Macuco Quintet Infuses Brazilian Rhythms into Jazz

As an audio recording of a young girl’s voice echoed through the Timken Room in Graves Hall, Henrique Eisenmann, a guest pianist, accompanied with a smooth melody. The wavering yet passionate voice of the recording blended seamlessly with Eisenmann’s playing, creating a sense of hope and strength in the piece. Eisenmann explained during his introduction of the piece that he had heard this girl sing while on a trip in Ghana, and he instantly decided to record her for his piece “Marilli.”

“We are always searching for creating alternatives for our music, to not get stuck in our scales and our pitches, and human speech is a great source of inspiration because of repeated notes, unexpected leaps, and sometimes sequence of notes that you would never imagine otherwise, so transcribing to voice is a great exercise to expand your musical horizons,” said Eisenmann.

The concert, featuring the Macuco Quintet and Eisenmann, was held last Sunday. The quintet, based in Cambridge, Mass., was formed in 2014 by Joel Springer. The concert featured works by Julius Hemphill and a few by Springer and Eisenmann themselves, but the majority of pieces were composed by Hermeto Pascoal, a Brazilian composer.

“I have been going to Brazil to visit my in-laws for about ten years just for a week at a time, two weeks at a time. When I was there, I would buy Brazilian music CDs. I listened to Brazilian music, and [Brazilian beats] started to creep into my composing just unconsciously. After a while, I just decided, ‘Wow, I should get a group together to play some of these pieces,’ ” said Springer.

The quintet performed “Little Church,” a piece by Pascoal. Beginning with a series of prolonged notes, the musicians played a dissonant tune. Eisenmann, on the piano, injected high notes throughout the piece, contrasting against the low-pitched, mournful melody. The brass slowly ascended in pitch to silence as the song ended.

“[The one] that is the most tiring to play probably is ‘Little Church.’ It’s slower, [and] I was playing clarinet on it. That’s difficult just because it’s very exposed. There’s not a whole lot going on,” said Rick Stone, a member of the quintet.

One of Springer’s pieces, “More Serious,” began with a duet with Springer on the woodblock and Huergo on the electric bass. As the crisp sounds of the woodblock contrasted with the low electric bass, Austin McMahon, a member of the quintet, came in with sharp beats by hitting the edge of his drums. Later, the piece picked up a louder and and more jovial tone, led by Stone on the alto saxophone, Springer on the soprano saxophone, and Allan Chase on the baritone saxophone. The piece ended abruptly with all the instruments playing in unison.

“[More Serious] is not Brazilian, but it uses an Afro-Cuban beat, and I just wanted to do something with that, to throw that into the mix. I also wanted to feature an open-ended bass solo, [and] that’s how it begins,” said Springer.

“I liked how passionate they all were while playing their set. They all exhibited so much energy through their playing which really livened their performance and made it much more enjoyable to watch,” said Remus Sottile ’19, a member of the audience.