José Arimatéa

Trumpeter and composer José Arimatéa was born on São José Operário Hill in the Praça Seca neighborhood in Jacarepaguá, Rio de Janeiro. 

When he was just 9 years old, “Ari” began studying the instrument that would eventually become his life´s work, but he had already sneaked a few notes on his father´s trumpet (his father was a blue-collar worker and musician in the local Evangelical church). His brother let the secret out: “Pops, Ari copied your treble F-Cs!” 

As a legitimate heir to a line of musicians that began in church bands, Arimatéa played percussion until finally settling on the cornet. 

As a teenager, he listened in on the “Anacleto de Medeiros” big band at the Villa-Lobos School of Music, but his professional career only took off years later. 

First, he worked as a baker´s assistant, bricklayer´s apprentice, mechanic, electrician, and welder until he reconnected with his Evangelical congregation at 20 years of age and soon joined the Tupi Orchestra in Rio de Janeiro. 

The Tupi big band´s dances could last up to five hours, and the musical styles that kept the crowds moving were basically… everything. 

Arimatéa thus honed his technique in the dance halls, on the streets, and from the practical challenges of his craft, like playing in the Brass Tracks band with American pianist and composer Amy Dantas, in the UFRJazz Ensemble, the Criôla Orchestra, Rio Jazz Orchestra, the Pé do Ouvido band, the Vitória Régia band, etc. 

He also played with Paulo Moura and J.T. Meirelles and the Copa 5, credentials that would suffice to place this trumpeter in any Brazilian instrumental music´s hall of fame.   

This inborn taste for song, for a melodic discourse with a simple and clear architecture, found polish and depth in Arimatéa, in the work accompanying great artists in Brazilian Popular Music (MPB), featuring such great names as Emílio Santiago, João Donato, and Leny Andrade. 

Not by coincidence, in 2016, and with participation by Emílio and Leny, the trumpeter launched his first album: The Music of Roberto Menescal, totally dedicated to the songs of one of the founders of Bossa Nova. 

When composer and singer Sylvio Fraga invited Ari to join his own group, the trumpeter encountered (and began to collaborate in the development of) a kind of musical idiom situated in the field of Brazilian song, but which “pushes the limits” of rhythmic and harmonic parameters. 

This new collaboration witnessed the albums Grasshopper in the Thunder, Song of the Goat (also credited to arranger Letieres Leite), and No Seabass, in which Arimatéa´s trumpet is one of the structuring elements.  

The encounters with Sylvio and later with pianist, composer, and arranger Marcelo Galter were decisive for achieving the peculiar aesthetic of Brejo das Almas, Ari´s second album.

Launched in 2022 by our Rocinante recording company and produced by Sylvio and Marcelo, the album builds bridges between “universes” that rarely mix: side by side, we find Afro-Bahian beats, a rereading of Stravinsky, and elements of modal jazz and fusion (tributaries of Miles Davis´ Kind of Blue and Don Cherry´s Codona). 

Thanks to such daring music, after hearing Brejo das Almas, transgressive singer and composer Jards Macalé noted that Arimatéa brings an “elegant and inventive breath, a sweet and biting sound”, while arranger and maestro Arthur Verocai proclaimed that José Arimatéa´s music “is always a journey along new paths”. 

On the back cover of Brejo, guitarist Bernardo Ramos summed it up precisely: “Ari has a mischievous spirt, a willingness to act in full obedience to instinct, to the moment, without weighing the consequences, delivered to mystery.”

The mischievous spirt of the boy who used to sneak notes on his father´s trumpet.

Photography: João Atala