Solitude – Flávio Franco Araujo
Over here in the UK the South American country Brazil is perhaps more well noted for two things, football and music, and the country no doubt is not short on GREAT! talent when it comes to either of them. Internationally over the many years the country has produced one of the very best football teams ever and no country has won the World Cup more times than Brazil. I myself have very fond memories of the side they had when they won the World Cup for the third time in Mexico back in 1970 and even the GREAT! team they had that did not win it in 1982. That side was by far the GREATEST! football team I have ever seen still to this day. It had the style, flare and the skill that was equivalent to what the Harlem Globetrotters gave to Basketball.
Musically the country is perhaps noted for being the birth place of Samba music although Bossa nova is also a well-known style of Brazilian music which was a new trend that was popularized back in the 1950s and 1960s. The music of Brazil was formed mainly from the fusion of European and African elements and rhythmically I suppose there is some of the elements that came out of Africa that is associated with the percussion side of things. But also, Latin American rhythms were also widely used and fused with jazz we get what’s known as Latin jazz or even Afro-Brazilian jazz, which includes bossa nova and samba.
The country is well noted for its many talented musicians in all fields of music including classical, folk and many other genres besides, and today have become more universally accepted worldwide. I have to confess I myself do not know a great deal about the country’s music and its many talented musicians. But I have watched many music documentaries that have nothing but high praise for the musicians that have come out of Brazil and I know what skill it requires to make the music that I stumbled upon Soundcloud a good few year back when I landed on BongÔMusics.
BongÔMusics was set up by a very talented multi-instrumentalist and producer who is known as Flávio Franco Araujo. Over the many years he has set up his own studio and produced many talented artists and helped them make many records. He is perhaps more known as a producer and BongÔMusics is the name of his studio and not the name of a band so to speak. But now finally after all these years he’s got to release a very fine album of piano solos entitled Solitude, which really shows this GREAT! man’s talent as a pianist, a composer and as a very skilful arranger. But before we go any further into his history let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.
The Packaging & Artwork…
Well as you can see the package is nothing to look at and that is just one of the many disadvantages a Digital Download will present to you in relation to a physical product that would also include things such as linear production notes and credits, along with lyrics and glossary photos and such. Though the Digital Download is perhaps more popular these days than any physical media format and quite often provides you with a cheaper alternative way of getting your hands on an album.
I have to confess that I myself am more of physical product guy and prefer something you can touch and hold in your hands in relation to the Digital Download. But I can also see the point of using this format especially for the lesser known artists who are not going to be selling their albums by the bucket load and will most likely end up with a load of CD’s cluttering up their basement or garage.
Let’s face it music is very hard to sell these days and the Digital Download is really the only way the artist can protect themselves from losing a pile of cash with the extra expense it costs to put your album out onto a physical format. So, for many lesser known artists this is really the best way you can go about getting your music out there.
Digital Download v Physical Format. The Way I See It…
Being more of a physical media guy my own personal view of how much a Digital Download should cost really boils down to all the things you are missing out on regarding the packaging and the extra content you get with a physical media product. I myself certainly do not believe any Digital Download should cost any more than £5. That is not to say that the music is not worth more than that and is really down to what more you get with the physical product.
For example, a Digital Download is a bit like buying a CD that comes with no packaging and all the other informative information about the product that comes with it. If you were to take a CD out of its jewel case and sell it on its own, the chances are that you would most likely get less than half of the price you paid for it with the packaging and the rest of the contents. The informative information that comes with any album is just as vital and important as the music itself to a collector like myself. It’s also one of the most useful things to have to write a detailed review about any album too.
Now I am not saying that all artists should charge no more than £5 for a Digital Download and at the end of the day it’s up to themselves what they think it’s worth. But it’s very rare I would pay more than £5 for such a thing and being more into the physical side of things is where I personally see more quality and value can be had for the buck. The Digital Download really should be much cheaper and should be sold as a cheaper alternative way of getting your hands on an album and not sold at the same price as a physical product which offers way more.
But you could also argue the point that because a lesser known artist is hardly likely to sell as many copies and hardly any at all in comparison to any mainstream artist. That you should pay more to give the artist support. But that does not reflect on the price point of the both formats in relation to what they are actually worth, and to charge the same price for a Digital Download as a CD will reflect that its price point is too high and overpriced.
The artwork for the album cover was a photograph taken by Flavio himself and it was taken along with several other photos from where he lives. The photo he chose no doubt represents the albums title of Solitude very well I feel as you can see from the original photo below. He also edited the photo in Lightroom to give it that personal touch for the album cover and it also works very well I feel.
Flávio Franco Araujo In Brief History…
Flávio Franco Araújo was born in Guararapes, Brazil and currently lives in São Paulo. Although São Paulo is not the capital city of Brazil it is the most populated city and I guess in some ways it’s a bit like how the many musicians here in England would have moved to London to get noticed with there being something more going on. Whether the city of São Paulo works that way or even that was the reason for Flavio to move there I could not personally tell you. But it is a city that does tend to have a lot going on for it and even the 2014 World Cup was hosted in the city.
Flavio is a practically self-taught musician and composed his first song at the age of 13. His passion and his love of music I guess goes back to the quality music he would have heard in his parents’ house when growing up as a child and the music of Chopin, Lizst, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and great arrangers like Claus Orgeman and Quincy Jones would have influenced him in many ways. He was also passionate about cinematic music, especially from older films and they also provided an influence for him. He loves romanticism but he also liked to dare in other musical styles.
He plays various instruments, such as acoustic piano, keyboards, guitar, bass guitar and has learned all of them quite well, though I would say that it is his love of the piano and keyboards is where he excels the most and as a keyboardist and pianist, he has performed in jazz festivals such as Tatui with the group Amatuza and Paraty with the Rhandal de Oliveira’s quartet. He has also performed along with Ná Ozzetti, Raul de Souza, Sizão Machado, Duda Neves, Claudio Celso, Max Sallum, Adyel, Pete Wooley, among others.
Being also a producer the other instruments he plays no doubt come in handy and get utilised and sound quality and production is also another side of his passion in wanting to achieve the best there is out there by keeping up with the latest technology. It was back in 1993 that he founded and established the critically acclaimed studio, BongÔMusics, and focused on advertising campaigns and musical productions such as albums, soundtracks, post production, mixing and mastering. Flávio is currently working on children’s music projects, film soundtracks, publicity and his instrumental music albums. Throughout his career, Flávio has won several awards as a composer and producer at Brazilian popular music festivals and respected publicity celebrations.
The Album Solitude In Review…
The album Solitude by Flávio Franco Araujo was released on 7th February 2020. The album contains 8 instrumental piano pieces spread over and overall playing time of 46 minutes, 28 seconds. The 8 tracks on the album are all his own compositions and portray 8 moments of his life that were very important to him, most of which relate to his family and he also pays homage to his idol Bill Evans.
Solitude is very much Flávio’s debut album and is an album that contains 8 piano solos that he wrote over many years. He has spent perhaps more of his own time producing other people’s music and playing and arranging more widely known mainstream music than he has given to his own compositions. Time has no relevance regarding his own music and his philosophy is that he likes to wait for the right moment. For example, the albums self-titled track “Solitude” was written at a time or a moment where he revaluated everything and started to be a little more isolated.
He also told me that he was very connected to the universe at the time and most of his compositions are born that way. However, you look at his music you can see he is very proud and passionate about it. But the other thing that keeps him busy is live performance and he has performed with many GREAT! quality musicians besides doing live solo performances like the one we have here of him performing his own unique arrangement of the well-known Harold Arlen composition “Somewhere Over The Rainbow“.
This live performance comes from a free concert he gave at the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall in the United States on March 5th 2019. Flávio also performed some of his own material that is on the album at the same venue along with a few more covers. From this live performance you can quite easily see how passionate he is with his approach to the keys and there is certainly a degree of skill than has been put into the arrangement he gave to the piece to which gives it a lovely jazzy flavour.
A couple of years ago Flávio did mention to me that he planned to do some travelling and do some live performances to get his name out there a bit more. He also set up a series of live performances with other musicians to which he called Vinyl Review. Although this was pretty much set up at his own studio or at another location in his own country as you can see from the picture below.
The concerts they gave would also of been performed to friends who they had invited over. Vinyl Review was a really GREAT! series that I enjoyed a lot and they actually premiered and streamed live these performances at an exceedingly high quality, where both picture and sound quality were pristine. This is something that is very hard to achieve especially streaming it live over the internet. The quality was as pristine as blu ray too and it might be worth them putting them out on that format.
A lot of the concerts have now been edited down to single tracks to which Flávio has put on his own Youtube channel. But no doubt the musicians were class as you can see from this live performance of “Footprints” which he put out in January this year.
My guess is that Flávio chose the word “Vinyl” or “Vinil” in Portuguese (to which the Brazilian language is derived from and uses) for the series to represent the high quality. Although in reality I would say that the quality was much better than vinyl simply because vinyl does have its restrictions and is prone to surface noise. Though no doubt for many it is still regarded as one of the better media formats and is still widely associated and popular with many music collectors.
Quality has always played an importance to his and other people’s music and I guess when you are working with musicians of this calibre you want the best for them. The production side of music also plays a big factor and has a producer he is not short in this department either, and his production work and skills are of very high standards.
Like I mentioned earlier Flávio set up his own studio BongÔMusics back in 1993 and over the decades he has maintained and kept up with the latest technology so that he is able to achieve such high-quality standards. However, this year his studio has been stripped down and his own debut album Solitude might very well be the last thing to come out of BongÔMusics. But even though it only comes in the format of a digital download it has also been made available in a hi-res 96khz at some outlets.
Musicians & Credits…
All music composed, arranged and performed by Flávio Franco Araujo. Recorded at BongÔMusics studios Morumbi, São Paulo. Brazil. Recorded mixed and mastered by Flávio Franco Araujo. Album cover and design by Flávio Franco Araujo.
Flávio Franco Araujo: Piano.
The Album Tracks In Review…
Solitude is an album of instrumental solo piano pieces and you could say that it’s very much a family album in that the biggest majority of the pieces are dedicated to those in Flávio’s family, some of which were very much written to remind him of the wonderful times he had with some of those who are no longer here. There is no doubt that each piece will have a special place in his heart and you could also say that it’s also a personal album that has more of a personal meaning to him.
However, you look at any piano piece there is a certain feel of elegance, beauty and grace and the piano is an instrument that can capture many emotions and moods that can be quite captivating. I think there is a certain amount of pleasure one can get from playing any instrument and even I myself can get tremendous pleasure and joy playing the piano. Though I have to confess that I am far from an accomplished piano player or pianist like this guy is, but any instrument will give you a sense of reward and pleasure no matter what level you can play it at for that matter.
The very fact that I can play the piano to a certain degree does mean that I have a particular interest and love for the instrument. Though I have to confess that an album that consists of nothing but piano or even guitar solos is not the thing in general I would personally buy. I have done many moons ago in the past and they are the kind of albums that I would rarely get out and play these days. I like more elements of instrumentation thrown into the equation and prefer an album where only one or two solo pieces have been put onto the album.
So, without further ado lets now take a look at the albums individual tracks as I go through them one by one and see how the album all pans out and works.
The title translates in English to “Bright Sun” and Sol also happens to be the name of Flávio’s beautiful wife to which this opening piece on the album is dedicated too. You could say that the album gets off to a bright start with this opening piece too and it does sound bright and has an air of elegance and romance to the piece. It also dances itself along quite wonderfully as if it’s telling a story and use of 8va variants work well to lift the piece up and it also utilises some of the lower regions to provide a certain amount of weight to the piece.
Overall, “Sol Brilhante” is a really beautiful piece that has a certain amount of air, grace and elegance to it and contains a touch of darkness to give it a bit of shade with the added weight from the lower regions of the keyboard that comes into play around the 3 minute mark. It’s a piece that lends more from the classical side of things rather than jazz and the beauty it has is perhaps why he chose the piece for his wife. It’s a GREAT! start to the album in some ways it reminds me of some of pieces that Rick Wakeman wrote for his Country Airs album back in 1986 and I see this has one of the contenders for the albums TOP SPOT!
The albums self-titled track is one of the three longer pieces on the album and is played at a more subtle slower pace and lends to the space with its movement to represent the emptiness and the loneliness that is associated with the word “Solitude”. It’s a piece he wrote in a moment where he started to revaluate everything and started to be a little more isolated. I guess there are many times when we want to be by ourselves at times and isolate ourselves and collect our thoughts. Although right now in the present situation with Coronavirus spreading rapidly around the world, having to isolate ourselves is perhaps not the same thing.
This is another fine piece that has more of a classical structure to it and has a certain feel of sadness and beauty and also has a sense of warmth about it. It fits the title like a glove and Flávio did feel he was connected with the universe when he wrote it. Even though that is not him in the picture I chose to use for this piece, I do also feel it fits the picture too and see it has him collecting his thoughts with the universe.
If anything, “Solitude” is a piece that very much has perhaps more of a chilliout mood to it and also a sense of purpose with its melody lines and the environmental recording of the rain and birds singing at the end works very effectively to round the piece off. It’s a very well-constructed piece of work and is played with precision and his fingers are quite magical with how he touches upon certain keys that add to the beauty of the piece. It’s very much a strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT!
Jogando Bola translates to “Playing ball” and this is a very playful piece that has a feel and sense of joy about it all. The piece itself reflects back to Flávio looking back on his past to the times when his daughter Flavia was a couple of years old and playing ball. I guess we all have fond memories and moments we like to gaze back at every now and then and this really is a GORGEOUS! little piece that dances along joyfully and the keys really do express and capture the joyful moment in time he was looking back on.
Track 4. Miss You.
“Miss You” is the longest track on the album and was inspired by the film music that Flávio’s father loved so much. It’s a piece that very much has a feel of loneliness like the 2nd track on the album “Solitude” only there is a lot more movement to the piece and it touches on jazz and classical structures to make it what it is.
It’s quite a powerful dramatic and expressive piece that captures many moods along its path and builds itself around melodies that contrast between light and shade. I would also say that you would have to have quite some strength in your fingers to be able to play a piece like this over its 10 minute and 19 second journey and it’s another very well worked out piece and one that has some really GREAT! chord progression along its path.
Track 5. Bella.
This is a piece that Flávio wrote in a way of a dedication and remembrance of his dog Bella after she sadly passed away. Once again, it’s a piece that is built around a classical music structure in that it is built around a theme and variations of the theme. It’s a very well-crafted composition that has a sense of purpose about it, it starts off slowly and even though the piece builds up a bit quicker with its pace it constrains itself and holds everything together really well.
It’s not really a playful piece like the 3rd track on the album he wrote about his daughter and its perhaps done more in a way to represent the pleasure that Bella brought to him and his family over the 90 odd dog years she lived. It’s a very emotive piece that captures sprinkles of joy and a touch of sadness with how it presents itself to you and is a wonderful little journey through the life of Bella who is pictured in the photo above. It’s another of my contenders for the albums TOP SPOT!
Track 6. Beautiful Flowers.
This piece was composed in honour of Flávio’s father Florentino and the “Flor” in the first segment of his name means flower in Portuguese hence the reason for the title he chose here. His father was a true master of the craft and very much his hero and this particular piece has been very well crafted in a way of a dedication to him and is the second longest track on the album weighing in at 8 minutes, 44 seconds.
There is quite a lot of beauty here which is to be expected in that it deeply shows his love for his father, and this is a piece that has eloquence, grace and even romance and is another very well constructed piece of work with how it all builds up to its heights and goes through motions and emotions that take in both happiness and sadness. It really is a masterclass piece of work and he has also backed it up slightly in parts with some warm strings which support the piano very well. This is another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 7. Mother.
The second piece that Flávio has dedicated to his mother is much shorter and once again this is a piece that has a sense of purpose about it and is more constrained like the 5th track on the album. This is perhaps done in way to represent how mothers have more of caring aspect about them in that they keep us safe from harm and are more protective or sometimes even overprotective by watching over us sort of thing. Well that is how it comes across and speaks to me, and it is perhaps more sombre and reflects darker shades, yet still manages to shine some light and is another wonderful worked out piece of work he has composed here.
Track 8. For Bill.
The final piece on the album pays homage to one of Flávio’s idols namely the American jazz pianist and composer Bill Evans. To be honest I have never heard of him though jazz is perhaps not that popular in my own record collection although I do love certain aspects of it and am perhaps more into jazz fusion and the sort of thing that Flávio does with the other GREAT! musicians he plays with.
But I do have tremendous respect for some of the truly GREAT! jazz pianists and one that perhaps amazes me is Oscar Peterson. I also love boogie and ragtime music and have seen many old vintage clips of some those GREATS! from the past way before my time play them and enjoy a lot.
To be perfectly honest when listening to the album Solitude it does tend to lend more to the contemporary classical side of music than it does to jazz. But this is a piece that really displays some of the more technical aspects of playing jazz and it’s as if Flávio is playing a serenade to his idol Bill Evans and he certainly does justice to him too.
He also performed this live at the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall in Fayetteville Arkansas in the United States and done a GRAND! job of it as you can see in this video that he put out on his Youtube channel.
You can also find many more live performances on his Youtube channel including a straw of 3 of the other pieces from the album Solitude he also played live from the same venue. “For Bill” is a perfect way to put the album to bed and end off a very satisfactory body of work and a GREAT! album of fine piano pieces. It’s also my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
To sum up the album Solitude by Flávio Franco Araujo. I would say that the biggest majority of music that was written for the album does have more of a contemporary classical feel and lends itself more to that style more so than the jazz side of things. But that is perhaps to be more expected given that the album does have more of a personal side to it and is very much a family album.
I suppose in a way of categorising it in the way of giving it a genre, it’s bit like the genre of New Age that was given to the Country Airs album that Rick Wakeman had done back in 1986 and it is quite similar to that type of album. But then again how exactly does New Age really categorise a particular style of music especially when they have ambient electronic music, acoustic and all sorts filed under the same name tag. Like the many genres that evolved over the years they do tend to be ridiculous.
You can see that Flávio has put a lot of thought into the placement of the tracks on the album and it does flow and work very well in the order that they have been placed. The other good thing the album has in its favour is its overall time slot, which at 46 minutes is a very comfortable listening time that flies by in no time at all making it much easier to give the album another spin afterwards.
Reviewing any instrumental album presents a difficult task especially for me to convey how each piece comes across individually. But as with any album I review I do listen to the album several times and each track intensely. Though I may not be the best when it comes to wording things, especially when it comes to describing piano pieces. Solitude is an album that also presented me with quite a challenge to pick my personal highlights from the album but they are as follows: “Sol Brilhante“. “Solitude“. “Bella“. “Beautiful Flowers” and “For Bill“.
To conclude my review of the album Solitude. I personally do not think that an album filled with piano pieces is going to appeal to the masses, and it will appeal to those who are more into the piano than myself. But that’s not to say you cannot get tremendous pleasure and joy out of listening to an album like this or deny the skill that went into making an album like this either.
I would even say that given the current circumstances we are in with the Coronavirus and how we are all revaluating our lives to fit and work around it. An album like this might be just the ticket and the thing you need right now to focus on other things and I certainly think it will make you appreciate some of the beauty there is in this world.
Every musician in the world comes with their own appraoch and personal touch to their own instrument and that is where the real value lies within an album like this. For example, being more into prog rock myself Rick Wakeman has always been my personal god of the keyboards. But when it comes to playing the piano, he is no Oscar Peterson or even Flávio Franco Araujo for that matter and I would hardly say that his album Country Airs was one of his better albums. I personally do not think it’s a bad album but in all honesty the album Solitude speaks to me a lot more than that album of his.
The album Solitude is an album I highly recommend and contains a very fine strong body of work and I personally could not fault a single track upon it and each piece is very well composed, played and arranged and the quality production speaks for itself. It’s an album that I feel has a lot more to offer than I thought, even if it is made up of solo piano pieces and is not the sort of thing, I would personally buy these days. It’s also an album that one can truly appreciate and there is no doubt that Flávio Franco Araujo is a very gifted talented musician.
You can listen to the album for free on places like Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music or alternatively you can purchase the digital download of album from Amazon and many other outlets for around £9.99. You can even purchase an hi-res version of the album from here: https://www.prostudiomasters.com/album/page/55320
A Moment To Revaluate Everything…
The CD track listing is as follows:
01. Sol Brilhante. 4:35.
02. Solitude. 7:24.
03. Flavia Jogando Bola. 4:06.
04. Miss You. 10:19.
05. Bella. 3:48.
06. Beautiful Flowers. 8:44.
07. Mother. 3:49.
08. For Bill. 3:43.