Photo by Mary Jindra
If there is any certainty to life in the modern world, it's that we are all everywhere.
From Miami to New York and Minnesota, people from around the world are making their presence known, and embracing each other's experiences.
That's particularly true in music, where the blues, jazz and hip-hop -- all largely African-American inventions -- have international audiences and practitioners.
Such is the dynamic that a few decades ago inspired Pavey Jany, then a young guitarist in the Czech Republic, to embark on a musical journey that would lead him to Brazilian jazz, fusion and bossa nova - genres he now explores in the Twin Cities.
"What I've found in Brazilian music was everything that I really wanted to include in my guitar playing," said Jany, who leads Trio Bossa Nova and a larger fusion group called Ticket To Brazil. "All of the sudden there was this door that opened to the world which was so rich for me in which I could apply everything I loved: classical music, fusion and jazz.
"Brazilian guitar music was really the perfect music for me. I think it was a springboard for me."
Trio Bossa Nova performs at 8 p.m. tonight at Café 318 in Excelsior, Minn. Joining Jany on stage will be percussionist and vocalist Lidia Berman, a native of Honduras, and Andrew Foreman, one of the Twin Cities' best bassists.
The small setting allows the three musicians to focus on the intimacy of bossa nova standards that Jany first heard as a young man, beautiful songs from Brazilian guitarists Bola Sete, Baden Powell and Luiz Bonfa. He is also inspired by contemporary artists Egberto Gismonti and Raphael Rabello.
Jany, who studied classical guitar in his homeland, discovered Brazil's musicians after spending three years in the West African country of Gabon, a former French colony. He learned of the African roots of Brazilian music and how they were transported to the western hemisphere by African slaves.
"I had a chance to play with African musicians," Jany said. "That bridge between Brazilian guitar music and west African music ended up in one pot with Brazilian fusion."
Although none of the trio's musicians are from Brazil, Jany said they have adopted its musical culture and made it part of their lives.
"We are Brazilians in our hearts," he said.
Like many musicians, Latin bandleader Poncho Sanchez discovered his favorite sounds at home.
In his case, it was from a small army of siblings taken by the Latin music craze of the late 1950s, which brought the mambo, cha-cha-cha and other rhythms to Los Angeles by way of New York City, Puerto Rico and even Mexico.
"I'm the youngest of 11," said Sanchez, who performs tonight at the Ordway in St. Paul. "I have six sisters and four brothers and so they're the ones that had the first Latin records that I heard. I grew up with the music in my house every day."
Those vibrant sounds came from big bands led by Cal Tjader, Machito, Tito Rodriguez, Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo - musicians that Sanchez, a conga player, would one day seek to emulate.
But first he had to learn how to play.
"I'm the only musician out of the whole family," Sanchez said. "My brothers and sisters love music and they love to dance but nobody actually took the time to learn an instrument, except me 'cause the guy who lived across the street, who's still a friend of mine, Benny Rodriguez, he had a rhythm and blues band and I used to watch him practice."
Sanchez taught himself to play by practicing to the music of the bandleaders he admired. The rest is history. After playing the Los Angeles Club scene, he joined Tjader's band in the 1970s.
Later, he would play with other greats, among them Santamaria, Tito Puente, and Dizzy Gillespie.
"They were my heroes growing up in life, and I actually ended up knowing them," Sanchez said. "I got to hang out with them. I got to play with them and they became my best friends. Now, that's a dream come true."
You can read and listen to more of my interview with Sanchez here.