Evandro Gracelli with cavaquinho. ©Brett Delmage, 2011
Evandro Gracelli with cavaquinho. ©Brett Delmage, 2011
OttawaJazzScene.ca editors attended the Roda da Samba, a night of Brazilian music, at Le Petit Chicago on Saturday October 22.

Like a lot of Brazilian music, the Roda da Samba sneaks up on you.

You see this large group of musicians gathered around a table just playing away. One song follows another in an organic stream: no charts, just a book of lyrics on the table. There are guitars, cavaquinho (or "cavaco", a Brazilian mini-guitar), and more types of drums and hand percussion instruments than you can literally shake a stick at. And many voices – around and about each other, leading and in harmony.

And then you realize that, without sounding loud, the music is filling every cranny of the club. And that you can feel the energy right through your feet, because the floor is bouncing from the crowd dancing. And the club is full, from side to side and back to front, so much that the servers can barely get through to replenish the beer and wine.

The Roda da Samba, which has been held every few months at the Gatineau club Le Petit Chicago over the last few years, is unlike any other event there or at other jazz clubs. Instead of a stage, a large table is placed in the middle of the room, and covered with a white tablecloth. A tall floor drum is placed at one end. On the table is food, beer, water, monitors, cables, and lyric books. And 20 microphones – all connected back to four mixing boards, overseen by Leonard Constant, looming over the proceedings.

And then at least 15 musicians sit around or stand near the table, playing and singing music based on Brazilian traditional forms and Brazilian jazz. They play music that swings, that's infectiously fun to listen to. They include many well-known musicians in the Ottawa-Gatineau Latin jazz scene: Evandro Gracelli, Fernando Acosta, Regina Gomes Teixeira, Rômmel Ribeiro, and others.

It's almost all in Portuguese, but the multi-ethnic audience doesn't mind that. They swing their hips to the beat, and clap along.

Both the musicians and the audience are almost insatiable. The musicians play for more than four hours with only the shortest of breaks, still going strong when we left at 1:30 a.m. And while the audience had finally started to thin a bit after 12:45 a.m.,  there were still many there dancing and listening.

And most notably, they were smiling. It was the friendliest and uniformly happiest crowd I've ever seen at a jazz club. The music joined them all together, adding smiles and a happy beat.

    – Alayne McGregor

All photos ©Brett Delmage, 2011