Marcelo Galter

Pianist, composer, and arranger Marcelo Galter was born and raised in Pirajá, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Salvador, Bahia. 

As a teenager, his contact with the community´s music and his abundant personal curiosity led him to study piano and formal theory. His journey into the work of Bach, transcriptions of impros by Parker, Monk, and Miles, graduation in Classical Piano from the Federal University in Bahia in 2001, and the Bahian jam sessions all helped consolidate the technical refinement that allowed him to develop a unique musical idiom.  

In the first decade of the 21st century, the instrumentalist´s journey was broad and varied: a performance with the Bahia Symphonic Orchestra celebrating Grupo Garagem´s 20 years; with the Fina Flor Orchestra accompanying Hermeto Pascoal; a solo concert at the Bahia Instrumental Music Festival; projects with Italian singer Maria Pia de Vito and guitarist Nelson Veras; recording of the DVD Clássica by Daniela Mercury and playing in the singer´s band, with whom he toured several countries; a Brazilian domestic tour accompanying Elba Ramalho, Roberta Sá, Paula Lima, Margareth Menezes, and Daniela again in the show They Sing Chico Buarque; a performance with American bassist Stanley Clarke at the Phoenix Jazz Festival, etc.

But for Galter to combine practical experience and a theoretical framework in a properly Afro-Bahian pianistic style, it was crucial for him to spend time with the Bahia Black group headed by guitarist Mou Brasil and the Letieres Leite Quintet, formed in 2010. 

Maestro Letieres was known for his revolutionary approach to Afro-Bahian rhythmic keys in musical creativity and teaching. And Galter played a key role in this movement. He performed concerts and workshops with the Quintet in Brazil and abroad, and finally the CD O enigma Lexeu (The Riddle of Lexeu) was released by our Rocinante label in 2019. That same year the pianist was recruited by Letieres for Maria Bethânia´s band in the show Claros Breus

As a synthesis of all this restlessness, Bacia do Cobre (Copper Basin), released by Rocinante in 2021, was Galter´s first authorial disc. Accompanied by his brother Ledson on bass and Luizinho do Jêje and Reinaldo Boaventura on percussion, in this Basin he amalgamated the Afro-Bahian keys and the “modes of limited transposition” (scales systematized in the mid-20th century by French composer Olivier Messiaen in the context of a post-tonal vanguard). 

Maestro Letieres, in a text written for the album´s back cover, voices his awe at his disciple´s sound: “As far as I know, no one has ever done what Marcelo does.” Letieres further notes that “it´s the piano with specific accents, producing a contemporary art connected umbilically to the systems of orality and the methodology of the diaspora”.

It would be unusual for specifically Afro-Bahian accents not to predominate in this pianist´s style. After all, we´re talking about an instrumentalist who was also a member of bands led by Carlinhos Brown, Jau, and Margareth Menezes and an arranger who worked with Margareth in Autêntica and Afropop, with drummer Tito Oliveira in Magiô, and in the shows commemorating Caymmi´s one hundred years, featuring Daniela, Danilo Caymmi, and Virgínia Rodrigues.   

Bacia do Cobre is the name of the environmental protection area in Salvador´s São Bartolomeu Park where a stretch of the Atlantic Forest still survives. The fact that an album so named is aesthetically ultra-contemporary and cosmopolitan merely confirms the universal calling of Brazil´s many “regionalisms”, in this case Bahian.

Marcelo Galter said to the Arts and Entertainment section of the newspaper A Tarde: “My disc was born of a desire to play specifically with a certain group of musicians whom I admire greatly and who have quite original definitions of sonority. They´re people with vast musical experience and who come from the same roots as mine, with interconnected histories. Our linguistic and sonorous affinity emerges from our roots and our purpose with music.”

All of this makes us envision how many futures Old Bahia has in store for us.

Photography: João Atala