I wrote this piece in summer 2011, dedicating it to the Brazilian guitarist Yamandu Costa. I discovered Yamandu’s music a few years prior, and he has been a huge influence ever since I first heard him play. Not only is he a brilliant composer, arranger, and interpreter of Brazilian music (and beyond), his technique ranks as one of the best in the world. Many of his pieces are tour-de-forces, featuring dizzying, tastefully executed passages and harmonic progressions that firmly cement him as one of the most influential modern Brazilian guitarists. His approach to the guitar is informed most immediately by his predecessor, the Brazilian guitarist Raphael Rabello, who passed away at the young age of 32 but left an incredible legacy of flamenco-inspired, yet distinctly Brazilian arrangements and compositions with a style all his own. Although it is difficult to compare such proficient guitarists, it can be said that Yamandu has gone a few steps further in his approach, engaging in a variety of unique musical contexts such as a jazz trio framework and duets with accordion (Dominguinhos) and mandolin (Hamilton de Holanda). However, Last Dance was inspired most by Yamandu’s solo work, particularly the pieces on his Mafuá album (released in 2008).
Last Dance begins with an ad libitum introduction (featuring my attempt at percussion!) to set the tone of the piece – and of the album as a while – Last Dance jumps right into the samba rhythm, which serves as a segue into a brief solo/improv section with a flamenco-inspired rhythmic accompaniment. The subsequent call-and-response chords and passages transition into the second part (the main theme), which I overdubbed with a second guitar part (random note: the overdub was recorded a year after the original track!). The piece concludes with a recapitulation of the first part that ends on an unexpectedly dissonant chord – a Yamandu trademark.
Also, it turns out that living in Minnesota isn’t all bad (although the recent weather forecasts might lead you to believe otherwise). We have a very active music community that attracts many world-class musicians. Two years ago, a very special musician performed here...
A little less than a year after writing Last Dance, I was able to perform it for Yamandu… luckily, he liked it!