Brazilian harpman Michael Navarro talks about Rick Estrin, local scene, and his own blues paths

"The Blues means a style of life, a style with truth, a style that lets me dream and simply play my music."

Michael "Gaita" Navarro: Mystical blues connects

This harmonica player has been in the Road since 1999. In 2000, he recorded the “Harmonica and Blues Project” CD, along with other harmonica players, produced by Sérgio Duarte and Alexandre Fontanelli. The late has already produced some of Rock and Roll, MPB and Blues big names, such as, “Golpe de Estado”, “Blues Jeans”, André Christovam among others.

He has worked in the production team of Sérgio Duarte and Entidade Joe’s band as a road crew and production assistant, having had contact also with some big names of the national and international Blues scene, like Nazi & Os Irmãos do Blues, Flávio Guimarães, Mason Casey, Johnny Roover, in the first Harmonica Players Meeting, held in Sesc Pompéia in 2001. Rick Estrin in the second workshop held by Bends Harmonicas in Bar Soul live 2008.

As musician, he was invited to participate in the Harmonica Festival and Blues Project in 2000 and 2001, where it was held a National Harmonica Players Meeting.  Since then he has been following bands that have a classic Blues, Jazz and Rock & Roll repertory. Some of the bands are “Destilado Blues”, “Rústicos Acústicos”, “Blues Rock Edition”, ”Quarteto Elétrico”, “The Caravan”, “Banda Mentirosos” and “Eletrik Soul”.  So in his professional history, we find some famous clubs, like, Mr.Blues, Bourbon Street, Café Aurora, Café Piu Piu, Bar Brahma, Enfarta Madalena and Lanterna where he had the opportunity to open for the singer Vanusa in 2002.

He also acted in hotels, where he made an opening Pocket Show to singer Fernanda Porto in 2005. In 2007 he started to play in Motoclubs with “Banda Mentirosos”, among them “The Naja Motoclub” “Pegasus”, and “Jacarés do Asfalto”. Nowadays he is a collaborator in bibliaworldnet, in which he writes a monthly article on Blues Harmonica and Chromatic Harmonica, doing jingles and recordings.


Interview by Michael Limnios


Michael, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues & who were your first idols?

My first desire to play the blues came from listening to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Doors, in their recordings I began to hear elements of both blues and harmonica. When I began to really search for information on blues in Brazil, I arrived at the music of the Eric Clapton, B.B King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. But I still wanted to find blues with harmonica. I finally bought a CD by Muddy Waters called Muddy “Mississippi” Waters Live. On this recording I heard James Cotton on Harmonica the First time and some tracks with Jerry Portnoy too. In this way James Cotton and Muddy Waters became my First idols in Blues. This was when I was 17 years old.


What was the first gig you ever went to & what were the first songs you learned?

The first Blues Show I saw was a Brazilian band called Blues Etílicos with Flávio Guimarães on Harmonica. The first songs I learned were simple things like “When the Saints go Marching In”, “OH Suzanna”, and a Brazilian song called “Asa Branca” (White Wing in English) author Luiz Gonzaga. But the first Blues song I learned was “Mannish Boy” by Muddy Waters.


From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the blues music?

I learned most of Blues Music & Harp secrets from a Brazilian Blues Man in São Paulo named Sérgio Duarte.  He is still in São Paulo and still playing the Blues.


Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES

I believe Blues music is always with us because it speaks about the past, present and future. I always feel that Blues connects me with something bigger, something mystical. My wish would be to see Blues grow in Brazil, with more Brazilians exposed to the Blues music.


Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

The right point of my career to date was in 2010 when I played in front of 3.000 people. It was an event (Virada Cultural Paulista) in Araraquara, a city in the interior of São Paulo state.

The worst moment was when my Ampifier Burned at a Bar because the voltage was wrong.


Any of blues standards have real personal feelings for you & what are some of your favorite?

I like “ Blues With a Feeling” by Little Walter very much, because the song gives me a feeling that the music is the one thing that is mine, good days or bad days.


What does the BLUES mean to you & what does offered you?

The Blues means a style of life, a style with truth, a style that lets me dream and simply play my music.


What do you learn about yourself from the blues music?

Through Blues I learned that through persistence I could do what I like end express my feelings, a different road for my life in music.


How do you describe Michael Navarro’s sound and progress?

My sound is a mix of traditional blues harp influences, including Sonny Boy Williamson II, Walter Horton, Sonny terry. I’m progressing form this base with additions of Rock N’ Roll & Folk music. For example, now I am listening to old Neil Young songs.


What experiences in your life make you a GOOD bluesman?

As a Kid, I wanted to rebel, to be different, and to be eccentric. It was always attracted to the idea of being on a stage, performing. Listening to Blues at 17 really gave me a pleasure that was different, connecting me with something bigger.


Are there any memories from Rick Estrin’s workshop, which you’d like to share with us?

The most important memory I have from Rick Estrin’s workshop is the technique of Little Walter on the Harp, using the side of the mouth, the tongue Blocking and Vibrato; the tone he created. The workshop allowed us to take these techniques he developed during a short period of his life, using it for the rest of our lives.


Do you have any amusing tales to tell from your work with the production team of Sérgio Duarte and Entidade Joe’s band as a road crew and production assistant?

It is difficult to think of one moment only in my road history, but they were always joking around and having fun at the shows and after the shows…But one singer called Nazi (Nazi & Os Irmãos do Blues) tested me as a road, asking for a drink during the show. I expected to ask for Whiskey or Beer, which was typical, but he asked me to get him Champagne. I wondered whether he wanted a whole bottle, which was too expensive, but I got him only a glass and I saw he was satisfied and smiled at me…I saw he was playing with me.


What characterize the sound of local blues scene? How do you see the future of the brasilian blues music?

The Blues in São Paulo generally are played as part of the rock scene, mixed in with Classic Rock and almost never 100% Blues. But the future is promising for the Blues in the São Paulo music scene; because the quality of music in the city is improving and the musicians are explore more the Real Blues like Igor Prado, Celso Salim, Ivan Marcio, Robson Fernandes & Big Chico.


Do you have any amusing tales to tell from your work with the local blues bands?

Sometimes, with all this bands, we would arrive at a Bar to play and the place remains empty. We need to enjoy ourselves anyway; so we jammed for ourselves and the waiters… playing solos and improvisation.


What do you think of Bossa Nova & how close are to the BLUES?

I have respect for Bossa Nova but do not have the desire to play it. Bossa Nova and Blues have some crossing points, for example we can play The Girl from Ipanema with a Blues intention on a Blues Harp, but with the Chromatic Harmonica sounds better, predominating the Jazz intention.


When it all began for the blues in Brasil, who is considered the local "godfather" of the blues?

The first moments I believe that Blues really came to Brazil were during the early 1980’s. One of the pioneers of Brazilian Bues during that period was Celso Blues Boy (Guitar Player & Singer), he continued playing until he died this year. 06/ago/2012 (this week) it’s so sad…but your music is eternity.


Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene and why?

The 1990’s were the most interesting period for Blues in Brazil, similar to what was happening worldwide. They were various Blues Bar, free Blues events in plazas and fairs, and even B.B.King played at Ibirapuera park in São Paulo.


What mistake of the Brasilian blues scene you want to correct?

There is a perception in Brazil that the Blues is a Chic thing for rich people. Maybe this is because more recent years international shows with blues are expensive in São Paulo and major Brazilians cities. But I would like to correct this perception and help people understand that the Blues is for everyone, a simple thing that can touch everyone.


Do you believes it has the possibility of someone musician to live only with the blues in your country?

I believe that a musician can live with only focus on the Blues is he/she is creative with shows, workshops and music lesson. Maybe with the growth of music quality and variety in Brazil, there will be even more opportunity for 100% Blues Musicians!


Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet?

I would love to have met Little Walter, because of his History and the unique sound he had in Blues Harmonica.


Michael Navarro's official website


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