Article and Photos By: Julian Weisser
The day after playing onstage with Latin Grammy winner Ivan Lins at the Berklee Performance Center, Italo Cunha settled in with a stellar band and started heating up under the red hot lights of the cozy Café 939 at Berklee. Italo, a Brazilian jazz guitarist, was presenting his senior guitar recital and capping off an impressive “career” at Berklee College of Music. The compositions performed, all written by Cunha, spanned his three years at the school.
The song the band opened with, “Looking for the Moon,” was written during Italo’s freshman year. He has been busy since then; writing and performing as well as appearing on two Berklee compilations, 2010’s Birds of a Feather by Jazz Revelation Records and Love Conquers All: Music for Japan. Listening to the two tracks can give a glimpse of the kind of live performance that Italo puts on, sliding from style and mood with each passage.
Italo thrills listeners with the unexpected and so do his varied arrangements. On Love Conquers All, “Alegria” is played calmly and warmly. On Thursday afternoon the band dug in, alternating between quiet intensity and soaring, fluid melodies. Many musical peaks were reached during the performance and Italo went nearly psychedelic with the implementation of a whammy pedal throughout parts of the show.
The musical diversity is directly reflected in the international melting pot that was broiling inside 939 on this rainy Thursday afternoon. A perfect moment to introduce the band:
Italo Cunha – electric guitar – Brazil
Gonzalo Allendes – piano – Chile
Mario Castro – tenor saxophone – Puerto Rico
Felix Peikli – clarinet – Norway
Nori Shiota – bass – Japan
Jonathan Pinson – drums – United States
The ensemble was spectacular and assembled specifically for the show. Cunha has been playing in sessions with all of them at various times throughout his 3 years at Berklee. You can catch Italo Cunha live in concert with professor Gilson Schachnik opening for the Mozik CD release party at the Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge, MA on Friday, October 28th at 8:30pm. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online.
I caught up with Italo Cunha the night after the show and asked him a few questions:
Julian Weisser (Berklee Groove): How was it playing with Ivan Lins?
Italo Cunha: It was fun playing with Ivan, everyone did a great job, and Ivan is a great person too.
Groove: What has been your favorite time while at Berklee?
Italo: My first 2 semesters.
Groove: Who are your influences at Berklee?
Italo: Mick Goodrick, David Tronzo, Hal Crook, Ed Tomassi.
Groove: How about outside of school?
Italo: My family, my friends, and all music.
Groove: Can you explain the song “Nosso Forro?”
Italo: It is a song I composed. Forro is a dance and a music style from the northeast of Brazil, where it’s a bit similar to the way you dance in salsa.
Groove: What do you want to do after Berklee?
Italo: My plans now are to move to NYC, and continue playing my music with the people I like. Also a few tours in Brazil.