I first became aware of the Brazilian musicians who eventually came to be known as The Igor Prado Band in 2003. Some of their first recordings started to be played on an old radio show out of the University of California at Irvine. The show’s host, Jeff Scott, is the world’s leading authority on the International blues scene. I had by this time become used to hearing names like Sven, Lars and Igor mixed in with monikers like Muddy, Lightnin’ and T- Bone on his broadcasts. He didn’t care where the musicians came from. The only criteria Scott used to determine whether or not a particular tune would be played on his show was that the record had to be awfully damn good. Even with that high standard, the tracks by this very young band from Brazil seemed to jump right out of my radio speakers.
It would be another six years before I would hear them in concert. In January of 2009 I went to the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Pasadena, California, to listen to the great Lynwood Slim perform. He was backed by The Igor Prado Band. In all the years of hearing Slim play live, I can’t ever recall Slim sounding any better. A year and a half later The Igor Prado Band was back in California as Scott booked them along with Slim at the prestigious Doheny Blues Festival in May of 2010.
On the Monday morning after the festival, Scott brought the band into his radio program along with Slim for a live performance in the studio. Later that afternoon I caught up with the band at a private party in nearby Newport Beach. Lynwood Slim introduced me to the young Brazilian musicians. A few moments later I introduced my new friends to Kim Wilson, who needs no introduction. I said, “Kim I want you to meet some very bad players from Brazil.” A look of utter horror crept upon the faces of Igor and Yuri Prado. Wilson recognized that the young men were not familiar with the fairly common colloquialism I used and explained to the Brazilians. He explained that “bad” meant very, very good. The young men spoke amounst themselves in their native Portuguese for a moment. Then, slightly befuddled smiles returned to their faces as they grappled with how “bad” could mean “good” in English.
It's a little over two years later now and I finally caught up with the Brazilian bad boy of the blues, Igor Prado. Oh and, by the way, he has a brand new album out and it is awfully damn good.
David Mac (DM): Was there a specific recording or show that you heard that sent you on your path to be a blues musician?
Igor Prado (IP): There wasn’t any one specific recording, but when I was young my father had some cassette tapes. He had a lot of Little Richard and Chuck Berry and my parents always said that when I was as young as four years old I would get excited when I heard this music.
I went to my first blues festival in the late 90s, when I was fourteen years old. It was a huge international blues festival called "Nescafé & Blues". Charles Brown, Otis Clay, Wilson Pickett, Roomful of Blues, Luther Allison and Pinetop Perkins all played. It was the first big blues festival here in Brazil. It had a huge influence on me.
DM: Did you grow up in a musical family?
IP: Yes, my grandparents love music. My grandfather played a lot of instruments. He played in a martial band. I also had an uncle that was a master of one of these old martial bands here in Brazil. My father played drums when he was young. He later played in a band that played a lot of guitar instrumental music like The Ventures.
DM: Was there any music from your own country that you listened to and enjoyed?
IP: Yes, I like choro music.
DM: What is choro?
IP: It’s a kind of old school samba-bop. This music called choro is just so rich. My uncle Juarez was a really good choro player. He played the cavaquinho which is a little acoustic guitar with four strings. Little Charlie Baty is a big fan of choro. He is learning how to play it.
DM: Is there any kind of blues scene in Sao Paulo? If so what's it like?
IP: Yes there is, but it is pretty small. There are, however, lots of very talented artists and bands.
DM: Are there any differences in audiences in Europe and the United States compared to one another and compared to audiences in South America?
IP: Yes, in Europe they care very deeply about blues music. They have very knowledgeable fans. In Brazil and in the United States fans seem to care more about the groove. I just love to play in the United States. It is fun to see people dancing. It is awesome.
DM: What were some of the factors that led to your development as a blues musician?
IP: I grew up in a neighborhood that was near a big Brazilian blues collector called Chico Blues. Chico is one of the biggest collectors in South America. It was helpful to my development as a player to hear so many recordings. I learned so much during this period. All I did was listen to and study traditional blues.
DM: Here comes the stock question but it almost has to be asked: Who were your influences on guitar growing up?
IP: There are so many. I just love the old masters of swing styles like Charlie Christian, Tiny Grimes, Bill Jennings, T-Bone Walker, Teddy Bunn and Clarence ‘Gatemouth” Brown. I also love the more traditional blues masters like Buddy Guy, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Pat Hare, Willie Johnson, Robert Nighthawk, Luther Tucker, Robert Lockwood Jr., Guitar Slim, Albert Collins, the three Kings of course, Mickey Baker, Earl Hooker, Magic Sam and others. There are just so many out there and I try and listen to as much as I can and absorb as much music as I can.
DM: How did The Igor Prado Band come about?
IP: My brother Yuri is a terrific drummer. We started to play professionally with a band we called, The Prado Blues Band in 2002. We released our first self titled CD in 2003. Then in 2007 we released our first album under the name The Igor Prado Band entitled Upside Down.
DM: I always liked the title of that record in that it is an obvious reference to the fact that you play guitar left handed.
IP: Yes and I don’t restring it. I just learned to play that way. To others it looks like I am playing upside down.
DM: How did you meet your bass player, Rodrigo Mantovani?
IP: He, as you know Dave, is a very talented young musician. I met Rodrigo in a club in Sao Paulo. He was playing with a harmonica player named Sérgio Duarte.
DM: Even though it is called The Igor Prado Band, when I listen to your music I hear a real ensemble sound. It sounds like a true team effort.
IP: Absolutely! We produce what I call "down-home" music here. We produce the whole thing together. We record in my studio. Rodrigo helps me a lot with the musical productions. He is a big help with some of the mixing and mastering on the albums. Yuri does the album covers and graphics. These guys are incredible. I’m nothing without them. They are two real brothers.
DM: Your last album, Brazilian Kicks, which came out on Delta Groove Music in November of 2010, featured Lynwood Slim. How did you hook up with Slim?
IP: We are huge fans of West Coast Blues and Slim is one of our favorite artists. We did our first tour together in Brazil in 2008. In 2009 I invited him to produce the album. I then asked him to sing on it and he agreed. This turned out to be a very successful partnership. We played a lot together in South America as well as in Europe. We're planning to work together again next year.
DM: Let’s talk about the brand new album. I only heard four or five tracks off the record one time, yesterday on Charlie Lange’s radio show on KZSC 88.1 FM out of Santa Cruz, California. He gave the CD its U.S. radio premiere. I was knocked out by what I heard. The CD sounds like it has a real Memphis soul vibe to it. Is that what you were shooting for and is that a fair assessment of the new album?
IP: YES! It’s total r&b and soul from the 60's and 70's. The album is called, Blues and Soul Sessions. We decided to do this record for two reasons. First, because we love this kind of stuff and secondly because I wanted to show people, especially here in Brazil, that soul and blues are so related and connected. It’s essentially the same music with the same roots. We chose some old songs by blues artists who recorded a lot of soul stuff like Little Milton, Etta James, Earl Hooker and B.B. King. We also wanted to show people that some of the old soul musicians sounded very bluesy like Al Green, Little Willie John, James Carr, Sam & Dave and so on.
DM: It sounded like you have a lot of guests on the new album. How did you go about choosing who to work with?
IP: We do have a long list of special guest musicians. We chose these people because they can do blues and soul in the same natural way. We have a lot of players who think the same way we do about blues and soul. For instance, Curtis Salgado sings on the CD. He is a monster. He can do that O.V Wright style of deep soul music. He can also pick up the harp and play some Little Walter stuff. He is ridiculously good. We did a tour with Curtis in Brazil last March. It was incredible. He is just amazing. I learned a lot about singing from working with Curtis.
DM: I heard a tune on the CD with Tia Carroll. She sounds terrific.
IP: She's great. She is a blues and soul singer from California. She has an amazing tone. She rocks on stage too. We played almost 30 shows with her last year. Everybody loves her.
We are lucky to have so many greats on this record from all over the United States and Brazil including Sax Gordon, J.J. Jackson, Greg Wilson, Donny Nichilo, Ari Borger, Denilson Martins and Sidmar Viera. We have, since 2005, tried to play with as many musicians that we can from America. We learned so much by playing with artists from the U.S. We are still learning.
DM: What is it about American blues, rhythm & blues and soul that moved you to make this music your life’s passion?
IP: Well that is a good question. It is very difficult to describe. This music feels so natural to me. It was a music that I grew up listening to. It’s so rich with so many styles and so many artists. It’s so simple yet so complex at the same time. I love that!
DM: I do too. It is difficult to describe, yet you did a marvelous job. Well done Igor. I appreciate you doing this in English since I don’t speak Portuguese.
IP: Thank you very much David.
DM: Obrigado Igor