By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Traveling to Brazil annually, New York-based American bassoonist Janet Grice has returned to Rio de Janeiro to perform live jazz, and Brazilian chamber, contemporary, and classical music with her group, the Vento Trio.
“The bassoon is a deep, expressive instrument that is often overlooked. People seem to enjoy hearing it up close as it is a bit unusual,” Grice recently told The Rio Times on July 27th. “I play jazz on it which is also not very common, and I still play in orchestras and chamber music with Vento Trio and other groups.”
Grice began shows with the Vento Trio at the recently opened Casa do Choro (House of Choro) on Rua da Carioca in Centro on July 27th and will continue to perform there daily at 12:30 PM through July 31st.
Speaking about her current visit to the country Grice said; “It’s a little tour – this week in Rio at the Casa do Choro, a recital at the Centro Cultural Francisco Mignone on July 31st, then we [Vento Trio] go to Belo Horizonte to play a couple of concerts at the University and the Conservatory.”
Each year during the previous six years, Grice has taught bassoon and improvisation at the Festival de Música de Londrina, held in Londrina in the Brazilian state of Paraná. Additionally she has taught jazz workshops at UniRio and at the University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte. This year she will only teach a master class at UniRio.
“I have a Doctorate in Bassoon and was conservatory trained,” said Grice, who began playing bassoon at age fourteen after learning the clarinet. “I tour a little every summer but in the last seven years I have taught full time at a public arts school in the Bronx, which is very demanding, so I have cut back on touring. In the past, I played throughout Europe with jazz and contemporary music ensembles.”
When asked about the origins of Vento Trio, which consists of Grice, American flutist Kevin Willios and clarinetist Heber Miguel, Grice explained; “We formed at Rutgers University in 2004 so that I could present Brazilian chamber music for my Doctoral Dissertation, and stayed together since then. We play mostly Brazilian music that I have either researched, arranged or acquired, along with my original music and composers from Latin America.”
Inspired and influenced by Brazilians musicians including Tom Jobim, Moacir Santos, Gilberto Gil and Hermeto Pascoal, Grice first visited Brazil in the early 1980s. During the years since, Grice met and befriended most of the aforementioned musicians as well as many others.
“I have been coming to Brazil since 1981 and lived here for periods of up to a year. While my children were growing up I did not return, except for a tour in 2000. I started coming back every year in 2008,” explained Grice. “I love Brazil, speaking Portuguese and have spent my career researching and playing Brazilian music.”
Event though the bassoon is not an instrument traditionally used in jazz, it hasn’t stopped musicians including Americans Paul Hanson, Illinois Jacquet, Frank Tiberi, Karen Borca and Grice to use it.
“I began playing jazz on the bassoonist as a teen, improvising free music with my friends,” said Grice. “I heard Illinois Jacquet’s recording of ‘Round Midnight’ on the bassoon, and loved the group Oregon with Paul McCandless playing the oboe.”
“At the New England Conservatory,” added Grice, “I studied improvisation along side my classical studies. After college I worked at the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock and met many great jazz musicians, and toured Europe with Karl Berger’s jazz orchestra.”
When asked about the audience reception in Brazil compared to audience in New York and around the world, Grice stated; “All places are different! I live in New York, so there is a lot of great talent and competition to play. The venues there are less ‘audience friendly’ in some ways, than in Rio. Here in Rio there are venues like the Casa do Choro that offer music at a low price at convenient hours in a good setting.”
She later added that in Brazil; “The audience is more responsive, more supportive here than in the USA, I think. I would like to find a way to build audiences and attract more people, but I find that live instrumental music is a struggle to promote and does not get the support it needs to thrive, both in Brazil and the USA.”
“In jazz and popular music settings the audience in Brazil is more interactive; people dance and mingle generationally more than in the USA,” she continued. “In Brazil concerts are more social and to some extent, more accessible, as the weather is good year round and there are free events. There is more going on in New York, of course, but playing in Rio is more personal in a way, because of its smaller size and friendly atmosphere.”
During the shows in Casa do Choro, Vento Trio will be joined by Harold Emert on oboe, Alessandro Jeremias on French horn, and Claudio Vettori on piano. The shows are taking place daily at 12:30 PM through Friday, July 31st.
To learn more about Janet Grice, the Vento Trio, to watch videos and purchase CDs, see Grice’s website.