Dream Gigs - Oscar Castro Neves

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to experience what I call “Dream Gigs.” Someone recently asked me which was my favorite. Actually, there are so many, it’s hard to pick one. But here’s the first one that came to mind: 

One of my very favorite “Dream Gigs” was with Oscar Castro Neves. With a grant from Southern Arts Foundation and Tennessee Arts Commission, the Nashville Jazz Workshop was able to bring him to town in 2010. I had been listening to Oscar for a very long time, and when I started my Brazilian band, Ritmos Picantes, we tried to learn a couple of Oscar’s original tunes. OMG, they were difficult! Then in 2008, I met him in Long Beach, CA, when the International Association of Jazz Educators convention (IAJE) was there. He was playing with an all-star Brazilian line up that included Dori Caymmi. Holy Moly!! 
Fast forward Our NJW friend Suzan Toney mentioned that she and Oscar were very good friends. She said she would like to see if we could bring him to Nashville. So she and our Development Director, Larry Seeman, went to work developing a air tight grant to get Oscar here. Well . . . they succeeded. Oscar came to Nashville in November of 2010. It was a dream come true! 

We put together a very fine band to back up Oscar: Chester Thompson on drums, Roger Spencer on bass, Dann Sherrill on percussion, Mark Douthit and Denis Solee on saxophones, and me on piano. For the show, we did several of Oscar’s originals, and the rest were Jobim tunes. The first night was with the full band. The second was a smaller group – Roger, Denis, Dann and me – more a historical performance of Jobim’s music, along with wonderful stories about him. (Also that second day, Oscar was having some vocal problems, so I called my best friend Ron Browning to come in and try to help. Of course, Ron being the Voice Whisperer he is, made a huge difference, and Oscar was able to sing more freely on the second night of his performance. (Thank you Ron!) 
At several points during both of these performances, I seriously had to pinch myself to see if this was real! The sheer delight on my face is obvious in the several videos we’ve posted of the events on our Jazz Workshop website. I could hardly believe we were playing with Oscar Castro Neves! 

Sadly, Oscar passed away in September 2013. But what an artist he was! What a man! And what an honor it was to perform with him and spend four glorious days learning music, sharing stories, eating, drinking and watching several students’ lives changed in the master class he did for us. WOW! Thank you Oscar for enriching my life. You were truly a “Dream Gig,” I will cherish the memory forever.

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