Day One: An Introduction to Miguel de Leon and The Malandro Project

Ten years ago, Chicago singer Miguel de Leon asked me to help him arrange a recording session in Rio de Janeiro. He wanted the best. So, I put in a call to saxophonist Leo Gandelman and several months later a copy of Miguel’s ‘Postcards From Rio’ album landed on my desk and then onto The Sounds of Brazil’s playlist.

Leo’s production was excellent (he’s also produced landmark albums for Gal Costa, Marina Lima and others) and Miguel de Leon went on to make his mark with Brazilian music fans, coast to coast.

That’s not an easy thing to do, because the talent bar for Brazilian musicians living here in America is very high: Leo’s son Miguel and Paulinho Garcia in Los Angeles, New York’s legendary Trio Da Paz (with guitarist Romero Lubambo, bassist Nilson Matta and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca), Minas in Philadelphia, Sacramento’s Fabiana Passoni, Kenia from Pittsburgh and the Dean of Brazilian piano jazz, Antonio Adolfo in Miami. Plus literally, hundreds more. Each representing their homeland and its culture in song, in cities and towns across the United States.

Miguel de Leon & The Malandro Project

But here’s the thing: Miguel de Leon is not Brazilian, nor does he make his living as a professional musician. Miguel comes from a proud American family of Mexican heritage, and he’s a tenured educator with the Chicago Public School system. Years ago, he found his singing voice in the church choir, where you are sure to hear him this and every Sunday.

Last August, while the rest of Rio was caught up with the excitement of the Summer Games, Miguel was there, too: busy in a Leblon recording studio and hard at work with The Malandro Project.

Ten years have passed since ‘Postcards From Rio’ and this new album is ambitious: A musical portrait of Samba’s iconic character, the tragic ‘bad boy’ Malandro with Sambas from Chico Buarque plus originals penned by Miguel’s songwriting partner, Chicagoan Luciano Antonio. Leo Gandelman returned with his sax and Leila Pinheiro joined the project for an inspired duet. David Feldman is one of Brazil’s top young Producers, and he guided a team of Rio’s A-List musical talent. You’ll hear it in the mix when The Malandro Project is released in early 2017.

The 12 Days of Samba:

Day 01: An Introduction to The 12 Days of Samba and The Malandro Project
Day 02: Was Joao Gilberto a Malandro?
Day 03: Previewing Miguel de Leon's Annual Christmas Concert In Chicago
Day 04: Winter reading: 'Samba' by Alma Guillermoprieto
Day 05: Famous Malandros In Pop Culture
Day 06: A Cachaça Holiday Cocktail
Day 07: Seven Samba Stocking Stuffers
Day 08: Personal Notes: Samba Snapshots From The Malandro Project
Day 09: How To Dance Samba - Women's Version
Day 10: How To Dance Samba - Men's Version
Day 11: 100 Years of Samba and The Malandro Project
Day 12: The Malandro and 'The Lights of Christmas'


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The Malandro Project was recorded in Rio de Janeiro with saxophonist Leo Gandelman and MPB’s Leila Pinheiro to celebrate 100 Years of Samba and its iconic character, the charming, roguish bad-boy Malandro. A combination of cultural myth and historic fact, the Malandro’s roots can be traced throughout the history of Samba. The Malandro Project album will be released in early 2017.

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