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Ed Motta

Brazilian producer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and arranger Ed Motta is a musical renaissance man and is regarded as such at home, in the Caribbean, South America, Europe, and Japan. His smooth, edgeless meld of samba, jazz, funk, soul, disco, bossa, pop, and more won him international acclaim for his third album, Entre e Ouça, in 1993. His trilogy of standalone albums -- Poptical (2002), Dwitza (2003), and Aystelum (2005) -- expanded his reputation to the delight of club and critics' circles in North America. Motta released the global hit AOR in 2013, offering original songs inspired by '70s FM radio yacht rock and R&B sounds. With producer Kamau Kenyatta (Gregory Porter) he cut Perpetual Gateways (2015) in Los Angeles, revealing his deep love of funky jazz-rock. 2018's self-produced Criterion of the Senses crystallized smooth, late-'70s soul with contemporary jazz and pop. After a five-year break, Motta returned with the cinematic soul collection Behind the Tea Chronicles in 2023. Motta was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1971. From an early age he listened to disco, soul, and funk on the radio, later leaning toward rock. He began playing piano almost as soon as he could walk. A few years later he participated in dance contests with his older sister, became a record collector, and discovered rock music in 1982. Dedicating considerable time to research, he began collecting recordings (his now legendary collection includes tens of thousands of albums), magazines, encyclopedias, and books on rock. His musical career started with the hard rock band Kabbalah as a vocalist. After hearing Jeff Beck's fusion classic Blow by Blow, however, he was blown away by its intersection of raucous hard rock, funk, soul, and electric jazz. Motta abandoned his studies and dedicated himself to making music. He became a club DJ and published the music fanzine Curto Circuito. A couple of years later, at 17, he met guitarist Luiz Fernando Comprido and formed Conexão Japer. They played jams in rehearsal studios, and founded Conexão Japeri, which was first called Expresso Realengo. In 1988, the group was signed by Warner and released Ed Motta e Conexão Japeri, which had two hits: "Manuel" and "Vamos Dançar." In 1990, Motta began a solo career, recording Um Contrato com Deus (influenced by Prince's Sign 'O' the Times), and played all the instruments with friend and former bandmate Bombom. His third album, Entre e Ouça was released in 1992 and paid aesthetic homage to the pop-jazz of Steely Dan. During the mid-'90s, he traveled to New York to record with Eddie Gomez, Bernard Purdie, and Chuck Rainey, and stayed there for one year. During that period, he wrote "Crescente Fértil," whose lyrics were penned by Aldir Blanc and recorded it for his own 50 Anos. Returning to Brazil, Motta recorded the Pequeno Dicionário Amoroso film soundtrack and performed throughout the country and in the U.S., Buenos Aires, Argentina, Rome, Italy, and Paris, France. With Manual Prático Para Bailes Festas e Afins (Universal, 1997), Motta received his first platinum record. A companion set, Remixes & Aperitivos, was certified gold. He also recorded two award-winning film soundtracks, Ninó and Uma Janela Para o Cinema, then performed with Roy Ayers at New York's Central Park. In 2000, he presented his show Músicas Antigas e Algumas Inéditas, in which, backed by a jazz trio, he performed standards of American and Brazilian music and new compositions and released the album Músicas Antigas e Algumas Inéditas. Motta's star rose in the new century beginning with Dwitza in 2002, an album proclaimed by many Brazilian and European critics as one of the finest melds of jazz, soul, and Brazilian music ever. It was followed by the equally acclaimed Poptical a few months later. In 2005, Aystelum showcased a different musical genre on each track and displayed the expansive variety in Motta's musical vocabulary; he modestly claimed he came by it via the 30,000-plus LPs in his record collection. While his 2006 live album Ao Vivo hit the Brazilian charts, it was 2008's studio effort, Chapter 9, sung completely in English, that garnered more notice despite its darker overall themes and textures. It was greeted ecstatically in Brazil, despite being sung in a foreign tongue. Motta continued to tour nationally and globally, and was particularly well received on the jazz festival circuit and in Europe and Japan. Savvy critics regarded Chapter 9 as a masterpiece. Released in 2009, Piquenique was a celebratory return, not only to Portuguese but to brighter soul, jazz, and pop stylings. In 2013, Motta released AOR, which reflected his love of early-'70s/ early-'80s radio format sounds and easily melded jazz, pop, and funk with glossy studio production. It was released in both Portuguese and English and became an immediate smash, celebrated globally for its single version of "Dondi," featuring former Motown guitarist David T. Walker. Though originally issued in Brazil and Europe, it received an American release via the Tummy Touch label. The English-language version broadened Motta's profile to a bigger Anglo audience. He followed the album with Perpetual Gateways in early 2016. Produced by Kemau Kenyatta (Gregory Porter), the guest list included an all-star cast of West Coast musicians (and Motta's idols) including Patrice Rushen, Hubert Laws, Marvin "Smitty" Smith, Tony Dumas, and Charles Owens. Strangely, the album sold better in Europe and Asia than in Brazil. 2018's self-produced Criterion of the Senses perfectly crystalized the smooth, late-'70s jazz-soul-funk-rock sound he'd been striving for since Dwitza. Motta toured internationally, but in 2020 was forced off the road due to the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. He returned to the recording studio in 2022. He reemerged in October 2023 with Behind the Tea Chronicles. Its captivating arrangements and compositions offered an organic-sounding fusion of various genres. Each showcases a mastery of cinematic soul and groove, while incorporating elements of funk, soul, jazz, cinema soundtracks, and Broadway sounds. Movies and old TV shows had a profound impact on Motta's imagination and musical sensibilities from childhood on. He paid homage to those influences, employing them as connecting points on an album at once musically engaging and cinematic. The impressive lineup of singers and players included Paulette McWilliams, Philip Ingram, and the Czech FILMharmonic Orchestra.
© Alvaro Neder & Thom Jurek /TiVo


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