Jornada: A Composer's Journey

The Story Behind "Flight 962" 

One of the charts we have recently recorded for our upcoming CD is called “Flight 962,” an upbeat samba tune with a memorable melody and an intro that features a “busy little line”-- in the words of our pianist David Joyner. I wrote the basic version of this tune (lead sheet) sometime around 2019, and I performed it for the first time at the Jazz Under the Stars Series at PLU with my group Vianna Bergeron Brazilian Jazz, which I co-lead with my friend, saxophonist Tom Bergeron.

Dialeto Brasileiro at Pátio Havana, Buzios. Claudio Felix (drums), Wagner Trindade (bass) and Cassio Vianna (piano)

Back in 2006, while still living in Rio de Janeiro, I was teaching music, recording and performing with bossa nova and pop singers, in addition to my own Brazilian jazz group called Dialeto Brasileiro (co-led with bassist Wagner Trindade). But I wanted to further my music studies and career, and I was especially interested in writing for large ensembles, particularly jazz big bands. Unfortunately, jazz big bands are rare in Brazil. The path to come to the U.S. felt impossible: it was costly to fly to the U.S. to audition for graduate schools, and remote auditions were way more complicated than they are now. 

We had just recorded Dialeto Brasileiro's first CD in 2008 when, one night, we met Tom and Rosi Bergeron at an upscale jazz club called Patio Havana, where Wagner and I played 2-4 nights a week, in the resort town of Armação dos Búzios. 

That encounter deserves its own blog post, so I'll skip that story for now. The important thing is that both Wagner and I ended up receiving teaching assistantships to attend Western Oregon University -- where Tom was a Music faculty -- as graduate students in the Masters program.

This takes us to the American Airlines flight 962, which flies from São Paulo to Dallas-Fort Worth - the longest of our three flights from Rio de Janeiro to Portland, OR, in August of 2009. I did not write this tune on that flight. In fact, I wrote it in 2019, as a personal celebration of my 10th anniversary living in the U.S.. I think the tune captures the excitement, curiosity, and open possibilities of that pivotal moment in my life.


 


During the COVID pandemic, I saw the potential to expand the tune into a big band arrangement, which I did in 2021 - and boy, did I expand it! The 224-measure chart is filled with syncopation madness: both challenging and fun! My ensemble -- Cassio Vianna Jazz Orchestra – premiered the new arrangement at the 2022 Jazz Education Network Annual Conference. Fun fact: that conference took place in Dallas, TX - of all places!

Here's a picture from that performance at the JEN Conference - with David Joyner on piano!

Cassio Vianna Jazz Orchestra at the 2022 JEN Conference in Dallas, TX.


So much to be said about life's paths, "coincidences," connections, encounters, and abundant grace along the way.  

Abraços

-Cassio

 

Collaborating in Washington State 

This is my first blog entry! I am excited to share the behind-the-scenes of my work as a composer, my upcoming projects, the reasoning (and eventual lack of reasoning) for doing the thing I dreamed of doing since I was in my early teens: writing music!

My current project is the recording of my second CD of original jazz big band compositions with the Cassio Vianna Jazz Orchestra. Why write music for jazz big band? As a College band director and educator, I see the impact that this music can have in the lives of students, professional performers, and audiences. I have been writing for college bands and professional groups for a while now; it's a skill I have developed, I love doing it, and I have so many ideas! I can't just let these ideas go away!  

In a world where few people buy CDs, and where big band touring is an almost impossible task, why would anyone keep writing and recording this type of music? Good question; I often wonder about that too! Passion and self-fulfillment is what comes to mind. But there's more…

Since arriving in Washington State in 2018, I have wanted to connect with the great jazz performers in the region, but our 2nd child was born a few months after my arrival, and the COVID pandemic hit the following year, all of which made it much harder to meet, perform and connect with other musicians until 2022. In 2023, when I finally decided to begin this project, I reached out to these amazing musicians and my network gradually began to expand. I guess that's another answer to the question of writing for jazz big band: the desire for connection is at the core of this project!

The musicians in our first session were: Tom Bergeron, Mark Taylor, Alexey Nikolaev, Kareem Kandi, Kate Olson (saxes); Andy Omdahl, Michael Van Bebber, Keith Karns, Carter Eng (trumpets); Nathan Vetter, Conner Eisenmenger, Ryan Wagner, Nelson Bell (trombones); David Lee Joyner (piano), Brian Monroney (guitar), Clipper Anderson (acoustic bass), Wagner Trindade (electric bass), and Mark Ivester (drums). Other great musicians will be joining our second session in August.

I hope you will join me on this journey. I plan to write about particular arrangements, compositional ideas, recording sessions, and stories from this very exciting time in my life. 

Your support for this project and your comments are very welcome. I look forward to sharing stories with you!          

Abraços,

-Cassio