by Timur Vaulin
This side of rock, bass players tend to be cool and calm, but such traits can rarely be found in Brazilians, and Arthur Maia isn’t one to lurk in the shadows of giants like Gilberto Gil or Placido Domingo. Having also played with, among others, Pat Metheny, George Benson and Carlos Santana, Maia most proudly stands his own ground in the thick of the cultural and historical phenomenon known as Musica Popular Brasileira, accompanying the scene’s stars – Milton Nascimento, Djavan, Ivan Lins – and driving their shows towards ecstasy. How does he manage to support and shine at the same time? Let’s ask the maestro.
– Arthur, you’re a representative of one of the most respected musical dynasties in Rio. How did you become a bass player in the Maia family?
I started playing drums when I was 5 years old,. It was my uncle Luizão [the widely known Brazilian bassist who worked with the likes of Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter] that led to me playing bass, it was his direct influence. So all in the family…
– Where and from whom did you learn? Did you imitate any famous bass player, when perfecting your style?
– When I was a drummer, I studied at a conservatory in Rio, then I moved to bass and learned harmony and theory at university, but I’m an autodidact on the bass. Of course, I’ve started trying to imitate my uncle, Jaco [Pastorius], Eddie Gomez, Anthony Jackson, Alphonso Johnson and others idols of mine.
– Your sound and style are always dominant. Do you like to be an accompanist sometimes?
Basically, a bass player has the functions of arranger and grooves… And I love it.
– You do backing vocals live and you sing on your albums. Have you ever thought about your own show?
I do my shows where I’m always singing. But I’m a composer and, though I love singing, I’m not a singer.
– What brand of guitar do you play?
Tagima Bass, from Brazil. It’s my signature bass. A great instrument I’ve been using it for 12 years now.
– How often do you get to play double bass?
A bassist has rules, and the first of them is to play for a song, choosing instruments for that. But I go back to acoustic bass, as it is essential for some kinds of music.
– Why did you call your early group, one of the first jazz-rock ensembles in Brazil, CAMA DE GATO?
Cama de gato is a game that you play in a group, with your hands, just like you do when you play music.
– Do you have any favorite band?
Among others, I love a French-Afro band SIXUN, [Herbie] Hancock, [Chick] Corea and, of course, WEATHER REPORT.
– There are so many interesting and original bass players in Brazil, from Yuri Popoff and Nico Assampsao to Andre Vasconcelos, Enelas Xavier and Bruce Henri. How do you explain this flourishing of the bass school?
Brazil is a very musical country. Our bass style came from the ’50s starting with choro: a 7-string guitar playing in a bass way sounds different, which made possible own approach and signature.
– You have played and recorded with almost all of the MPB stars. Who do you like to work with the most? Who would you consider a friend?
There are always new friends and new inspirations – that’s the point. Ivan Lins, Marisa Monte, Gilberto Gil, Djavan, Seu Jorge: they are all my personal friends and musical idols, we still playing and living in the same harmony.
– Which of your colleagues outside of Brazil do you highly respect?
Marcus Miller, John Patitucci , [Richard] Bona, Gary Willis… [There are] many [great players] but these are my favorites.
– Please, tell us about your family and your home.
I’m the older of three brothers. My father, mother and my sons, we always play with the family on weekends and at our family parties. We are a musical family in all senses – it’s that simple. We’re happy and we always play when we can.
– Do you have anything important in your life besides music?
I’m a culture secretary of Niteroi, my city in Rio’s Bay area, now. It’s an exepcional chance to contribute to its future. I believe that it can be a giant step for our beautiful and musical city, and for the last seven months I’ve been taking the chance and do it my way, but music is my destiny.
– What’s your heart’s desire, then?
Love and peace for all.