All the excitement of the Summer Olympics in Rio got me thinking about the long history of Brazilian music in California.
The great composer Moacir Santos set out for Hollywood in the late 1960s hoping to build a career writing film scores, which didn’t pan out, but led to several classic albums for Blue Note Records. Sergio Mendes had much better luck recasting Brazilian and American pop hits with Brasil ’66, and Flora Purim and Airto became minor pop stars in the ‘70s with their soaring Brazilian jazz.
These days, many Brazilian musicians call California home, including guitarist Sergio Assad. Assad is best known as half of classical music’s most celebrated guitar duo (with his younger brother Odair), but his gorgeous new album "Relíquia" (Adventure Music) introduces a new familial partnership. His daughter Clarice Assad is a fiercely creatively vocalist, pianist and oft-commissioned composer whose work has been performed by major symphonies and chamber ensembles around the world.
Sergio has lived in San Francisco since 2008, when he joined the faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory, while Clarice, who’s based in Chicago, has long worked closely with San Francisco’s New Century Chamber Orchestra as a composer in residence, arranger and orchestrator. A love letter of an album, "Relíquia" is full of ravishing melodies that often feel hauntingly familiar, only to resolve with an unanticipated twist.