HELIO ALVEZ - pianoforte

Helio Alves "Alves’ work melds a percussive edge with a lively, fluent right hand." —John Ephland, Downbeat Pianist and composer Helio Alves has received high praise as an in-demand sideman with Joe Henderson, Yo-Yo Ma, Claudio Roditi, Paquito D’Rivera, Gato Barbieri, Hendrik Meurkens,Dave Samuels, Airto Moreira & Flora Purim and Oscar Castro-Neves, to name but a few. And now, with more than 40 recordings as a sideman and two at the helm of his own ensembles, this incomparable musician is quite deservedly earning respect as a leader, too. Alves’ second recording as leader, Portrait in Black in White (Reservoir Music, 2004), once again displays his impressive mastery of both straight-ahead and Brazilian jazz styles. The release is highlighted by four Alves originals, "Frenzy," "Sambetinho," "Loose Samba" and "Song for Anna," and features his longtime musical friend Santi Debriano on bass and Matt Wilson on drums. Alves is from São Paulo, Brazil. The son of two pianists, he started piano lessons at age 6. Following his early immersion in playing the pop standards and classical music favored by his parents, he gravitated to jazz in his teens and formed a band with some friends. "I had so much fun trying to play jazz. I just enjoyed it so much. With classical music, you have to play what’s on the paper, exactly as it’s written. That early discipline was good, and it still helps me keep my chops together, but jamming was such a blast, such a contrast," he recalls. Alves entered high school jazz festival competitions and won, two years in a row. One of the judges, the well-respected São Paulo bass player, the late Xu Viana, became his first jazz harmony teacher, and suggested he continue his studies at Berklee College of Music. Alves moved to Boston at age 18 and received his BA in Professional Music in 1990. He decided to stay in Boston following graduation, and there met trumpeter Claudio Roditi, who advised the 24-year old pianist to move to New York City, and urged him to get in touch when he arrived. "One phone call to Claudio, that was it," says Alves of getting his start in Manhattan in 1993. "I met everybody else through Claudio. I’ve played with him now for many years, and he has showed me a lot," he says. Alves recorded two Reservoir releases with Roditi, Samba Manhattan Style (1995) and Double Standards (1997). From 1995–1997, Alves toured extensively with Joe Henderson's Double Rainbow Quartet celebrating the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, and was featured in the Grammy-winning release, Joe Henderson’s Big Band (Verve, 1996). Alves was pianist on Grammy-winning releases by Yo-Yo Ma (Obrigado Brazil, 2003) and Paquito D’Rivera (Brazilian Dreams, 2002), and on the Grammy-nominated Samba Jazz Fantasia (Malandro Records, 2002), by Duduka Da Fonseca. His growing discography includes 2005 releases with Duduka Da Fonseca (Samba Jazz in Black and White, Zoho Music) and Hendrik Meurkens (Amazon River, Bluetoucan Music), 2004 releases with Rosa Passos (Amorosa, SONY/Classical), Gino Sitson (Polyvocal) and, in 2003, with Dave Pietro (Embrace, A Records) and Cadence Trio (Yatrata, Clavebop). He’s also been featured on recordings and tours with Slide Hampton, Santi Debriano, Herbie Mann, Phil Woods, Caribbean Jazz Project, Trio da Paz, Paul Winter, David Sanchez, Harry Allen, The New York Voices, Gato Barbieri, Andy Narell and Mike Stern among many others. In the liner notes for Trios (Reservoir Music, 1998), noted Los Angeles Times music critic Zan Stewart writes: "Here on his debut as leader, this fine pianist from São Paulo, Brazil, shows that he’s an alluring modernist who exhibits the harmonic depth of a Chick Corea (a major influence) or Bill Evans, the alternatively driving and subtle swing of a Cedar Walton (another strong influence) or McCoy Tuner, the melodic charm of Bud Powell, Wynton Kelly or Herbie Hancock. And like those giants collectively, no mood or milieu is beyond his reach." Trios features John Patitucci and Nilson Matta on bass, Al Foster, Duduka Da Fonseca and Paulo Braga on drums. He’s been a headliner at the Taichung International Jazz Festival in Taiwan since its inception in 2003. "I’m really honored by the enthusiasm for my music in Taiwan," he says. In addition to performing at the new festival, he offered Brazilian music clinics, just as he’s done while on tour to German universities and elsewhere. "I first participated in clinics with Duduka Da Fonseca, the Drummers’ Collective and Portinho. The clinics in Taiwan were my first on my own, and they were really fun." Studying with the renowned Charlie Banacos provided Alves an inventive and challenging springboard to develop his composing skills. "Most of my compositions started as exercises for Charlie," Alves says. "Charlie’s just so amazing, so positive and energetic. He loves teaching, and is so encouraging." No doubt Alves will himself be described as an encouraging mentor and bandleader in years to come. Helio Alves is successfully combining his abilities as pianist and composer, as leader and sideman, and as straight-ahead and Brazilian jazz musician into a winning combination, one sure to bring him to the forefront of a new generation of players. "His performances were technically astonishing, showing great rhythmic, harmonic and improvisational strengths, which few, if any, could match. His melodic free form inventiveness and sense of time stood out like a free spirit seeking to liberate itself from all traditional constraints." Bruce Gilman,