Monday, December 19, 2016

Celebrating a Brazilian jazz legacy

There is something mighty special about Brazilian music. The pulse of its varied rhythms, the sensuous sway of its melodies and the textures of its exotic percussion combine in ways that touch the heart – and soul – of the listener. Those qualities were on full display Sunday, December 18 at the Tampa Jazz Club’s Manfredo Fest tribute concert at Hillsborough Community College’s Ybor campus.


Pianist and composer Manfredo Fest was one of the lesser-known creators of the bossa nova when the style was in its incubation stage in the late 1950s and early ‘60s in his native Brazil. The Brazilian musical tidal wave brought him to the U.S. in 1967. He worked in Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Chicago before settling in the Tampa Bay area in 1988. He spent the last dozen years of his musically prolific life in Florida, leading a band that blended the music of his homeland with bebop.


Thomas Carabasi
Phill Fest
Manfredo’s son, guitarist Phill Fest, and pianist Robert Prester drove in from West Palm Beach to collaborate with drummer Thomas Carabasi’s Samba Jazz Ensemble. The band included bassist Patrick Bettison, saxophonist Perry Childs and percussionist Alvon Griffin. Phill Fest, Bettison, Carabasi and Griffin were Manfredo Fest band veterans, so this was also a musical family reunion of sorts.


The matinee event featured mostly material from Manfredo (some of it co-written by his wife, Lili Galiteri Fest), and a couple of Phill Fest originals. The band also performed Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “The Girl from Ipanema,” “Double Rainbow,” “Wave” and his lesser-known “O Morro Não Tem Vez (Favela).”



Robert Prester
It was an afternoon filled with bossa nova, samba and baiao rhythms from a band that explored every nuance of the material. Each band member had multiple solo spotlights. 

Carabasi, who was Manfredo Fest’s drummer for many years, was the rhythmic engine powering the program. Griffin’s exotic percussion touches were a sight to see and hear from his dozens of hand drums, shakers and other exotic instruments.

Alvon Griffin

Perry Childs
Manfredo Fest compositions revisited by the band included “Frajola” (Hip Dude), “Bossa Blues #2,” “Guararapes,” “Hermeto” (a tasty homage to Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal), “Brazilian Dorian Dream” and “Dig This Samba.” Prester, who has recorded on both of Phill’s CDs, shared a series of stunning piano solos, including on his own composition “Islands of Guizar.”

While he spent three years touring with Sergio Mendes, Manfredo Fest’s American breakthrough as a bandleader came in the early 1990s when he signed with the Concord Picante label. 

He recorded four albums for Concord, late standouts in a career discography that included 10 recordings overall. Fest died in October 1999 while awaiting a liver transplant. He was 63.  He would have celebrated his 80th birthday last May 13.

Prester, Bettison,Fest, Carabasi, Childs, Griffin

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