Featured Musician - May 2011  

Weber Iago

Name:Weber Iago

Instrument: piano, composer/arranger.

Early Years/Education: I grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My father took me to piano lessons at age seven, and I never stopped playing, even at times when I thought I would never be a full-time musician. In my teens, I became very involved with the Catholic Church and went to a Franciscan monastery. I was studying to be a Catholic priest. When I came out of the monastery, music became even more essential. I started at seven, but the decision to become a full-time musician was made at 17. My father was also a musician, songwriter and lyricist, but not for a career. I studied classical music at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. I received a Bachelor's of Music (Piano Performance) in 1985. They have courses you can take in elementary school, so I really started studying there at age 11. All of my formal training was in classical music, and everything I've done with jazz and improvisation has been informal. When I was attending the conservatory, I thought, "I can learn that (jazz) by ear." Now, my attitude has changed. I believe improvisation is something you do study.

I have surrounded myself with the right people, all the great musicians I hang out with are my teachers. For example, Kenny Werner. I consider him one of my teachers because of his book, "Effortless Mastery." This resonated with me in such a way, I feel this is already the path I am on. This book has to do with mastery in any area, about being gentle to yourself, and discovering the master in you. Kenny meditates and practices Zen Buddhism. My line of spirituality I practice is Sikhism. I feel one thing I learn everyday as a musician is, it's a spiritual path. That's what music and arts in general are for.

United States: I moved to LA in '87, thinking I'd live with a friend I knew from the conservatory in Rio. I got very much involved in the Brazilian music scenethere but not the hip, creative scene. At the end of '89, a Brazilian percussionist was passing through LA, and he needed a pianist. He called me and we wound up playing a gig at a resort in Pebble Beach. It became a steady gig, so that area, Carmel and Monterey, became my home for the next 20 years. Three years ago, I moved to Vancouver, Washington, with my wife and son so we could be close to my wife's mother. Here, in addition to her mom living near us, we also have a very good support system. In Portland there are a lot of Brazilian families with kids. We happen to live a few blocks from one another. In planning the move, I thought I'd be playing often with guitarist John Stowell. We met in '88 and played for years in Monterey. Ironically, he is so busy traveling, it hasn't happened yet.

Weber Iago Chamber Jazz Project: I'm very excited about this project. This is really saxophonist David Valdez's group too. The music consists of two books...my compositions and the other works Valdez has compiled. I met David through drummer Dan Robbins whom I've worked a lot with in California. One night at the Brasserie, violinist Eddie Parente sat-in and we decided to add him to the group. Valdez heard bassoonist Evan Kuhlman play and we decided to add him as well. The new compositions I'm writing have violin and bassoon in mind. I'm also rearranging my old compositions to accommodate the new instrumentation. David is putting a lot of effort in compiling a book for this instrumentation.

Another major project I'm involved with is called "SEVA." This is a newly formed group with a great guitarist from Bulgaria named Hristo Vitchev. We met playing with an Italian pop singer. We put together music uniting elements that influence us ... Jazz, Pop, World, Classical, Brazilian and Bulgarian musics. We have Dan Robbins on bass and Mike Shannon on drums. Right now this group is a priority as well. We're based out of San Jose, Califofrnia.

Another major association I have is with the Belgian jazz scene. I'm involved with a label there called Mogno Music, which is owned by a friend of mine. Back in '90 two musicians were passing through and came to the hotel I was playing at. They were flutist Ali Ryerson (from New York) and pianist Charles Loos (from Belgium). We became good friends and collaborators. We have several recordings we've done together on Mogno and Igloo records. Since 2000 I've been there thirteen times.

Musical Influences: Milton Nascimento, Pat Metheny, Hermeto Pachoal, Chic Corea, Bill Evans, Weather Report, Miles Davis,
Michel Legrand, and Genesis.

Most Satisfying Experience: The highlights of my career have to do with specific compositions. "Children of the Wind" was a special time. It was commissioned by the Hidden Valley Music Seminars, Carmel Valley, California (1997); in this case it was a long composition and all the tunes on the CD are written to go with this

Favorite Recordings: Milton Nascimento,"Clube de Esquina 2"; Pat Metheny, "First Circle"(1984) and "Still Life Talking" (1987); Hermeto Pascoal, "Festa dos Deuses"; Chic Corea, "Matrix"; Michel Legrand, "Yentl" (soundtrack); the recordings of Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Weather Report and Genesis.

Discography: As a leader: "Children of the Wind" featuring Keith Underwood and Paul McCandless (Adventure Music), '04;"Each Day's Universe: Solo and Trio," '03; "Spring Will Stay Here: Weber Iago European Quartet," '04. Solo piano: "Two Hands, One Heart," '01, "Nehmat," '10, "Two for Peace," '10, (Mogno Music). "Piano Masters Vol. 4" (Adventure Music), '11; and "Tidings of Comfort & Joy" The Christmas Project," '08. As a co-leader: w/Jovino Santos Neto, "Live at Caramoor," guest Joe Lovano, '08 (nominated for a Latin Grammy '09); w/Romero Lubambo, "Face to Face," '93 and "Two," '94; w/Charles Loos, "O Sonho e o Sorriso" (Igloo Records), '01; w/Ron Kaplan, "The Ron Kaplan-Weber Iago Album," '03; w/Colin Farish, "Love Everyday," '09; w/Hristo Vitchev, "Secrets of an Angel," '09.

Gigs: May 14, Silverton Wine and Jazz Festival (Weber Iago Chamber Jazz Project featuring David Valdez); June 3, Piedmont Pianos, Oakland, Ca. (SEVA); June 26, Kuumba Jazz Center, Santa Cruz, Ca. (SEVA); September 26, Yoshi's, Oakland, Ca. (SEVA); and September 30, Jazz at Newport (Weber Iago Chamber Jazz Project featuring David Valdez).

Future Plans: We are putting a lot of effort into both projects (SEVA and The Weber Iago Jazz Project). We're getting more exposure, performance opportunities, both have the intension to record later this year. I find that in these two cases the instrumentation can dictate the direction of the compositions. As different as these groups seem, they have an area of intersection. The proof is that I have a composition I work with both of them. The Chamber Jazz Project also performs sometimes with a bass player and a drummer. Although it has elements of chamber music, it also has moments of jazz and fusion, etc.

Other: Being a Brazilian musician in the States can be a blessing and a curse. Brazil itself is a synthesis of many different cultures. When I go to a jam sessions and they know I'm from Brazil, they immediately want me to play Samba or Bossa, and it is frustrating to me. I think of myself as a musician who likes to play anything I feel like playing. That is why a lot of Brazilian jazz players identify themselves with the European jazz scene.

If a Portland musician wanted to go global, it helps to have a personal contact and develop a friendship. This could evolve on a professional level. For me, the example is Belgium. It's easier for me to work in Belgium than Brazil. I've been gone for so long, it's harder for me to put concerts together in Brazil.

-- by Rita Rega