The Entertainer: Jovino Santos Neto

Jovino Santos Neto at the keyboard in the Royal Room in Columbia City, Seattle.

Jovino Santos Neto at the keyboard in the Royal Room in Columbia City, Seattle.

I knew his son, Ariel, before I knew Jovino Santos Neto. Ariel was a student, in 1999, in a prestigious program, the Urban Newspaper Workshop, conducted by The Seattle Times, where I worked at the time. During the grueling interview session for the workshop, Ariel mentioned that his father was a jazz musician. I knew of Jovino Santos Neto, but like a lot of ethnic-ignorant people associated Neto as his last name. Ariel went by Santos. Duh.

If you’ve ever witnessed Jovino in concert, you would not have forgotten him. No way. And if you’ve heard him — on CD or radio — you can imagine him. He performs with an energy that easily matches that in his music. He works harder, and has more fun, than anyone I’ve ever seen on the keyboards. For him the bench at the piano is just a physical construct, not any sort of boundary or limitation.

Jovino approaches music that way — without boundaries. Not only is he a world-class performer, he is a prodigious composer and educator. And I love the way he stays not just in touch, but on top of his Brazilian roots. But to say he’s just a Brazilian artist would be to diminish the breadth of his music. Last year, 2012, was a very good year for him, too. He was inducted into the Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame and his Quinteto earned a Golden Ear Award for Best Northwest Acoustic Group Earshot Jazz.

It was a thrill, though a challenge, to shoot Jovino’s performance at The Royal Room earlier this week. He has been playing with bassist Chuck Deardorf and drummer Mark Ivester for 20 years, plus percussionist Jeff Bush for a long time, and a frequent collaborator with New York-based trombone player Chris Stover. That was the exciting part. The challenge is shooting at The Royal Room which, although is my favorite music venue in Seattle, uses a bank of multi-colored lights and, in the summer, the setting sun will blast a bright, moving beam. This was the second time I’ve shot Jovino at The Royal Room. Let’s just say I was much better prepared, mentally and technically, this time.

(NOTE: As usual on this blog, clicking a photo will open a larger version in a separate browser window).

I tried to just go with the colors here, incorporating them all in one scene, using a 14-24mm lens at 14mm.

Here's the whole quintet - kinda. Jovino, Chris Stover, Jeff Bush and Chuck Deardorf.

Here’s the whole quintet – kinda. Jovino, Chris Stover, Jeff Bush and Chuck Deardorf.

The guy you could only kind of see in the previous photo …

Mark Ivester on drums.

Mark Ivester on drums.

The rest of the band …

Chris Stover on trombone.

Chris Stover on trombone.

Jeff Bush on the congas.

Jeff Bush on the congas.

And the very distinguished Chuck Deardorf, to whom I’ve been listening for, well, longer than I’ve known Jovino.

Chuck Deardorf on bass.

Chuck Deardorf on bass.

The man himself …

Jovino Santos Neto goes for a little umph on the keyboards.

Jovino Santos Neto goes for a little umph on the keyboards.

Jovino Santos Neto on the flute.

Jovino Santos Neto on the flute.

Jovino Santos Neto on the melodica.

Jovino Santos Neto on the melodica.

Here’s another look, with my waiting for him to blot out the red light and catch it to rim his hair.

Jovino Santos Neto on the melodica.

Jovino Santos Neto on the melodica.

And some details from the performance.

Fuel on stage.

Fuel on stage.

I often doubt that Jovino ever needs to be mic'd, but there it is.

I often doubt that Jovino ever needs to be mic’d, but there it is.

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