The Macuco Quintet Explores the Diversity within Jazz

The Macuco Quintet is a jazz band based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that focuses on performing Brazilian jazz.

Immersed in a lively, Brazilian jazz tune, the members of the Macuco Quintet moved their bodies to the beat of the music. Making eye contact with each other, the musicians riffed bouncy rhythms before reuniting to play the main melody.

The Macuco Quintet is headed by Joel Springer, an adjunct saxophone instructor at Andover. Springer, who has traveled to Brazil frequently, draws influence from Brazilian composer and musician Hermeto Pascoal when he and the group arrange their composition.

“We’ve been listening to his [Pascoal’s] music and his amazing groups for a long time, as fans, and I felt like some of his pieces would work for Macuco Quintet. So we try to offer a different take on his compositions, and not just try to copy his amazing recordings, which would be nearly impossible anyway! We arrange his pieces so that the key piano harmony is played by the saxophones,” wrote Springer in an email to The Phillipian.

Pascoal’s “Frevo Am Maceio,” arranged by Springer, was one of the songs performed this past Sunday in the Timken Room of Graves Hall. The quintet focuses primarily on performing Brazilian jazz, according to Springer.

“I can’t say exactly what makes Brazilian jazz so special, although big parts are the amazing rhythms and other musical elements that came with the African diaspora from the slave trade to Brazil, and the mix with European music elements over time. I just know that I love listening to it and trying to learn how to play it,” wrote Springer.

According to alto saxophonist Rick Stone, a member of the quintet, jazz is a genre that includes many different subdivisions. During Stone’s career as an avid listener and performer of jazz, he has explored compositions and arrangements of many styles by different artists.

“I started with, I guess you’ll call it more straight-ahead jazz. I grew up listening to a lot of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, those would be kind of more like what I was, but you just kind of branch out as you go. [Brazilian Jazz] is just a different kind of feeling, a different style. And it’s a lot more rhythmic, I think than some other forms of music I’ve played,” said Stone.

Audience member John Shattuck, also an Andover town member and student of Springer, enjoyed the performance put on by the quintet, a performance that  reminded him of the jazz music he grew up listening to.

“I liked the difference in sounds. I was kind of brought up listening to Miles Davis and John Coltrane. My father loved those guys. I liked the different sounds they had. The Brazilian accent, you know? It’s amazing what you can do with jazz you can take it any direction you want. There’s no boundaries, so it’s kind of fun to listen to,” said Shattuck.

Springer formed the group in 2014, wanting to create a quintet that performed original, Brazilian jazz compositions. According to Stone, the personalities of the members, as well as skillfully arranged music, are important for establishing a good quintet.

“That’s a really important thing that you get along with everyone and that you enjoy, you know, because you have to spend time together rehearsing the music, that’s one thing. Having well-written music and well-arranged music [is another]. Joel does a really good job with that,” said Stone.