Brazilian saxophonist Michel Nirenberg brings his quartet to The Mainstay in Rock Hall, MD on Saturday September 30, 2017 at 8:00 p.m for an evening of jazz with classical and traditional Brazilian influences. Admission is $17 if purchased in advance and $20 at the door. Information and advance ticket sales are available at the Mainstay’s website www.mainstayrockhall.org. Reservations to pay at the door can be made by calling 410-639-9133.Saxophonist and composer Michel Nirenberg is building bridges between the classical, samba and choro music he grew up playing in Brazil and the jazz music he explored more deeply in the United States. His compositions celebrate and build on the common roots found in the music of both hemispheres – a place where African and European influences combine to create a rich and inviting sound.
Michel Nirenberg is a native of Rio de Janeiro who came to the United States in 2012 and earned master’s degree in music from James Madison University in 2014. He remained in the States in the year after graduation, setting up house in Washington, D.C.’s Bloomingdale neighborhood, completing his first album and performing extensively in the region. Since then he has kept an active performing schedule in Brazil and has returned twice to the States as a Jazz Beyond Borders touring artist. This fall tour will take him to a number of places on the East Coast.
That first recording as a leader was Retrato (Portrait) released on the Carioca label in 2015. It boasts Brazilian musicians such as virtuosos Leonardo Lucini on bass and Alejandro Lucini on drums and guitarist Rogério Souza, all of whom have appeared at The Mainstay.
Nirenberg’s music, both on recording and in performance, shows the influence of contemporary and historically popular Brazilian instrumental music. Along with the familiar sounds of samba, listeners will hear the urban-born choro, forrò, baião, maracatu, and Ijexa. In concert, Nirenberg adds historical tidbits about how these styles evolved. His compositions and other tunes reflect the complex history of Brazil and the rich mix of cultures that feed into its music.
Tour performances will include a number of tunes from his CD. “Desvairado,” by Anibal Augusto Sardinha (“Garôto”) reflects Nirenberg’s classical training. “Menina de Avental” is a traditional samba inspired by a beautiful woman in a charming apron (avental. Written while he was in graduate school, his “Forro from the South” pays tribute to the state of Virginia. The title is meant to be humorous since forró is a popular dance style from the Northeast of Brazil.
Concert and club audiences will also be treated to the artist’s recent compositions and arrangements. Written soon after the release of Retrato/Portrait, “Faith” mixes baião, partido alto and maracatu rhythms and is dedicated to Rabbi Steven Suson of congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim in Silver Spring, Maryland. Another recent composition, “Bahia dos Todo Os Santos,” is based on a traditional Capoeira chant. It is an Ijexá, a rhythm from the state of Bahia in the northeast of Brazil. Bahia’s capital, Salvador, is built around Bahia dos Todos os Santos (All Saint’s Bay) and Capoeira is the martial art used by Brazilian slaves in revolts against the well-armed Portuguese.
Nirenberg was raised in a family of musicians and studied music since childhood. His father plays viola in the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra based in Rio and teaches chamber music at UFRJ. His mother is a gifted pianist who also became a teacher.
His paternal grandfather, Jaques Nirenberg, was a doctor and also a respected violinist with the Brazilian String Quartet. For over five decades they performed in concert halls around the world, including Carnegie Hall and Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Michel Nirenberg studied classical piano, violin, guitar and clarinet before taking up the saxophone at age 15. Although his family is extremely musical he is the only one making it his primary occupation.
While his musical style is contemporary Brazilian instrumental music, he is influenced by earlier popular music such as choro, the first characteristically Brazilian genre of urban popular music. Choro is characterized by virtuosity, improvisation, and subtle modulations, and is full of syncopation and counterpoint. Nirenberg has the wherewithal to treat it in lively new ways. He also performs straight ahead jazz and on his recording made the unexpected leap into the avant-garde on the bonus track.
Nirenberg’s journey to the U.S. began with a competition in Brazil known as the Concurso Jovens Músicos–Música no Museu, or Competition for Young Musicians, Music in the Museum. After several rounds of competition with talented musicians from throughout Brazil, he won second place and the opportunity for an assistantship at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. In 2014, he received a master of music degree in performance -saxophone – an achievement all the more impressive because Nirenberg faced the challenge of mastering English while undertaking his studies. Besides English and Portuguese, he is fluent in Spanish and speaks some French, reflecting the wide range of world cultures that influence his approach to music.