Monday night is when working musicians have the night off – bars are closed, restaurants recover from the weekend trade – so what do working musicians do? They play music! Tonight the Movimento Elefantes collective hosted an evening of big band jazz.

They were playing at the Teatro da Vila in Vila Madalena in Sao Paulo, a venue so obscure that the taxi driver hadn’t heard of it, though he knew the names of all the streets. It’s the modest theatre space for a local public school just off Rua Rodesia, Escola Estadual Carlos Maximiliano which, threatened with closure, established a community and arts programme to maintain its viability.

Setting up at Teatro da Vila

Movimento Elefantes is a group of 10 big bands, dedicated to keeping big band jazz alive and appreciated. My musician informant tells me that there were well-known players from the heyday of Paulistano big bands in the 1980s in the audience. Some of them sat in with the band tonight for various numbers.

Banda Jazzco at play

Jazzco is hosted by its genial bass player Amador Bueno, who keeps the good-humoured quips coming as dependably as he drives his bass. The 12 band members – four saxes plus flutes, two trumpets and a trombone in the brass section, and keyboard, rhythm and bass guitar, drums and percussion – shape a tight and intricate music, hard-driving and adventurous in its harmonies. The drummer delights in playing not just with colour and volume, but with time signature too. The short solos each player took between his breaks were a particular delight.

Popular bar, popular music – corner of Rua Rodesia and Rua Jerico

The band asks the audience to contribute what they think is a fair price at the end of the night – the appreciative capacity audience in this small theatre clearly thought it worth much more than the price of a beer. The customers in the Mercearia Sao Pedro across the road enjoyed the music too!