Brazilian musician Marcus Tardelli is not your typical acoustic guitarist. Only 29, he's already a veteran of the acclaimed jazz/folk/classic hybrid The Maogani Quartet and a close collaborator and interpreter of the works of one of Brazil's brightest musical stars, internationally-renowned Brazilian composer and guitarist Guinga (who performed during last year's Wachovia Jazz Series).
During his four-day residency at the Simons Center for the Arts on the College of Charleston campus, Tardelli makes a series of solo shows in support of his debut solo album, Unha e Carne — his official debut on a U.S. stage.
On the collection, the young guitarist "interprets" Guinga's compositions and performs them as his own renditions with personality and high technique. Years in the making, the unusual collaboration resulted in serious praise from Guinga, who totally endorses Tardelli's interpretive efforts and workmanship (he recently referred to Tardelli as "the greatest acoustic guitar player ever produced by Brazil" — not a light compliment, coming from such a master player).
"The music of Guinga moves between the diverse musical scenes of Brazil," says Tardelli, who began working on the album in early 2005. "My interpretations are completely disparate. I created them myself. I listened to serenades. I listened to samba, baião, bossa nova, and jazz music. For me, everything is melody, harmony, and different ways of learning."
Unha e Carne (literal translation: "nail and meat" — figurative translation: "hand in glove") takes great care in the delicate shifts in styles — from the waltzy "Igreja da Penha" to the choros "Dichavado" and "Cheio de dodos," the baião songs "Inlfuencia da Jackson" and "Nitido e Obscuro," and the jazzy "Mingus Samba" — much to the delight of fans of Latin-jazz and Afro-Cuban guitar music of all shades.
"In my opinion there are just two kinds of music: the good and the bad," Tardelli says. "I always listened to music played with other instruments. It influenced me and gave me a different manner to play guitar. I try to reproduce the sounds of other instruments on the guitar and conquer many special sonorities in a limited instrument. My technique — especially with the left hand — was created trying to reproduce sounds of other instruments in the guitar."
In addition to the splash Unha e Carne made in the world music community, many North American fans took notice of Tardelli for his efforts in arranging the guitar parts for a tune titled "Lamento" (co-written by bossa nova pioneer Antonio Carlos Jobim) on the newly-released Sergio Mendes album, Timeless. While the popularity of Mendes' light, loungy blend of Brazilian musical styles — considerably better known to Americans — may help draw new listeners to contemporary Brazilian players, serious efforts like Tardelli's album may connect even more.
Brazilian music critic Sidimir Sanches took notice of Tardelli: "This album respects Guinga's musical essence," he wrote this year. "It underscores the many sides of a composer who understands the sophistication that exists in Brazilian music. Tardelli is aware of all of that. He executes with responsibility and propriety. Respect and artistic complicity were the crucial bases for the creation of this album."
Musical respect and admiration is at the very heart of Tardelli's approach. With this week's Spoleto performances, the visiting virtuoso may well end up on the receiving end of it himself.
MARCUS TARDELLI • Spoleto Festival USA's Wachovia Jazz Series • $25 • June 7, 8, 9, 10 at 7 and 9 p.m. • 1 hour • Recital Hall, Albert Simons Center, 54 St. Philip St. • 579-3100