In Something Old and New (2019), Manu Lafer invites clarinet and tenor saxophone virtuoso Ken Peplowski, who collaborated with Benny Goodman and is considered Goodman’s greatest interpreter. Peplowski was responsible for the conception, musical production and selection of the repertoire – which ranges from Paul McCartney to Irving Berlin to Bob Dylan; from jazz to folk to bluegrass, passing through famous and obscure songs and authors. With the participation of exceptional musicians in creative arrangements, Manu Lafer feels comfortable demonstrating his continued evolution as an interpreter, this time in a folk and pop repertoire. John Pizzarelli is featured on two songs, one of them with his 7-string guitar in a charming duet .
Rounding out a prolific 2018 was the release of Gimme 5, recorded in New York by a team of jazz musicians on instruments and vocals. The album, sung almost entirely in Portuguese, represents the quintessentially Brazilian “school” of João Gilberto. Sandro Albert produced the album, which features Toninho Horta’s unmistakable guitar and voice. Gimme 5 is a fitting and well-deserved celebration of Lafer’s 20 years in the business.
Meanwhile, Manu Lafer brought his passion for American Standards to the stage at Tupi or Not Tupi, a São Paulo venue that has become renowned for the quality of its Brazilian music. The record of this series of shows gave rise to Completing a Trip Nearby (2018), with the voice of Manu supported by a tight and typically Brazilian jazzy ensemble: Ricardo Baldacci on the seven-string guitar (and musical director), Vanessa Ferreira on acoustic bass, Michel Santos on piano and Alex Duarte on the drums. As always, the set list features gems from the American songbook with a definite Brazilian accent and some of Lafer’s own songs .
Buckskin (another from 2018) is an homage to Bucky Pizzarelli, the legendary dean of jazz, master of the seven-string guitar and father of Lafer’s friend, singer and guitarist John Pizzarelli. John Pizzarelli has been tremendously supportive of Manu’s work, broadcasting his songs on his and singer Jessica Molaskey’s Radio DeLuxe show since 2008. Bucky Pizzarelli lends his guitar, style and repertoire to Manu’s interpretations, culminating in an ambitious and far-reaching album where a special team of musicians come together to delight the audience’s ears and hearts.
As you can see by now, 2018 was a year of multiple releases for Lafer, and Nobody But You was the first of these. A mature interpretation, again featuring American Standards, the album was symbolically recorded in New York, with arrangements by guitar virtuosi Jack Wilkins and Howard Alden and accompaniment by drummer Mike Clark and bassist Andy McKee. The repertoire makes liberal use of swing, with its up-tempo and joyful rhythm contrasted by the choice of baritone vocals. Chuck Reed plays the vibraphone on four of the tracks .
Lafer released Somebody Like Me (2017) a tribute to the work of Bobbie Gentry, the American country, soul and pop singer who enjoyed phenomenal success, edging out the Beatles in the charts in 1967. Gentry had Elton John under a pen name as her backing vocal, before taking early retirement from show business to pursue other business activities. Here is another album where Lafer shows his tireless research, curiosity and good taste as an interpreter, with great pop musicians: drummer Tito Oliveira, multi-instrumentalist To Brandileoni, and keyboard player Mikael Mutti, all producers who have international careers.
The Word (2016) was released as a double feature that comprised a CD with 13 tracks written by Lafer and a DVD with 7 live songs. The songs are mostly English versions of Manu’s older material, but there are some new compositions as well – such as the song that lends its title to the album. The album features Maude Maggart, a star of the new generation of cabaret music performers, accompanied by pianist Ehud Asherie and guitarist Howard Alden, who was also responsible for the arrangements. The DVD was directed by Juliano Salgado, Stefano Capuzzi and Fillippo Capuzzi, all award-winning directors. It has short but critical interviews with the musicians. All of this material has been uploaded in streaming websites/apps.
Forrós Pé de Serra (2006) was recorded with the so-called Academic of Samba – a long-time collaborator over more than 20 years, Germano Mathias. After many years, Mathias finally gave in to Lafer’s insistence to cross genres (when Mathias began his career, in the 1950s, samba singers did not risk recording other genres and each one had his own special repertory) and record this forró album. Mathias and Lafer recorded, in duo, a delectable selection of forrós with Luizinho Sete Cordas’ trademark arrangements and musical direction by Marcelo Barro, the son of Osvaldinho da Cuíca .
As Luas de Marte (2016) in partnership with Luis Brasil, a guitarist and arranger from Bahia who has worked with everybody from Caetano Veloso to Gal Costa and Cassia Eller, was inspired by the songs Brasil wrote for his little daughter. The tracks have vocals by Karina Zeviani (together with Mariana Bernardes on A Casa do Taxista) and also feature Lafer and Brasil .
Um Lado Meu Que Você Não Conhece (2016) displays Dori Caymmi’s unique arrangements and guitar, with Lafer singing seven of his songs, along with others by Mario Lago, Noel Rosa (with Vadico), Tom Jobim (with Newton Mendonça) and Cole Porter. Dori Caymmi is featured singing with his marvelous voice and interpretation.
Lafer’s interpretative side appears again in Trip the Light Fantastic (2016) with a repertoire once more studded with American Standards, sung by Lafer and accompanied by Swami Jr. on the Brazilian seven-string guitar and Howard Alden on the American seven-string electric guitar (no such combination had been ever done on a vocal jazz record). The songs are lesser known ones by Nat King Cole, some from Broadway and some U.S. radio hits from the 1930s and 1940s.
Como Tu Ninguém (2015) was another album of interpretations, based on extensive study of Brazil’s rhythms by producer Ale Siqueira and repertoire (Lafer listened to thousands of songs to pick these). Lafer with the collaboration of Mateus Aleluia, the bass vocal and percussionist from the legendary Tincoãs, as well as featured artists Mariana Bernardes (from Rio de Janeiro), another musician and MD, Chico Médico, and Beto Pitombo (from Bahia).
Lafer released Canto Casual in 2014. It was recorded with a jazz quartet (keyboard, electric guitar, bass guitar and drums) and featured arrangements by Letieres Leite, founder of the great Orkestra Rumpilezz, who brought his trademark afrobeat and modal music.
The twin CD of Canto Casual (they were produced at the same time), Someone Like You, which can also be translated as Como Tu Ninguém (though they are different songs), showed Manu Lafer the singer and aficionado of American Standards. The arrangements were, once more, by Lincoln Olivetti, crowning an 11-year partnership with Manu and providing the frame for his interpretations, which have been growing in refinement with each new work.
Also worth noting is Manu’s participation in two emblematic programs of Brazil’s music scene: Sr. Brasil, broadcast on TV Cultura and hosted by Rolando Boldrin, one of the greatest promoters of Brazilian roots music, as well as O Samba Pede Passagem, by Moisés da Rocha, a radio show that has been on the air for decades.
Mané Mandou (2012) is the most pop of Lafer’s works, featuring master Lincoln Olivetti’s arrangements and keyboards. Lafer’s music earned important recognition as he was featured the Water’s Festival, in Berlin, in 2010 and also with his first airing, through his album Ta Shemá, on Radio DeLuxe, the US traditional jazz show with John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey.
Ta Shemá (2008), an expression that means “come and listen” in Talmudic Aramaic, was based on a repertoire of new songs that were originally conceived for vocals and acoustic guitar (9as they were originally conceived). Here, they were freely filled by Lincoln Olivetti, Jacques Morelembaum, Dori Caymmi, Luiz Brasil and André Mehmari, grand arrangers who enriched them with the various styles, mostly writing for strings .
Celebrating 10 years as a musician, in 2008, Lafer released the DVD A Lente do Homem – then his only live recording. With a repertoire taken from his four previously released albums, together with some new material, the show featured musical direction and viola by Fabio Tagliaferri, a collaborator since Lafer’s first CD, and a singular band, including Adriano Busko (percussion), Ubaldo Versolato (saxofone), Mario Manga (vocals, cavaquinho, cello and electric guitar) and Sérgio Bártolo (bass guitar), in addition to a host of guest appearances. Directed by Déo Teixeira, the DVD includes a ‘making of’ section (there is a song called “Making Of” that makes a joke with this kind of trivia, but that’s something else), as well as many extras, featuring Antonio Candido de Mello e Souza – who also participated in Poesia e Prosa –, Dori and Danilo Caymmi, Germano Mathias, Mateus Aleluia (recorded at Recôncavo Baiano) and Luiz and Jonas Tatit in a RUMO song Release.
Grandeza, with Alê Siqueira back in production, was released in 2005. Recorded in Salvador, at Carlinhos Brown’s Ilha dos Sapos studio in the city’s Candeal neighborhood, the CD is marked by the dialogue between percussion and lyrics. These latter speak of the forests and indigenous peoples, inspired by Manu Lafer’s time spent with Brazil’s indigenous peoples as a doctor and son of an anthropologist. New and notable partnerships, with Luiz Tatit on Bustrofédon (the longest palindrome in MPB – the genre of popular Brazilian music –, yet inexplicably ignored by the Guinness Book of Records…) and Mateus Aleluia, plus further collaboration with Germano Mathias. Grandeza saw the start of a partnership with the legendary Lincoln Olivetti, which would go on to last for 11 years, with the arrangements for A Dança and Arapuca.
Danilo Caymmi was present again and cosigned Manu’s third album, O Patriota, released in 2003, as the co-author of all the tracks and consolidating his place as an ever-present collaborator. On Pedir pra Voltar, Dori Caymmi joined Danilo to compose and interpret the song that got its lyrics from Manu and the amazing voice of Nana Caymmi, comprising one of the highlights of this record that was produced by Swami Jr. and Fábio Tagliaferri. Both the latter also came to be part of the brilliant team of partners who join Manu Lafer on his musical journey.
Manu’s taste for working with others was confirmed in his second album, Doze Fotogramas, released in 2001 – now as Manu Lafer – and had collaborations with Danilo Caymmi, also featuring José Miguel Wisnik and Mônica Salmaso. Production was once again handled by Alê Siqueira and Leandro Bomfim, who had already produced Baião da Flor .
Manu Lafer’s first CD, Baião da Flor, was released in 1998. In fact, it was released by Manu Mindlin – his stage name at the time. It featured Germano Mathias, the great exponent of samba and authentic symbol of and frequent spokesman for São Paulo’s music, who caught the public attention even before Joao Gilberto and is still active. This would go on to become a striking characteristic of Lafer’s work: partnerships with members of the star team of Brazilian music, beloved by Lafer since his childhood and who have come to recognize him in return.