I just got back from the forests of Brazil where I lived, taught, ate, performed and adventured at the beautiful Uaná Eté Music Garden about 2 hours from Rio.  It was a jazz immersion with harp players from all over the world: Australia, USA, Canada, France, Greece, Ireland, UK, the Netherlands – a collaborative venture of the International Jazz Harp Foundation and the Uaná Eté Music Garden, a cultural-ecological-musical retreat created by the husband-wife team of harpist Cristina Braga and bassist Ricardo Medeiros.

If you’re going to Brazil, this is a place you have to visit.  It’s got a Labyrinth of music and sound, forest trails, concerts and fabulous Brazilian food.  We spent every day teaching (and learning) about jazz, adventuring in the woods – even learning to use hand-made bows-and-arrows (trust me, that is relevant to jazz harp).  To see the creative team check out this blogpost. To see more photos of what it was like, keep scrolling.

But first … if you play the harp — and you missed this incredible Jazz Immersion project, you can still jump in on the learning experience at “Hip Harp Academyand get the new “Jazz for Harps” programs PLUS all the other programs about improv, arrangement and creative expression. And now … Drumroll … Jazz Harp Immersion in Brazil 2018 …. First, let me set the scene.  This is where it all starts at the magical Uana Ete Musical Wonderplace (this is not what it’s actually called, just what I call it)

Above: an arial view of paradise.  Below, the smaller teaching studios and some of the student’s rooms … and hammocks.

(Below) The larger teaching room and where we had jam sessions and the Lindy Hop ball

Below: This is what breakfast looked like …

(Below)… and this is where the teachers lived, with our wonderful hosts, Cristina Braga and Ricardo Medeiros

(Below) This is where we talked and laughed at night.

So – who was there?  Well, we are (almost all of us) after the “Lindy Hop” Ball the first Saturday night:  students, teachers, players (and even a spouse – the tall guy).  This was one of those rare, amazing opportunities to learn in a fairly small group with others who all share the same passion – but may never have met.

At the “Lindy Hop” ball the first weekend of the Immersion, I got to sing to my heart’s content – while the rest of the band rocked the house – in this photo, Frank Colon on Percussion, Kurt Schwab on Sax, Ricardo Medeiros on Bass, and hidden is Park Stickney on electric harp — and the next person who reads this and knows the name of the drummer – please let me know!

My long-time friend, Park Stickney (who is, in my opinion – the greatest living jazz harp player) was one of the other ‘imported’ teachers – and we got a chance to play together on a single harp … one of our long-time tricks … and also on separate harps in concert.

And here we are in concert plaing the Blues

I also had the chance to play with the fabulous percussionist Frank Colon in a session where we explored how to treat the harp purely like a percussion instrument.

Harps waiting outside the practice rooms for their next assignments.

One morning I really had to make a phone call.  In order to do that, I had to get up to the top of the hill, in the bell-garden, at 7AM. This is me with my computer, phone, coffee mug, pack and coat — right now it’s the Brazilian winter, so it’s chilly in the morning and night.

We spent one whole day in the woods exploring (verrrrrry carefully and with expert guidance), being painted and learning to shoot hand-made bows-and-arrows.Below is how I came home – painted on arms and hands.

BELOW: (Left) I’m lying in a kind of net below the trees, so I can look straight up.  (Right) is what I was seeing above me.  When I first knew I was going to Brazil, I thought I would be in the rainforest, but this is what’s called the “Atlantic Forest’ with a combination of what seem like pine trees along with palms, bananas, eucalyptus – and orchids growing on the limbs of trees in the forest.  Also snakes, spiders and mosquitos, but we did our best to stay clear of all of those.

(Below) At the airport, festival co-creator, Brenda Dor-Groot and I discovered each other and set up office at an airport cafe that had FABULOUS virgin Something-or-other-Drinks, which I spent all the rest of my Brazilian Real’s on.

swear that we also taught and learned a LOT … I just don’t have time to get all those photos up now, so I’ll leave you with two photos from the airport — and come back later, refresh your screen and I’ll see if I can share more of the adventure with you, INCLUDING what we taught and learned – but this is our last picnic, at the top of the mountain:

Finally – one of my favorite ‘finds’ on a walk through the forest — I think these are palm fronds … but someone let me know what they really are aside from beautiful.

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