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Jazz after Five brings UI student's Brazilian Jazz to the Mill

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | SEPTEMBER 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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Audio: Jose Gobbo

"Seu Brasilino"

When Jose Gobbo composes a song, he tries to create a story in which he develops a set of characters. But the University of Iowa graduate student studying jazz performance said his method of composing is nontraditional.

“Usually, I’ll be walking down the street, and there is a melody related to a feeling I have,” he said. “So I grab my guitar and try to develop [the melody] and then put the harmony above that.”

The Jose Gobbo Trio will perform as part of the Jazz after 5 series at 5 p.m. Friday at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St.

Jazz after 5 brings UI music students and faculty as performers to the Mill. Admission is free.

While attending the UI, Gobbo — whose friends call him Ze — learned another approach and technique to developing music.

He said his professor used to tell him to “think of the shape of the song and then to make a sketch of it.”

Though he did like this new method, he said, he would rather think of a melody and then develop it.

“Everything I play is way more of a reflection of everything I listen to,” he said. “I’m not regional at all.”

His method of creating music is not what he would call mainstream, and neither is his take on jazz.
The native of Brazil wants to bring jazz influences to tunes from his homeland.

Gobbo played his favorite rock ’n’ roll music on the guitar when he was 12. When he was around 16, he became interested in jazz.

The guitarist first started to play fusion music, which combines two or more styles together. At that point, he discovered jazz influenced that style.

“I’m a little old fashioned, and hard bop from the 1960s is one of my favorites,” Gobbo said. “I started looking at my idols and who they listened to, and now, I like everything about jazz.”

He received an undergraduate degree in Brazil; there, he met UI Director of Jazz Studies John Rapson.

A friend introduced Gobbo to Rapson’s music while Gobbo worked at a school in Campinas.
The guitarist then attended a workshop and saw the album material Rapson was producing with other Brazilian musicians, and he decided that he wanted to apply to the UI.

“I didn’t hear him play until he sent his audition materials, but he wowed us all, including the guitar professors,” Rapson said. “It was exciting to have someone of that caliber.”

In the couple years Rapson has worked with Gobbo, Rapson said the student has made a great deal of improvement. Rapson also said Gobbo is hungry for every musical environment he can get into.

No matter what city Gobbo plays in, he seeks opportunities to entertain the audience and share his music.

His first gig in Iowa City was playing at the Farmers’ Market, and since then, he has played at George’s Buffet, 312 E. Market St., every other Tuesday evening.

“His improvement is that right away, he is a sponge and takes the initiative to learn from people instead of waiting for them to come to him,” Rapson said. “He goes and gets gigs even if it’s a place that doesn’t usually have music, and that’s really inspiring.”

Aside from being Rapson’s student, Gobbo is a musical colleague, Rapson said, and they have played together several times.

In order to receive a master’s degree in jazz performance, students are required to record CDs, which includes their own compositions.

“We are trying to find ways to be more economical and elegant, not just complicated,” Rapson said. “But in the meantime, he already has a unique professional voice, so we are talking about something already starting at a high level. Music is meant to be heard; it just needs to be clear how you are supposed to perform it.”

For the Jazz After 5 show at the Mill, Gobbo plans to workshop his tunes to see what songs work and the first impression people have.

During some of the songs, he will sing in Portuguese to add a whole other flavor.

While the original compositions and arrangements of standard songs are all Gobbo’s work, he said playing with the trio is like “having a conversation.”

Performing alongside Gobbo at the Mill will be colleague and fifth-year senior Blake Shaw, who until he met the guitarist wasn’t familiar with Brazilian jazz.

The bass player met Gobbo through the UI jazz program, and he said it’s extremely fun to play the compositions created by his friend.

“I didn’t really know a lot of these rhythms that [Gobbo] is so familiar with, but he is really patient with me and helps me learn them right,” Shaw said. “To have someone who knows how to play [Brazilian] music is why I wanted to jump at the chance to play with him.”


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