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Luciano Calazans is a bass player, composer, and arranger from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, and being a bass player here means having to inhabit some of the most sophisticated rhythms in the world while arcing through melodies and harmonies ranging from folkloric to futuristic.
Luciano began playing the bars and bailes of Salvador professionally at thirteen years of age, and has since played for, produced, and arranged for some of Brazil's greatest stars. He was propelled into music, growing up listening to his father play guitar in rodas de choro (choro circles; choro is an erudite music something like chamber samba)...beginning on the recorder and moving to the guitar at ten years of age. It was during Carnival 0f 1985 that Luciano stood and watched as seminal Salvador group Acordes Verdes (Green Chords) passed by -- led by bass player Carlinhos Marques -- and Luciano decided to switch to bass. Together with friends he put together his first band while his family lived in Curuzu, in Salvador's neighborhood of Liberdade (Liberty, one of the largest black neighborhoods in South America).
In 1989 Luciano received a scholarship for and entered into a preparatory course for composition and directing. He'd been noticed by a professor of musical perception -- Maria das Graças -- who discovered something about Luciana he wasn't aware of...the boy had absolute pitch. Then in 1992, at seventeen years of age, Luciano was asked to join -- as bass player and music director -- a Salvador band of nation-wide renown: Banda Reflexu's. Luciano was now playing on big stages and television.
A recording session at Salvador's iconic WR Studios caught the attention of owner Wesley Rangel and Luciano was called in for so many studio sessions that he left Banda Reflexu's. He recorded for Margareth Menezes (who was introduced to the United States by David Byrne), Gilberto Gil, Timbalada, Fafá de Belém, Zezé de Camargo e Luciano, Luís Melodia, Léo Gandelman, Aldo Brizzi and many others. In 1993 Margareth Menzes asked Luciano to join her band. In the same year Luciano won Salvador's Troféu Caymmi (Caymmi Trophy) as Best Instrumentalist.
Luciano's CD Contrabaixo Astral (the title being a play on words that only Portuguese-speakers will understand) was recorded at WR Studios at no charge to Luciano, a gift from Wesley Rangel for Luciano's having won 1st Prize for Best Arrangement in the 2nd Edition of Rádio Educadora's Festival of Music (Rádio Educadora is Brazil's National Public Radio). The arrangement for which Luciano won was for one his own compositions -- Valsinha (Little Waltz) -- which appears of course on the CD.
In 2008 Luciano produced Belô Velloso's Versão Brasileira (Brazilian Version), a CD which spent several weeks in Brazil's Top 10.
In 2009 Luciano did all the arrangments for a chamber orchestra work entitled "Um Estado de Espírito" (A State of Spirit), which included a beautiful piece sung by Gal Costa, "As Coisas Que Caymmi Cantou" ("The Things which Caymmi Sung": Dorival Caymmi was the musical bard of Bahia, one of Brazil's icons).
Luciano never stops. His current and ongoing project is Ufonia, a small "big band" including a horn-section featuring Bahia's top players. Ufonia was proud to feature special guest percussionist Robertinho Silva onstage in 2010. And Flavio Venturini recently sang on a Calazans-produced track included in a CD produced by Natura for the ecological benefit of Brazil's sea turtles.
Brazilian music is a sublime melding of some of the world's richest harmonies with some of its (as we've already pointed out) most sophisticated rhythms. It has a magnificent history, and with torch-bearers like Luciano Calazans on the scene, it also has a magnificent future!
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