home | music | bio | resume | reviews | shows | contact | links | site map

Steve Griggs - Projects

recordings | scores | past productions | work in progress

Past Productions

Seresta: Brazilian Serenade

Read a scholarly review by Hank Davis in the December issue of Victory Review.

Read the program notes.

Welcome and Bemvindos!

The inspiration for this evening began eleven months ago. While listening to Spanish guitar music at Benaroya Hall, I recognized in the Iberian music the familiar roots of jazz. The combination of African, European, Arabic, Jewish, Gypsy, and Spanish ingredients create a rich cultural stew that expresses the sadness and hope of being human, much like the blues tradition in the United States.

I set out to reinterpret Spanish guitar music for a small jazz ensemble, inspired by the recording Sketches of Spain by Gil Evans and Miles Davis. I learned that the initial recording date for that historic work was November 17, 1959 so I booked this concert for the 50th anniversary. The concert date is also the second anniversary of my father's death, and I wanted to honor his memory by doing what for me is most joyful.

Eventually I stretched away from my original inspiration and toward something closer to my heart. I found resonance in seresta and the music of Heitor Villa-Lobos. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the 50th anniversary of the Brazilian composer's passing was November 17!

Seresta is the Portuguese word for Serenade - music that expresses love by declaring deep personal feelings of longing and hope. Serenades are performed publicly so the declaration of love is heard not only by the beloved but also by others in the community. The personal becomes universal in the act of musical expression
The serenade has blossomed from informal to formal music in a variety of world cultures as demonstrated in compositions by Mozart, Brahms, and Stravinsky. In Brazil, Heitor Villa-Lobos wrote serenades that combined improvisation from the choro (cry) genre of his Rio de Janeiro home, with his love of native melodies, all with an added influence by the harmony of Chopin and Debussy.

I searched hundreds of Villa-Lobos works to find melodic material suitable for the theme of seresta. To add improvisation by jazz musicians I removed elements of the original pieces, altered harmonies, simplified rhythms, changed meters, and adjusted orchestration. Some pieces you will hear tonight are close to their original and others have been molded by my musical perspective.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to all the musicians on tonight's program for their assistance in preparing this music. Special thanks to Marco de Carvalho for his valuable insights and sensitive suggestions as a long time student and performer of Villa-Lobos music.

Steve Griggs

Program (click on the song title below to hear a computer rendition of the arrangement)

  • Preludes for Guitar (1940) - Villa-Lobos
    • Prelude #4 Homage ao Indio Brasileiro Homage to the Brazilian Indian
    • Prelude #1 Homage ao Sertanejo Brasileiro Homage to Brazilian Country Music
  • Cancoes Tipicas Brasileiras Typical Brazilian Songs (1919) - Villa-Lobos
  • Serestas - Villa-Lobos
  • Pete Kelly's Blues (1945)
  • Duas Paisagens (1947) - Villa-Lobos
  • Magdelena (1948) - Villa-Lobos
  • Songs for My Father (2009) - Griggs
  • Suite Populaire Brasilienne Popular Brazilian Songs - Villa-Lobos
  • Forest of the Amazons (1958) - Villa-Lobos
  • Choro #5 (1925) - Villa-Lobos
  • Saudades Das Selvas Brasileiras Longing for the Brazilian Forests (1927)-Villa-Lobos
  • Bachianas Brasileiras #5 (1945) - Villa-Lobos
  • 3 for B


Bill Anschell - piano
Bill won several Earshot awards recently, toured South America five times, worked as Musical Director for Nnenna Freelon, and his music is on the TV shows West Wing and The Wire. His latest recording More to the Ear than Meets the Eye is on Origin Records

Jeff Busch - percussion
Jeff studied percussion in England and Brazil. His latest project is Drums and Voices-Contemporary Spirituals with Pat Wright from the Total Experience Gospel Choir and is funded by a King County Arts grant.

Marco de Carvalho - guitar
Marco is a native of Rio de Janeiro and graduate of the city's Music Conservatory. He traveled to several cities in the US before settling in Seattle. He appears on numerous soundtracks and recordings including three CDs featuring his own compositions. His newest recording is entitled Cancoes.

Lori Goldston - cello
Lori is co-founder of the Black Cat Orchestra, appears on more than 40 recordings, and performed with rock band Nirvana.

Steve Griggs - saxophone
Steve recorded two CDs in Seattle with Elvin Jones and is featured on the soundtrack the Bungie/Microsoft video game Halo 3: ODST. Steve's newest project is musical settings for poems by Northwest sculptor James Washington.

Mark Ivester - drums
Mark studied gamelan in Java, performs with Jovino Santos Neto, teaches at Cornish College, and appears on several CDs with Greta Matassa.

Chuck Kistler - bass
Chuck began playing music on guitar, appears on several CDs including Jay Thomas' Blues for JW, and works with many bands such as Milo Petersen and the Jazz Disciples.

Tom Varner - French Horn
Tom teaches at Cornish College, appears on over 50 recordings, and has ranked high in Down Beat critics polls for many years. His latest recording Heaven and Hell is on Omnitone.