Farewell / Despedida by Marcel Bonfim out now!

January 19, 2024  /  News

Bassist and composer Marcel Bonfim explores the bittersweet duality of the immigration experience on his debut as leader, FAREWELL / DESPEDIDA, out January 19, 2024

Farewell / Despedida marks bassist and composer Marcel Bonfim’s debut album as leader. A native of Brazil, Bonfim began playing professionally in his hometown of São Paulo a decade and a half ago, before immigrating to the United States in 2015 when he decided to make Chicago his new home. The album, to be released by Shifting Paradigm Records on January 19, 2024, features six new compositions by Bonfim and two arrangements from the Brazilian jazz repertoire, performed by his quartet that includes Casey Dahl on piano and Rhodes, Gerald Martinez on saxophones, and Jonathon Wenzel on drums and percussion. Guest vocalist Ana Catharina Oliveira lends her voice to two songs as well. Trumpeter Chad McCullough produced the album

Aside from his own group, Bonfim has a long history as a freelance bassist and musical director. After he graduated from one of the best music universities in Latin America (Unicamp – Brazil), Bonfim received a scholarship from DePaul University in Chicago to earn his Masters in Jazz Studies. Having extensive experience in world music and jazz, he began working as the musical director and bassist for Chicago Samba, an acclaimed Chicago group with a 35 year history, as well as the Rio Bamba Band. All of these different experiences granted him an Artist With Extraordinary Abilities Visa, allowing him to remain in the USA.

Farewell / Despedida is an expression of Bonfim’s mixed feelings of the immigrant experience. There is a duality between the sorrow of leaving his home, family, friends, and relastionships and the excitement and hope of new encounters, perspectives, and becoming part of a new musical community. As Bonfim puts it, “Immigrating means to never be complete anymore. It means to always have two places to call home, but forever to be longing for something or someone.” Set into motion with his quartet, Bonfim’s composition and arrangements tell us a history about these mixed emotions and meanings throughout this process, to which we can all relate to some degree. 

The album starts with a medley of two Brazilian classics, “Casa Forte” and “Zanzibar”, both composed by Edu Lobo in a typical rhythm called Baião. Calling for his roots, you can hear Bonfim and Ana Catharina in duet of voices and the bass. Exposing the interplay and communication between the band members with high energy is a well delineated characteristic of the song. “Sister (Irmã)” is an homage to his sister. Starting with a solo bass intro then transitioning into a 7/4 bass groove, the song has an intricate but joyful and playful vibe, exactly like a siblings’ relationship tends to be.

Alvorada,” which means ‘dawn’, represents the hope of change and the birth of new life brought by his immigration, transformation and change of perspective. It is about the joy of the discovery of new paths, landscapes and relationships. This is represented in a syncopated 6/8 groove. In contrast is “Farewell (Despedida),” which in a slow-paced mood calls for an introspective moment, inviting the listener to reflect about everything that one has to let go of in our respective life journeys. This piece represents the duality that is intrinsic in every choice made, where, in order to have something, one has to let other things go.

The aptly titled “By Myself” is a solo bass piece, depicting a big part of Bonfim’s journey, often finding himself alone with just the instrument, developing his musicianship and discovering his voice throughout the process. Bonfim’s first trip abroad was to the Chicago, his future home. “When I First Met You” is about this moment, where he fell in love with the city and its people at first sight. This song pays homage to the Chicago sound, combining jazz with an R&B back beat. The album continues with a jazz waltz tune, “Going Home”, a recollection of the feeling visiting his long gone home town, São Paulo, and then coming back to his chosen town, Chicago. Another classic Brazilian song, “Berimbau,” closes and bookends the album.

Farewell / Despedida brings Bonfim’s journey into perspective, and invites the listener to feel and reflect about their own personal lives, perspectives, and journeys. It explores the bittersweet of lives intertwined, Varying from hopeful and excited to introspective and sad, and countless points in between. Bonfim and his quartet make an artistic statement that new places can bring wonders, proving that we are better mixed together than apart from each other. Bonfim says “Music brought me to USA. Its people made me stay and made me choose this place to call home!”