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Concert Review/ SpokFrevo Orquestra

img  Tobias

Germany is having a hard time ridding itself of its image as a nation of humourless bureaucrats - expect a crowd of people to remain firmly glued to their seats when asked to rise if they believe Germans have Swing. Which is why the invitation extended to the SpokFrevo Orquestra for this year's edition of the Moers Festival is not just a recognition of the outstanding craftmanship of these seventeen Brazilian groove-gods. Rather, it is a reflection of the fact that quite a lot of local festival visitors are craving for the opportunity to move during a concert and to enjoy music on a physical and un-cranial level. Which is why the announcement that, in contrast to prior statements, the chairs can not be removed from the building during the gig, preventing the metamorphosis of the Festival tent into a giant disco, is taking with a sigh of disappointment.

As it tuns out, however, this is proving to be anything but a problem. The SpokFrevo Orquestra are after all, well capable of setting fire to an audience on various levels. Their version of the Frevo, the sound of Recife's Carnival, may be fueled by warp-speed percussion rolls and mesmerising brass riffs, but it also feeds from emotional motivic exchanges and on-a-dime improvisations nourishing the body and the brain alike. In the background, snare drums are shuffling at an incomprehensible pace and offbeat shakers are driven to the point of exploding in a lightning-bolt release of rice grains. At the fore, soloists or even temporary duos are rising on the left and right as well as in the centre, emitting intense, thirty second signals only to lapse back into silence again and yield the floor to someone else. And in between their displays, the Orquestra's tutti are sending waves of rich brass resonance into the auditorium, flaring up the room completely.

Even though the technical skills of all these musicians are second to none, with especially Guitarist Renato Bandeira drawing a lot of attention with his quicksilver charges between astounding virtuosity and moments of heartwrenching tenderness, the formation is definitely under the spell of its frontman Inaldo Cavalcante de Albuquerque, better known by his nom de plume „Spok“. Impeccably dressed as a Brazilian Blues Brother and with a resounding Tenor voice capable of replacing the most elaborate subwoofer system, he introduces the history of the Frevo to the audience in one moment, duels musically with his neighbours on another and, on a several minute long solo opening to one of the tracks, displays his full palette of expressive modes  on the Sax. Even though he is sat to the left of the front row of hornists, his presence can be felt rippling through the ranks of the entire ensemble like a creative will at all times. One thing is clear right from te start: This man is both a subliminal conductor and the undeniable director of the group.

The outtakes from previous studio recordings on their homepage pale in comparison to the massive sound the group are pushing tonight. And yet, the intricacies of their arrangements guarantee a varied experience: Because of its size, the SpokFrevo Orquestra can split itself up into various sub-groups to experiment with the most diverse takes on tracks. Even the Bass acts as a lead-instrument on one occasion without sounding odd or experimental one bit. Admittedly, the fulminant performance can not entirely mask the fact that this is essentially club- or even street-music, whose rhythmic formulae and melodic shapes can get repetitive after a while. Which is why, after an initial warm-up phase, more and more visitors are deciding they have sat on a chair long enough. It may not quite be the kind of ecstasy of the Recife Carnival. But the crowd's response to the SpokFrevo Orquestra's impulses is anything like the reaction you'd expect from humourless bureaucrats.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage:  SpokFrevo Orquestra
Homepage:  Moers Festival

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