Having rehearsed and played as part of a trio since 1995, Manu Lafer recorded his first CD, Baião da Flor, in 1997, the same year he graduated from medical school. The CD was released the following year under Paulo Tatit’s and Sandra Peres’s Palavra Cantada label, and was distributed by Eldorado, marking the official start of his musical career.
Lafer’s music is inspired and influenced by his mother, anthropologist Betty Mindlin’s, collection (which, in the words of singer Marlui Miranda, “only had high quality music”), but also, and as with all Brazilians, by the tradition and powerful allure of Brazilian popular music.
Lafer is among a rare breed of composers who have the experience and variations that justify the quantity and restlessness of their albums. His songs possess original harmonies and inventive rhythms; their seemingly simple melodies are captivating and catchy, grounded in traditions of the past – especially the radio singers of the so-called golden days.
His national-music repertoire incorporates samba, baião, marches, foxtrot, bolero, samba-canção and other styles that have continuously been renewed and reimagined motifs in the creations of the author. His work also reveals his love for the American songbook (especially musicals, big bands, films, radio, jazz and pop from the end of the 1950s-70s) and, because of that influence, Lafer defines his style as “Pan American.”
Lafer’s medical career began at UNIFESP (originally known as the Paulista School of Medicine) and includes a doctorate in pediatrics; positions as a researcher at New York’s Columbia University and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), in Maryland; work in Brazil in the areas of indigenous health, vaccination, virology, community and family health; and longtime collaborations with the Maltese Cross Assistance Center Brazilian branch, the Ministry of Health, and the Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital, where he is currently a researcher. Despite being encouraged to choose between the two careers, Lafer opted to ignore that “dilemma”: he had the good fortune and determination to ensure that each career reinforced and drove, rather than hindered, the other. (According to him, there were two things he wanted to avoid in life: becoming an amateur musician, and becoming a professional musician.)
In biblical Hebrew, a shir is a song that denotes a cycle (like a nursery rhyme, or the desire to sing it repeatedly) and, at the same time, it is an impression, a residual feeling – in Irving Berlin’s words, “the melody lingers on.” Perhaps these are the musical pathways for children and adults in search of happiness. Lafer would like to thank all the special people with whom he has worked and who have encouraged him throughout his journey.
Education: Lafer has studied guitar with Luiz Tatit, his greatest influence, Cezar Mendes Nogueira (the nephew of Paulinho Nogueira) and Ítalo Perón. He has studied singing with Ná Ozzetti, Fernanda Gianesella and Wagner Barbosa (speech level singing).
Discography: From Baião da Flor (1998) to Frum (streaming in 2019) there are around twenty CDs with material written and interpreted by Manu, spanning the Brazilian and American songbooks, with an excursion into the Jewish one, too. This discography also includes performances by Danilo Caymmi, Mateus Aleluia, Luiz Brasil, Germano Mathias, Swami Junior, Howard Alden, Dori Caymmi, Jack Wilkins, Maude Maggart, Ehud Asherie, Bucky Pizzarelli and Ken Peplowski. A DVD of a live performance A Lente do Homem was also released in 2008, directed by Fabio Tagliaferri, while The Word (2017) is a DVD of the album with the same name that was also released on CD.
Partners: Danilo Caymmi, Lafer’s long-time collaborator, first reached out to Lafer after seeing him on television (on Sem Censura, a talk show hosted by recognized TV journalist Leda Nagle); Luiz Tatit, Dori Caymmi, Toninho Horta, Fabio Tagliaferri, Guilherme Wisnik, Alexandre Barbosa de Souza, Bruno Giovannetti, Jack Wilkins, John Pizzarelli and Sandro Albert, among others, have all worked with Lafer, along with educators and tap dancers Steve Zee, Kika Sampaio and Susan Baskerville.
Producers: Almost all of the artist’s works have been produced by Alê Siqueira (Os Tribalistas), with Deo Teixeira producing one DVD on his own and working together with award-winning directors Juliano Salgado, Stefano Capuzzi and Filippo Capuzzi on the other. Swami Jr (Omara Portuondo) and Fabio Tagliaferri produced THE collaboration CD with Danilo Caymmi, and in the US, Brazilian guitar player Sandro Albert has worked on several. Singer Leandro Bomfim coproduced his 2 first albums.
Arrangers: The late Lincoln Olivetti, considered one of Brazil’s all-time greatest arrangers, worked closely with Manu for eleven years, having produced and arranged two full albums. But the list of arrangers also includes Jaques Morelembaum, Luiz Brasil, Dori Caymmi, Andre Mehmari and Jetter Garotti Jr (in studio) and Fabio Tagliaferri and Swami Junior (for the live performances in two decades). His shows have been directed by Fabio Tagliaferri ever since the release of his first CD. As a guitarist, Manu has two works with arrangements by internationally renowned musicians. The first is with the duo Swami Junior (Brazilian seven-string guitar) and Howard Alden (seven-string guitar and banjo): Trip The Light Fantastic. Alden and Jack Wilkins (recording together for the first time ever) produced and recorded Lafer’s rare standards collection Nobody But You, while with Bucky Pizzarelli, there is Buckskin. Another, in Brazil, with the guitar of Dori Caymmi, another recorded in Brazil that included American collaborators pianist Ehud Asherie, singer Maude Maggart and 7 string guitarist Howard Alden, featuring Warren Vaché (trumpet), in addition to clarinet and tenor saxophone by Ken Peplowski. Peplowski also produced and played on Something Old And New, a jazz/folk/pop album, his 4th collaboration with Lafer.
Interpreters: Lafer’s songs have been recorded by Nana Caymmi, Danilo Caymmi, Dori Caymmi, Ná Ozzetti, Mateus Aleluia, Germano Mathias, Karina Zeviani, Mariana Bernardes, Monica Salmaso, Cris Aflalo, Josyane Melo, Marcelo Pretto, José Miguel Wisnik, Darryl Tookes, Jeanne Gies and Branca Lescher. And especially by his favorites, Maude Maggart and John Pizzarelli.