Updated: Jan 22
January 2023 - There was no specific reason, no product release or concert to be announced, so giving an interview to the newspaper was not on my horizon during my last visit to Brazil. But here comes an invitation at the beginning of the year for an interview for the Caderno C of Correio Popular de Campinas. Without any planning on my part, a good chat with Aline Guevara turned into a full-page story for the newspaper.
Since I didn't have a specific event to publicize, the conversation flowed in several directions and I didn't know what to expect from the article itself. And what a joy to read it, it turned out into a well-crafted text about my professional history between Brazil and the United States.
Read the English translation of the article:
When Rafael Piccolotto de Lima, a Composition graduate from the Music Department of Unicamp in Campinas, decided to continue his studies in the United States, he wanted to explore new knowledge in the birthplace of jazz. Eleven years later - with a structured career as a composer in New York and a Latin Grammy nomination - he sees his Brazilian roots as an advantage. Part of what led him to his achievements is what he calls "the ace up his sleeve": exploring the richness of Brazilian music in his arrangements. "I am privileged. I have always taken Brazil with me," he emphasizes.
His Brazilian education always placed him mixing popular and classical music, but with the addition of jazz from his international research, he could test new possibilities. Today, much of his work abroad is called "Brazilian jazz," as it incorporates all of his references. "In the US, they see our culture with great respect and interest... We have this mix of music from Europe, this tradition that was well established, with Africa's rhythm, swing, and sway. In the United States, this mix turned into jazz. Here in Brazil, it turned into samba, forró, and chorinho. It's a giant musical legacy," he says.
One of his greatest pride is having arranged for the famous Chick Corea, who established himself as one of the leading jazz pianists in the 1960s. But he also collaborated with many Brazilian artists, such as Ivan Lins, Ana Carolina, Zélia Duncan, Romero Lubambo, Martinho da Vila, and Alcione. The maestro says that his experience abroad has borne fruit in his native land. "Because of my achievements in the United States, I attracted attention in Brazil, and it opened doors for me." He even joked about relating his journey to the Hero's Journey, the cyclical journey concept described by Joseph Campbell. "When a person has to leave their home, conquer something in another place to return transformed, to gain recognition and bring good things back."
Rafael usually comes to Campinas at least once a year to see his family. But he also takes the opportunity to bring projects to development in Brazil. One of them was "Forró Sem Palavras," performing original arrangements based on traditional rhythms of the Northeast of Brazil mixed with jazz and classical music. The composer developed this project in the United States, then premiered in New York, but also received performances in Brazil in 2019 by the Municipal Symphony Orchestra of Campinas under his direction. "It all started in Campinas, where I used to go out dancing forró, then the idea came to fruition many years later, when I was in the United States, and it now returned to my hometown."
The Grammy that almost didn't happen
The nomination for the Latin Grammy in 2013, when he was 28 years old, is one of the outstanding achievements in Rafael's young career, reverberating with each invitation he receives for new projects. The composition "Abertura Jobiniana" was inspired by the symphonic work of Tom Jobim. But he revealed that he barely includes his piece on the album submitted for the award. The reason? He still wanted to revise the work and experiment with a different interpretation. "It was a big surprise! I didn't expect it. None of the other songs on the album got the nomination, and mine, which wasn't the album's highlight, did. A part of my story would be different if it weren't for my colleagues' insistence to include the recording on the album".
Rafael's new projects go through the paths of education. He has prepared online courses, real-time classes, and free videos that will soon be available on YouTube. The idea is to launch the first ones in the first half of 2023, both in English and Portuguese, but the original focus is on Brazil. "I want to return the knowledge I have accumulated over these 20 years to other people. I know that many do not have the opportunity that I had. n I see myself today in this position, of bringing exciting projects and things I learned abroad, also to Brazil ", concludes.
Newspaper article written by Aline Guevara and translated by Rafael Piccolotto de Lima.
Published in the Correio Popular de Campinas, on 01/15/2023.
About the author
Rafael Piccolotto de Lima has been nominated for a Latin Grammy as the best classical composer. He holds a doctorate in jazz composition from the University of Miami and has multiple awards as an arranger, musical director, producer, and educator.
His works have been premiered and/or recorded by jazz legends such as Terence Blanchard, Chick Corea, and Brad Mehldau, renowned Brazilian artists such as Ivan Lins, Romero Lubambo, and Proveta, and orchestras such as the Brazilian Jazz Symphony, the Americas Symphony Orchestra, and the Metropole Orkest (Netherlands).