OGDEN — The warmth of Brazil comes to chilly Ogden next week.
February’s offering in the Excellence in the Community free concert series will be Evening in Brazil, a Utah band that performs bossa nova and other Brazilian jazz music. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Monday, in Peery’s Egyptian Theater, 2415 Washington Blvd. Admission is free, and no tickets are required.
Don Keipp, who taught music at Weber State University for 27 years, is a percussionist with Evening in Brazil. He said the evening of classic bossa nova music is the perfect antidote to a cold February evening in Northern Utah.
“The bossa nova was really popular in the late ’50s into the ’60s, and it just reminds you of the beach and a relaxed atmosphere,” Keipp said. “It’s a very warm music.”
Eric Nelson, the saxophonist with Evening in Brazil, said the band was formed more than a decade ago at Utah State University. Nelson and guitarist Mike Christiansen, as Lightwood Duo, were performing at an engineering department Christmas party and they’d included a couple of bossa nova numbers.
After the show, Christopher Neale, who’d spent more than two decades as a professor of irrigation engineering at USU, approached the two men.
“He said, ‘I play guitar, and I’m from Brazil! We should play together!’” Nelson recalls.
They later added USU student Linda Jordan, whose mother is from Brazil, as a vocalist. Keipp and Ogden bassist Lars Yorgason also joined the group, as well as drummer Travis Taylor.
“Originally, we just played in Logan every year for the past 10 years,” Keipp said. “Then we played at the Gallivan Center, also at the Viridian Center — we even had a gig in Omaha, Nebraska, that was canceled due to a tornado. That was a first.”
Some members of the band have since scattered. Jordan married and moved to Las Vegas, and in 2013 Neale left Logan to work as the director of research at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska.
Keipp says it’s gotten harder to get together; they’ve got this February show, and then one or two coming in June.
“We haven’t done that many gigs each year,” Keipp admits, which he says can actually be an advantage. “It’s just a blast to get together, because it’s fresh and new every time. I just love playing with these guys.”
Nelson says although the band didn’t play a single show together last year, they’ll all get together on Sunday afternoon in Logan to rehearse for Monday’s show. And that should be enough.
“If you’re over-rehearsed, you sometimes lose that edge and intensity,” Nelson said.
Keipp also said there’s a certain amount of spontaneity and improvisation involved in Evening in Brazil performances. He paraphrases a musician who once compared the genre to a popular children’s building-block toy.
“Brazilian jazz, and jazz in general, is like Legos,” Keipp said. “Each musician is like one of those Lego blocks — they just fit together.”
Indeed, Keipp remembers playing a gig in Oklahoma one time where the bandleader told the audience he wanted to introduce the band members.
“He then literally introduced us, as band members, to each other,” Keipp said.
Nelson said everybody has heard a couple of bossa nova tunes — like Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “The Girl from Ipanema” — but there’s a lot more Brazilian music to be experienced.
“It’s amazing how much beautiful, beautiful music there is that people just don’t know,” Nelson said. “It has such beautiful melodies, sophisticated chord changes and harmonies — and the rhythm is fascinating.”
And, Keipp says, you simply can’t beat live music. He still teaches some online courses, and he still requires his students to attend live performances.
“It’s just not the same as listening to it on a recording,” Keipp said. “Live music is always better.”