All charts and midi files for CRUZAO GRUPO
are now online in PDF format!
Festival - mainstage at Nathan Philips Square
Festival - mainstage at Contact Stage
Jazz By Genre's
"Latin/Brazilian Night", Mod Club, Toronto
Axis Club Theatre,
Press Release from May 27, 2005 Distilleary Jazz Fest concert
SAGA of CRUZAO -- from Quintet to Monster
In the beginning
there was... Brownman & CRUZAO :
Throughout jazz history
there have been many explorations of "chord-less" music -- ensembles without
a piano or guitar -- but in Latin American music, there has been few, if
any, exploring that texture, likely to do the dominance and central importance
of the "montuno" piano construct. In the early 2000's Brownman Ali, already
a highly in demand studio musician in the Toronto's bustling Latin scene,
became obsessed with the idea of trying to compose Latin-jazz without a
montuno, in a chord-less environment, to see if audiences would miss it.
Could modern Latin-jazz be written without a montuno? From that question,
the great experiment that was CRUZAO was born -- a five-man, Latin-jazz-urban
ensemble led by Ali, which featured his brother Marcus Ali on alto, Paco
Luviano from Mexico on bass, Luisito Orbegoso from Peru on congas and a
then new arrival to Canada, Cuban drummer Chendy Leon. This ground-breaking
ensemble would be called "Canada's premiere latin-jazz ensemble" by Toronto's
NOW Magazine and "one of the first chordless Latin-jazz groups in history"
by New York University's Music Department. Their debut recording "Shades
Of Brown" would shoot to the top of the national jazz charts for three
months, leading Brownman to being awarded the National Jazz Award for "Composer
of the Year", and garnering invitations as the featured ensemble at such
international jazz festivals as Havana, Prague, Montreal, Toronto, Estonia,
Hawaii, New York and Paris. The group would win the coveted Montreal Jazz
Fest's "Grand Prix du Jazz Award", a CBC Galaxie "Rising Star" Award, a
SOCAN composer award, and receive 2 Toronto Independent Music Awards &
4 National Jazz Award nominations.
The group did very
well internationally, but after a few years, Brownman became fascinated
with the idea of expanding the ensemble in size and writing large ensemble
orchestrations for a bigger version of CRUZAO.
"The idea was to
thematically explore and expand on the initial latin-jazz-urban concept
of CRUZAO, to delve deeper into those sonic qualities, and inflate that
ideology from 5 to 15 men", states Brownman. "Having these top-shelf latin
musicians, jazz artists and hip-hop brothers all stand as one, and play
together with grand unified motion, is a staggering and pride-filling experience
to witness both as composer and bandleader."
And thus -- the
Monster was born :
CRUZAO GRUPO MONSTRUOSO
talent for blending jazz elements with urban grooves and Latin rhythms
is perhaps best exemplified by CRUZAO GRUPO MONSTRUOSO, his unique 15-piece
latin-jazz-urban orchestra - built outward from the core of CRUZAO - featuring
a 6-man horn section, 2 monster bass players, 3 percussionists, two Latin
vocalists and two freestyle rappers. The orchestra was inaugurated with
4 feature performances at the 2004 Distillery Jazz Festival to a captive
sold-out capacity audiences making the shows the largest in that festival's
history. Brownman's intense style, rhythm, power and versatility for which
he’s known are amplified by the MONSTRUOSO, affectionately called "The
Monster" by it's members and media. That the extensive changes in size
and orchestration -- still retaining a fundamentally chordless premise
with the use of 2 bassists, yet no piano or guitar -- doesn’t detract from
Brownman's eclectic yet cohesive mix of styles and influences is a testament
to the talents of this National Jazz Award winning composer.
But it's important
to note that MANY talents are on keen display in this all-star ensemble.
CRUZAO GRUPO MONSTRUOSO’s monumental performances offer consistent evidence
of the sheer breadth and wealth of Canada's jazz, latin and urban communities
with the group being stacked with Juno and National Jazz Award winners
all with international reputations of their own, exemplified by thrilling
performances that hold audiences enthralled when they’re not spilling onto
the dance floor. Brownman’s younger sibling and right hand man in CRUZAO,
Marcus Ali, is highly showcased in the Monster and often finds himself
matching wits with his older sibling on the bandstand with improvised dueling
so intuitive they seem to border the telepathic and adding yet another
layer of superlative artistry to the show.
latin-jazz-urban combination of a 6-piece horn section, 3 percussionists,
2 bass players, 2 Latin vocalists and 2 rappers is mad science to some,
but the electrifying chemistry is undeniable to both critic and fan alike.
Never has such unique orchestrations sounded so highly evocative, energetic,
and sonically adventurous as in Brownman's CRUZAO GRUPO MONSTRUOSO.”
- Toronto Film Festival