The whatmusic.com interview…
Celso Murilo Levanhagen’s music belongs to a watershed period in the history of brazilian music. Celso Murilo was at his creative peak at a time when the massive influence of cuban pop music was beginning to wane in favour of the new breed of young composers finding their feet in the wake of Joao Gilberto’s seminal 1958 release ‘Chega de Saudade’. That album is generally accepted as the starting point of what became known as bossa nova but, like all movements, it took a few years before records contained nothing but bossa nova compositions and their trademark sound. So, in this transition period we find a lot of artists and recordings that acted as signposts for what was about to become a total revolution.
Celso Murilo, who hails from a small town in the interior state of Minas Gerais, arrived in Rio in 1959 in time to become part of this new wave. Although starting out as a pianist, Murilo soon took up the organ, which was the instrument of its day, principally due to the existence of a spanking new Hammond B3 model at the legendary Drink nightclub. The Drink was the coolest place of its time, and its house band, led by the charismatic malandro Djalma Ferreira, was the best gig in town for any young musician. Ed Lincoln got his first touch of the Hammond one day after Djalma Ferreira was shot on a Friday afternoon and the club managers were desperate to replace their key man. Lincoln loved the B3 so much that he got hold of his one and set up on his own. Enter Celso Murilo as leader of the Conjunto Drink.
Celso Murilo was part of a select group of friends that would play almost every day just for the fun of it. Produced by singer Lucio Alves, the group held a residency at the Arpege club. These days it reads like a ‘who’s who’ of the best – João Gilberto on guitar, Durval Ferreira on acoustic rhythm guitar, future Tamba Trio members Bebeto (flute and bass) and Ohana on drums, along with percussion legend Rubens Bassini. This group wasn’t missing anyone, but sometimes it even had the addition of Antonio Carlos Jobim dropping in for a jam.
João Gilberto was anxious that Celso should accompany him on his first trips to the US as part of his group there. But with so much work at home the young organist was reluctant to leave the vibrant Rio music scene. Murilo found himself as the leader on many record sessions in the early 60s. These included the debut by singer Sandra (who was killed in a car crash on her way to receive her ‘Best Newcomer’ award) and ‘Diagonal’ by pre-bossa stylist Johnny Alf. Later in 1962, along with guitarist Baden Powell and the MPB4 he led the group backing singer Célia Reis on an album which featured the first ever recordings of ‘So Danço Samba’, ‘Tamanco No Samba’ and ‘Influencia do Jazz’.
The following is a translation of the original liner notes
Celso Levanhagen is the real name of this ‘mineiro’ from Baependí, still very young but so decidedly advanced on the road to success and popularity.
This superb organist and no less a pianist can be found in the night-club Drink, where he was discovered by the directors of Pawal Records. Impressed by the powerful brilliance of the young ‘mineiro’, they invited him to record an LP on their newly-founded label, and, it ended up as you can hear – an auspicious beginning and an absolute success.
Celso Murilo had already been presented to the record buying public on two excellent long playing records – ‘Sambas Na Passarela’ and ‘Ritmos Na Passarela’ whereupon, as the titles suggest, authentic hits flowed in procession for the delight of those who love great interpretations of great music.
On these albums Celso impressed all those who heard him with his pure technique, ability to improve and general talent as a bandleader. We don’t know which of these samba dance tracks were top of the pops with you the listening jury, but the true victor without shadow of a doubt is this new and excellent interpreter of popular music: Celso Murilo – our ‘Mr Ritmo’.
So, now well-known and deservedly lauded, here he is once more showcased in this spectacular LP, where we celebrate more of his stupendous performances. On this LP, recorded in Mono and Stereophonic, we hear a selection of cha-cha-chas and sambas, hand picked for your musical delectation.
In our opinion ‘Mr Ritmo’ will only serve to solidify and consolidate Celso Murilo’s prestige with a wider public, a public that’s young and carefree, that hears this type of music and dances and sings, in the reflection of Celso’s own youth and vitality.
Drums & Timbales: Ohana
Pandeiro & Bongo: Rubens Bassini
Bass: Tião Marinho
Organ & Piano: Celso Murilo
Vocals: Edgar e Seu Grupo
CEDAR processing by Sean ‘Big P’ Pennycook, London
Remastered by Luigi Hoffer at Digital Mastering Solutions Rio de Janeiro November 2002
Special thanks to Américo & Durval Ferreira
© 2003 whatmusic.com
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