Divine dance beats is how concert organizers at FitzGerald's describe the band Matuto headed to the Berwyn venue at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2. Imagine the sound of a Brazilian Carnaval in the Appalachian Mountains.
A sound where dynamic percussion instruments rumble beneath blues-drenched vocals, Telecaster twangs, accordion acrobatics and folksy fiddle tunes.
Veterans of the New York music scene and U.S. festival circuit, Matuto (“bumpkin” in Brazilian slang) moves with two-stepping grace between bluegrass and forró, between swamp rock and maracatu, between surf guitar shimmies and the wah-wah of the berimbau.
In 2002, Clay Ross embarked on a musical odyssey that brought him closer to home. The South Carolina native moved to New York to pursue a jazz career, and several years later found himself in Recife, Brazil, studying the region’s folkloric music. Along the way, he rediscovered the straightforward songs of his native South.
The guitarist and singer titled his Ropeadope Records debut "Matuto," after a Brazilian slang reference to a man from the backcountry. Described as “Weird and wonderful … unorthodox and delightful” by JazzTimes magazine, Ross' sound carves a niche in a musical tradition created on another continent. He performs North American folk songs like “Home Sweet Home” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “John the Revelator” over South American rhythms maracatu, forró, and coco – typical of the northeastern region of Brazil.
In recording the album, Ross called upon the talents of NYC musicians, including master accordionist Rob Curto. Born in New York, Curto is an ambassador for forró in the U.S. An early devotee of North American swing music, bebop piano, funk, rock and blues, he has combined these influences with his mastery of their Brazilian counterparts: forró, chorinho, samba, maracatu and frevo. He spent years living and playing in Brazil, absorbing and interpreting the country’s musical traditions. Curto was a member of the original scene that established forró, the dance music of northeastern Brazil, as an official dance craze in New York City.
Employing musicians across NYC’s diverse jazz, roots and world music scenes, Matuto features violin, guitar, accordion, bass, drums and Brazilian percussion instruments: the alfaia (a large, wooden, rope-tuned bass drum), the pandeiro (a Brazilian tambourine), the berimbau (a single string on a bow struck with a small stick), and the agogô (a pair of small, pitched metal bells.)
In May, the band released its second full-length album, “The Devil and the Diamond,” on Motéma Music. The recording reflects its live shows, developed through hundreds of performances around the world. Appalachian fiddle tunes bounce with a northeastern Brazilian lilt, while the one-string berimbau resonates with an effective blues riff. Curto spins long chromatic melodies over intricate arrangements, and infectiously funky folkloric rhythms. Like a Southern preacher, Ross delivers colorfully satirical lyrics reminiscent of David Byrne, Tom Ze and Caetano Veloso.
Venue and tickets
FitzGerald's is at 6615 W. Roosevelt Road. Tickets cost $15 and are available at the club and www.ticketweb.com/snl/VenueListings.action?venueId=32814&pl=.
To learn more about Matuto, visit matutomusic.com. For more information on FitzGerald’s, go to www.fitzgeraldsnightclub.com or call 708-788-2118.