laughing. There’s a lot of humor and joy, even in the most serious moments.”