Born in Texas out of a love for the music of Hermeto Pascoal, Mente Clara has blossomed into a bi-coastal collective of artists whose magnetic live performances and critically acclaimed studio albums combine soaring melody, sophisticated jazz harmony, and the danceable rhythms of Northeastern Brazil into a sound that is all their own. "Their judiciously reverberant sound and over the top arrangements illuminate Mente Clara's carefully considered contrasts, bringing welcome vibrancy and presence to the performances." (Raul da Gama, World Music Report.)
Pianist Owen Summers met bassist Daniel Durham at a jam session in Austin during the summer of 2012, where they were surprised to learn that they both shared a passion for the music of Hermeto Pascoal. Neither of them had an outlet to play Hermeto’s music, so they enlisted drummer Aaron Parks and saxophonist Brian Donohoe for an informal session at Parks’ home, giving birth to Mente Clara in the process. They soon booked their first gig, a set consisting entirely of Hermeto’s compositions. As the group developed, it became a vehicle for Summers’ abilities as a composer, although they continue to include Hermeto’s music in their repertoire.
Over the course of the next year and a half, the group’s numbers swelled with the addition of two more kindred spirits: percussionist Bruno Vinezof and accordionist Jan Flemming. Vinezof, a native of Recife, Brazil, grew up immersed in the traditional rhythms of Pernambuco. Flemming, from Köln, Germany has an interest in jazz and blues, as well as an in depth understanding of forró. Combined with Parks’ and Donohoe’s predilection for jazz fusion, Durham’s spontaneity and chameleon like ability to make himself at home in the disparate musical styles of the Americas, and Summers’ avant-jazz and contemporary classical leanings, Mente Clara entered the studio to record their first record, Wanderlust, in 2014. The critically acclaimed Forrozêra followed in 2015
These releases were accompanied by nationwide tours, appearances on festival stages like San Antonio’s Jazz’SAlive and Austin’s WOBEON, as well as a steady diet of local shows at Texas venues like One2One in Austin, Jazz Texas in San Antonio, and Cezanne in Houston. With Donohoe’s and Summers’ respective moves to New York in 2014 and 2016, a new batch of creative, young musicians joined the Mente Clara family, most notably bassist Leo Sherman.
The band returns to Texas in June 2018 to record their third album at Austin’s King Electric Studios. They continue to live by Hermeto’s credo: “Tudo é som!” (“All is sound!”)
Photographer: Caio Barreira