Mente Clara
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Mente Clara

Austin, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Jazz World




"Mente Clara: Forrozêra"

Musicians with a passion for Brasilian music soon rather than later discover Hermeto Pascoal and fall under the spell of “Bruxo”, the “Sorcerer”. But it is one thing to be besotted by Hermeto Pascoal and quite another thing to be able to let the world know how you feel by interpreting Hermeto Pascoal’s music because it is, well, impossible to imitate and very hard to interpret. Hermeto Pascoal is to Brasil what Thelonious Monk is to the rest of the world. The music of the Brasilian is foxy, angular, wickedly humorous, heartbreakingly beautiful and impossible to resist. So when you come across any music that this American group Mente Clara produce on disc, make every effort to swoop it up.

There are two reasons for this: First – the group interprets Hermeto Pascoal’s music like no one else I know, bar none; and second – They are a superb group of musicians. Period. So are they recklessly arrogant in attempting to make a record like Forrozêra, or just sublimely confident. To judge by the exemplary musicianship and prowess in all departments of this: instrumental prowess, musical intuition and invention (primary Hermeto Pascoal traits, by the way), and every other aspect of music-making, this group sounds sublime and confident and in the prime of an unusually creative period of their careers.

One hears in all of this repertoire – whether it is written by Hermeto Pascoal or by Mente Clara – the jaunty and slyly asymmetrical creativity, with its fascinating melodic twists and turns of phrase and harmonic ingenuity that is found in the unlikeliest of chord progressions, much like the great Brasilian Bruxo does. Try “Message from Hermeto” for size. What fascinates here is the music’s unpredictable movement, in increasingly decorous thematic trajectory, and the myriad modulations at the outset of the minor key relationship between Laura Otero’s voice and the rest of the instruments rather like Hermeto Pascoal does with his wife Aline Morena’s voice and his music as well. Here, as elsewhere the group’s wonderful sense of registral balance and articulation intensifies and colours the music.

In flanking this song with others on either side of it with music that is no less riveting, notably in the dramatic openings that are followed through wickedly brilliant middles movements and soaring endings this group achieves something few bands of its kind achieve. And this is only the group’s second CD. I glory in the thought of what is yet to come. Their judiciously reverberant sound and over the top arrangements illuminate Mente Clara’s carefully considered contrasts, bringing welcome vibrancy and presence to the performances. No notes are necessary here. The music of this disc provides an attractive entry-point to one of the most inventive bands that I have heard in a long time. - World Music Report, Raul da Gama

"Forró Jazz"

Austin, Texas, claims to be the Live Music Capital of the World. This strong statement is supported in part by the world-famous SXSW (South by Southwest) and ACL (Austin City Limits) music festivals as well as Carnaval Brasileiro (over 30 years strong) Pachanga Latino Musical Festival, Urban Music Festival, Fun, Fun, Fun Fest and many other musical celebrations. With over 100 venues offering a variety of musical genres from Indie to Latin/Tejano, Blues/Soul, Country and World Beat, the city is vibrant throughout the 12 months of the calendar. Although Austin is home for me, I was surprised when I heard about Mente Clara. Where have I been hiding?!

Mente Clara has its origins back in 2012, when pianist Owen Summers and bassist Daniel Durham got together with the intent to explore the music of Hermeto Pascoal. They were joined by saxophonist Brian Donohoe, drummer Aaron Parks, and later on percussionist Bruno Vinezof and accordionist Jan Flemming joined the group. Their first album was released in 2014 (Wanderlust) and included the classic forró “Asa Branca” in the album’s track listing as well as other forró and Hermeto’s music.

If you are one of the few people unfamiliar with Hermeto’s music, he is a Brazilian musician/orchestra affectionately known as the Sorcerer. He was born in the northeastern state of Alagoas (the same state as Djavan) in June 1936. He plays just about everything and anything, including pots and pans — literally! He has performed all over the globe, and his compositions are numerous. Back in June 1996, for example, he decided to write one composition a day wherever he was, and the Calendário do Som (Sound Calendar) was then published in 1999.

Years ago I used the term acid forró to describe the music of Karnak‘s 1997 self-titled album. It was clearly a term of endearment as an attempt to describe music that is hard to classify in a few words. Fast forward to now. With this second album, Forrozêra, Mente Clara solidifies that term in my head. Mente Clara’s forró mixes elements of jazz, Hermeto Pascoal‘s experimental music and the powerhouse that forró music is. Forrozêra never sounded more Hermeto-ish. In addition to the musicians previously mentioned above, Jonathan McNutt (saxophone and hand claps) and Laura Otero (vocals) add to the ensemble in this recording. There is also a short message from Hermeto Pascoal himself that Daniel Durham added to the track “Message from Hermeto.” That alone follows closely in the footsteps of the Sorcerer’s music. Classic Hermeto!

Mente Clara takes forró to another level. The rhythm is present, of course, but the arrangements and instrumentation introduce forró to jazz. When you hear forró in a typical setting, it often involves three main instruments: the accordion, zambumba (a round drum) and a triangle. In Forrozêra, the accordion is present, but not as a main instrument. Clearly what the listener will hear more prominently is a beautiful ensemble with a strong brass presence. Take, for example, the opener for the album, “My Cats.” I simply love the introduction leading into the forró. The same goes with “Essa Foi Demais,” with Brian Donohoe’s sax presence dominating the solos. Mente Clara’s forró is infectious! In “Tertúlia,” the samba beat shows yet the diversity this group brings to Brazilian music. When not playing Hermeto Pascoal‘s music, the group never misses its purpose, as clearly evidenced in the original compositions by Owen Summers, Daniel Durham and others. The title track, “Forrozêra,” is right on target with the album repertoire, as is the case with “Message from Hermeto.” Daniel Durham used a recorded message Hermeto sent the group and added it to music. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Hermeto likely enjoyed this experimentation.

Acid forró or forró jazz or whatever you want to call it, the music of Mente Clara is lively to say the least. These guys struck gold with their sound and repertoire choices. Please take some time to visit Mente Clara on the web as well as their YouTube channel until you have a chance to see them live. You’ll be glad you did it. - Musica Brasileira from A-Z, Egídio Leitão

"Mente Clara - Forrozêra"

Sort of a roots & reach mix of influences from this Austin, Texas-based band that finds inspiration in Brazilian music, especially that of Hermeto Pascoal. This Tex-Braz blend results in a dynamic rhythmic attack that keeps to abiding, easy-to-please grooves. A fun personality to this electro-acoustic set. - Bird Is The Worm


2014 - Wanderlust

2015 - Forrozêra



Mente Clara was born in Texas out of a love for the music of Hermeto Pascoal and other Brazilian masters. "Their judiciously reverberant sound and over the top arrangements illuminate Mente Clara's carefully considered contrasts, bringing welcome vibrancy and presence to the performances." (Raul da Gama, World Music Report.) They combine soaring melody, sophisticated jazz harmony, and the danceable rhythms of Northeastern Brazil into a sound that is all their own. Straddling the line between jazz, world music, and fusion, the band has toured from coast to coast, developing a reputation for exciting live shows along the way. Their second album, Forrozêra, was released on June 2, 2015, and has been praised for its “dynamic rhythmic attack.” (Dave Sumner, Bird Is The Worm)

Individually, members of Mente Clara have performed and recorded with artists as diverse as Snarky Puppy, Matuto, Bernard Wright, Quarteto Olinda, Pete Rodriguez, Rob Curto, Ephraim Owens, and many more. The band first came together in mid-2012 for a session after pianist Owen Summers and bassist Daniel Durham met and decided to explore Hermeto’s music. Along with saxophonist Brian Donohoe and drummer Aaron Parks, they soon booked their first show. As the group’s sound developed, they began playing more original compositions and percussionist Bruno Vinezof and accordionist Jan Flemming joined the fray. After a year of honing their repertoire through countless live performances, Mente Clara entered the studio and recorded their debut album, Wanderlust, which was released in May, 2014. 

Since forming, Mente Clara has performed on stages large and small throughout Texas, in addition to tours to both the east and west coasts. Their music is best summed up by Hermeto’s credo “Tudo é som!” (“All is sound!”)

Band Members