Based in Valencia, Thaïs Morell was born and brought up in Curitiba, a city in the South of Brazil. Her second album has just been released on local label, Sedajazz records.
1. Tell us something about growing up in Brazil…
There aren’t any musicians in my family but since i was a child i have been interested in and was able to play music. I started playing the piano at 9 years of age and at the age of 15 i changed the instrument for the guitar. I studied Music at university and began as “Guitarist who also sings” and finished as “Singer who also plays guitar”. Those were 4 years of intense learning and discovery.
2. What are the differences between Spain and Brazil in terms of living and working as a musician?
There are many differences and, at the same time, it is quite similar. The markets are saturated everywhere. In Spain, it is more typical to go to concerts and to go to clubs and café bars and enjoy music in silence. This is something that does not happen in Brazil unless you are playing in a theatre. Also in Brazil and in Latin America in general, music is more profoundly integrated in the culture and the day-to-day of society than here in Spain. Local music has a very strong identity in the regions of Brazil and that influences the way we relate to music.
3. Tell us something about your musical influences…
The Beatles, Tom Jobim, Chico Buarque, Jorge Ben, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Paralamas do Sucesso, samba, baião, frevos, cirandas, maracatus and folk music from all over the world!
4. Musically, what were your experiences of your time studying and living in both Finland and Ghana?
Very intense and renovating. To experiences very different cultures and other types of music make you live, see and understand your own culture and your own music in new and intriguing ways. I recommend it to everybody.
5. How do you find Valencia as a place to live in general?
It’s a very welcoming city and relaxing too, the people are very friendly and the climate is perfect with many days of sunshine! I’m very happy here.
6. Can you take us through each track of your latest album, ‘Amaralina’?
Segura o Tombo da Canoa
I got to know this song in 2007. It’s from a folk record from North East Brazil that i found in the Sibeluis University library in Helsinki, Finland. It’s a Brazilian folkloric song in the “Côco de Embolada” style, which consists of two singers accompanied by panderetas (Brazilian tambourines), pushing each other to sing faster and rhyming over an improvised theme. The songs always consist of choruses and stanzas, always ten improvised verses about a theme suggested by the audience. The verses always rhyme 1-4-5, 6-7-10, 8-9! For my record, i chose this track because it has a lush chorus and 5 stanzas with lyrics that i love. I love the “desafio” arrangement between the instrumentalists (piano and flute) at the end. I love the voices of the chorus! Brazil!
Vestida de Kenté
It’s a song that i begun in 2013 and finished in 2015. It talks about the strength of women, with diverse references to Ghana where i lived for 4 months. It makes reference to a woman dressed in Kenté, a rather special and peculiar Ghanean fabric, used as clothing for royals. This arrangement has a ‘super-groove’ percussion by David Gadea with more than 15 instruments accompanying it. Great solo by Russian-Cuban sax soprano Alexey León. ‘Africa-Jazz-Brazil!’
It’s a song that i wrote in Paris in April of 2014. It talks in a poetic way about love, men and their charms and i composed it for the muses that inspire me. A sweet collaboration with Carlos Sanchis on accordion and Mariano Steimberg on brushes. It’s a Bossa in ¾ time… ‘Franco-Bossa-Accordionica!’
This song is a collaboration with Gustavo Proença (Curitiba, Brazil) and talks about samba and how samba makes us happy to forget our sadness over a romance that has ended. It’s another marvellous groove by David, inspired by the Khaliji arabic rhythm (samba-khaliji). Stupendous solos by Orlando Bonzi (cavaquinho) and Albert Palau (Rhodes piano) and a great chorus as all good and original sambas should have! ‘Sambárabe-Sambhaliji-Jazz’
I got to know this Bahian song (Bahia, Brazil) as soon as i arrived in Valencia in 2009. One of the composers lived here but left the following year. The song is pretty and has a sense of humour, it talks about passion & conquests and is about the beaches of Salvador that are known as “Pituba” and “Amaralina”. I made a new arrangement and a few more verses for this album. Again, superb percussion by David as well as Brazilian percussion by myself. A solid bass by Natxo Tamarit gives the song a groove to introduce the rhythm guitars and groovy Hammond organ by Albert Palau. ‘Brazilian Funk’!
Sobre Tudo Agora
I wrote this song in 2014, which talks about the beauty of each person’s story of their life and about valuing what is really important in life. It’s a tune that doesn’t really need more than a guitar and voice but we loved the idea of Matt Baker on double bass and it “fitted like a glove” for this song, a duet with a lot of feeling and soul.
I began this song in 2012 and finished it in 2014. We started playing in concert last year too. It talks about singing as being a philosophy of life. The arrangement was distinctive on this song, with something approaching ‘drum’n’bass’ with touches of percussion, double bass lines by Ales Cesarini and guitar adding to the Groove. This is a ‘Power-Trio’ number with a little guitar solo!
Los Mozos de Monleón
I got to know this popular song from Salamanca with this arrangement by ‘4 voces’, in Brazil 2003, when i was a member of the band ‘Bakaya’, which was a mini-orchestra that covered traditional and folk songs from around the world. We didn’t get around to recording the song with Bakaya and we didn’t sing it very often but i thought the arrangement was beautiful and i never forgot ‘4 voces’. I was enthusiastic about recording it and i did this arrangement in ¾ time, which contrasts with the 6/8 time of the original, which has touches of the Argentinean zamba and other rhythms in that style. The Rhodes piano gives it a modern touch compared to the versions with acoustic piano. The bass flute by Andrés Belmonte was perfect for the atmosphere of this piece. He wrote the opening phrase of the flute and the voices at the end and it worked out beautifully even though the story is quite tragic!
I Knew It Was You
I discovered this song in 2014 when i saw Tere Nuñez playing the tune in the patio of Sedajazz and i fell in love with it from the first listen! I asked Tere to teach me the song and i took it along to a rehearsal with my band. We were all fascinated by the melody and harmony. My humble version of this song included percussion that was not on the original and a few touches of Brazilian guitar. Albert Palau’s performance on piano stands out!
This is a song by a composer from Curitiba, Brazil called Cristiano Marques. We were colleagues at University at the time i got to know the song (around 2004). I have always liked it, especially the choruses. On this track we did it sambinha–style, not varying too much from the original but we did add accordion and clarinet, two of my favourite instruments that did not appear on my debut album! To have the fantastic Javier Vercher on clarinet is a real bonus!
I found out about this song in 2012, i did the words in Portuguese and a new arrangement and we quickly started to include it in our repetoire during concerts! It’s a beautiful song about devotion in a loving relationship. For the recording of this song, we called the wonderful Carles Denia to sing his part in valenciano. His participation was a joy, i love hearing our voices together, so distinctive and combined! From an instrumental point of view, Ales Cesarini is on double bass, Carlos Sanchis on accordion, David with ethnic percussion and the multi-instrumentalist Andrés Belmonte on ney (Turkish flute): ‘Brazil-Valencia-Turkey!’
Tudo o Que Vocé Queria
I wrote this song in Laguna, Tenerife in November 2014 in a creative writers week at an SGAE workshop. The lyrics are short but long enough to describe the theme i so often return to, to seize the day, which is our great and only opportunity to look ahead, to grow and do everything we want to do. In this arrangement, myself and David created the percussion groove; the Rhodes piano, electric bass and guitars set up Voro Garcia to create melodies on the flugelhorn some of which i learned to dub with my voice, an effect i really loved. It has a simple minor harmony of four chords but never passes the minor tonic, which creates an atmospher of suspense and “travelling”, which combines perfectly with the lyrics.
I did this song in August of 2015 with the album almost finished and i was enthusiastic about including it as a ‘bonus track’. It was something fresh, recently composed and played in a very natural and free way in the studio.
This is an instrumental by Egildo Vieira which i learned a long time ago, around 2002-2003, in a workshop for bamboo flutes. I started my own workshop and worked with flutes during a period of four years until i left Brazil in 2007. The flute that i play comes from that period, it is made of taquara (a finer type of bamboo) from a forest of the country house of my father near Curitiba. I got to know MT one day in June of 2015 outside Jimmy Glass and a week later were recording in Millenia studios. Indian music also uses bamboo flute and that is where is saw the connection with the baião of North East Brazil and the tablas of India. ‘Baião-India!’
Interview by Will McCarthy
24/7 Valencia magazine