“Ton Ton Jazz and Music Bar” says the logo …

Out to see the Paulistano ‘little big band’ Patavinas Jazz Club at Ton Ton Jazz http://www.tonton.com.br/ in Moema, Sao Paulo. It’s a night-life district near Shopping Ibiripuera (not near the park of the same name), where venues like Bourbon Street Music Club also ply their trade. The moody black-and-white photographs on the walls may show acknowledged US jazz greats, but in truth, jazz becomes a broad label here. Bourbon Street hosted a very tight US funk band recently, and the second act last night at Ton Ton was Banda Funk Five. The longest line was outside the club opposite, for an 80s and 90s rock night.

Ton Ton Jazz interior

What they have in common is live music – Sao Paulo is crammed full of it. The antiques market at Praca Benedicto Calixto features a beautifully sweet choro ensemble every Saturday afternoon. Even my local supermarket (!) regularly plays host to live music – I’ve heard a guitarist and a keyboard player live there on different occasions.

Ton Ton Jazz is the long shed I’ve come to expect in Sao Paulo, with a bar at one end and a stage at the other, a loud PA plus three distracting video screens, but the food, the drink and the service are fine.

11 playing on stage – the Patavinas line-up

Patavinas Jazz Club http://www.patavinasjazzclub.com/ is led by guitarist Andre Hemsi. Along with their keyboard player, he composes much of the band’s repertoire.  They’re an entertaining spectacle, though they don’t sport the choreographed movements of a massed brass section, big band style, despite the music stand logos. The interplay of the musicians, and their evident enjoyment of their ensemble work and solos, is what lights up the stage. The keyboard player stands out, even though he’s at the back – he looks like Jack Teagarden, and he plays as sweetly. The daring of his invention can be breath-taking.

Andre Hemsi is the other half of the band’s motive force. He’s a fluent and wide-ranging stylist, stepping up to solos with assurance, and just as strong in support. With the rock-solid rhythm section behind, the front line take their solos with aplomb, whether long-time members or stand-ins. And it’s good to see a woman playing jazz, trumpet in this case.

In a sense, the most impressive factor doesn’t dawn on you until later: these are all original compositions. They range from reggae through swing to bebop, tackled with panache and vigour. The Brasilian love of music nurtures this musical culture, with little regard for the boundaries between genres. Jazz is alive and well, and living in Sao Paulo!