Raul De Souza
Raul de Souza is a trombone player who comes from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Colors (M-9061) is his first American album, and an impressive debut, indeed. Colors is also a lot of fun, and really does project Raul’s straightforward personality.
One of Raul’s closest friends since he came to the last April has been Airto Moreira, the noted percussionist. So how does a guy from get to the position of recording his own music, under his own name, with some of America’s top musicians?
“I started really young,” Raul confesses in his broken English. (As noted, he has been in for almost a year and although fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, and French, de Souza has yet to master English.) “I played the tambourine as a child in the big black church in Rio. I really like it a lot. Then, pretty soon I start to play a little different from everybody else in the church—you know, they were very tight in what they wanted to hear. So pretty soon they said I had to leave the church musicians.”
And leave he did. Raul then saved up what little money he had and bought an old, cheap trombone. “I always wanted to blow on the horn.” He taught himself to play the instrument, one of the most difficult to learn, and within a few years he was quite a professional.
The Brazilian Air Force was next, where Raul spent five and a half long years. He was stationed in the south of and played with the Air Force band, “Euphonia.” De Souza became the leader of the band, playing bass trombone, and really learned the intricacies of music—how to read sheet music, how arrangements worked out on paper and in reality, and how different instruments worked in combination.
“I play because then I feel very good,” Raul says with a grin. “It’s very important to me.” While in the Air Force de Souza learned to play the bass and the flute, and had become quite proficient on the trombone, especially the bass trombone. “I used to practice—to play—for, how you say? ‘Buffalo’? I would go out in the fields and play for them and they like it very much.” Raul laughs delightedly. (A little research confirms that what is a buffalo to Brazilians is a water bison to Americans!)
Raul is a very natural person; he’d much rather walk eight blocks back to the hotel than stay in a swank restaurant, have another drink, and catch a cab.
In 1964, after his discharge, Raul joined Sergio Mendes. The learning experience was invaluable. “I make many records with Sergio—you know, when I played with him he was not playing bossa nova. I played with him before bossa nova. That is important because Americans think all Brazilian music is bossa nova.” Airto, his fellow Brazilian, concurs: “Most Americans have a faulty understanding of the music of . It’s too bad everyone from has to say, ‘It’s not bossa nova.’ Raul is definitely not a Brazilian trying to play American jazz. And besides, is famous for being a melting pot—all kinds of music. Raul has been all over the world, and to think of him as a Brazilian musician is just crazy. He mixes up many ideas and styles—but most important, he plays his ass off!” De Souza toured with Sergio’s early band to , , and Beirut, the latter of which Raul calls “very strange.”
In 1966, Raul was in Europe with a different group. “I lived in Paris for about eight months, and I played a lot with Kenny Clarke at the Blue Note club. He taught me a lot and is a good friend.”
Then, after about four months of playing in a big hotel band in Monte Carlo, Raul left for Mexico City, where he spent three and a half years. “I also went to Acapulco with a Brazilian group. It is very beautiful there, and we played a lot of good music.
“Then Airto and Flora keep saying, ‘Come to , come to ,’ and I had some friends at Berklee School of Music in Boston and so I say, ‘OK. I will come.’ “ Raul has been busy, at home in Boston, studying composition and piano—a lot of it taught to him by his friends from the school. If he’s not home, he’s on the road with Airto, working in his band, Fingers.
Fantasy/Prestige/Milestone Vice-President Orrin Keepnews was highly impressed with Raul’s trombone playing when he saw Airto’s group, and suggested recording. Hence Raul’s first American record contract, and Airto’s first producing gig in the U.S. Raul says of the music on Colors, his debut LP: “It’s kind of jazzy soul music, but it’s different because there’s a whole new rhythm. One thing’s for sure: it’s definitely not bossa nova!” The highly respected trombonist J.J. Johnson did the horn arrangements for the LP and helped to “sweeten” the final product.
Raul was a featured performer at Flora Purim’s Terminal Island concert on March 9th. One thing was immediately evident: whatever he lacks in expression in English is more than made up for by the way he can play! It’s called instant communication, real, live, human, and warm. He stood front and center at the prison; his solos were met with hearty applause and critic Leonard Feather was quite taken with Raul’s playing.
Raul de Souza is planning to move to Los Angeles in early spring, to be nearer to Airto and the band. Raul seems destined for a long and satisfying musical career in the . As he says: “I like it here very much. There is so much good music and many beautiful people. Yes, I really like it!”