Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Local Heroes: Desafinado

     When it comes to tomatoes -- the cherry ones from Mexico, the clusters all the way from Holland, and so on -- there's still nothing to compare with a homegrown tomato in the summertime in the Midwest, am I right? And, even though I love seeing exotic multicolored birds of paradise in New Guinea on the Planet Earth DVD (see my earlier post), it's still a thrill for me to spot a goldfinch in my back yard. We all recognize the importance of world leaders to bring us hope for change, but the softspoken woman whose office is across the street has been an excellent mayor for many years and her decisions affect me too. What this is all leading up to is the idea of "local heroes" -- the treasures right under our noses in our own domains.

     One of the musical treasures in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, is a group called Desafinado, a six piece ensemble that plays a combination of Samba, Bossa Nova, and MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira).

     Band members are Elis Artz on vocals (in Brazilian Portuguese); Connie Johnson on vibraphone and composer of originals; Greg Jahiel on guitar, vocals, and composer of originals; Tom Paynter on flute, melodica, various whistles (!), and composer of originals; Giraldo Rosales on congas; and Matt Plaskota on drums.

     My husband (see back of curly haired head and white beard) and I have been fans of this group for at least seven or eight years. We've heard them play at a pretty wide range of venues -- outdoors at festivals, at the public libraries, at jazz clubs, on campus, and so on. We have their second CD and are eagerly awaiting their new one.

Desafinado's second CD, entitled "Conhecimento," was released in late 2006. On this album, the band showcases many original compositions, along with a smattering of Brazilian favorites by Cartola, João Donato, and Caetano Veloso, among others.

     Desafinado is currently recording their new record, to be released in early 2010! Connie tells me it will be all originals!

     They just started a Fan Page on Facebook. I'm sure they will post on it when the new album is ready. Become a Fan!

   (You can also, of course, become a Fan or Beaded Jewelry by Susan on Facebook!)

     So what's the music like? Well, it's wonderful. It has that one-two one-two samba beat, with the congas making your toes tap the whole time you're listening. It's upbeat, friendly, fun, but mellow, laid-back, and thoroughly relaxing. I'm no music critic, but I know what I like!
     The songs are sung in Brazilian Portuguese, but you gotta know they are mostly about love and dancing and the like. They usually include in a performance some numbers by Antonio Carlos Jobim, a samba school favorite from Sao Paulo, and the well-known Girl from Ipanema.
     One of the great things about this group is that they really play together.  You never feel like anyone is hogging the stage or showing off his or her musical skills. You get across a sense of complete personal harmony (as well as the musical kind).

   Another marvel is that each and every one of the group members is really such an accomplished musician. Some of them play a range of different instruments; some compose; some just love making music. They all have "day jobs" and yet are happy to stay up late entertaining us.

     I have had so many evenings of pleasure listening to Desafinado play and chatting on break with the band members. Hurray for our local heroes!


  1. Hi,Susan!!
    So nice to read your comments about us! Thanks!!

    We are doing well in Portugal. Hope to see you and David in June!!!

  2. I'm really glad you enjoyed the post, Elis! It's very cold (wind chill many degrees below zero) in Champaign-Urbana), so you're lucky to be in sunny warm Portugal!