Playing with Banda Inaudita
RAMON LEAL- BIOGRAPHY (by courtessy of Siesta Records)
Ramon Leal is a Spanish musician that could have been born in Ipanema, Fortaleza or Bahia but who was accidentally born in Madrid in the mid-fifties. It is clear that he is the undisputed king of the bossa nova genre in Spain but, Is there an amazing story behind him? Sit down and relax.
In the late sixties and starting at a young age, Ramon found himself playing guitar and drums. It was his lovely sister Suny Leal who taught him how to play guitar like a pro interpreting the scores of The Beatles and The Beach boys. At that time he was into straightforward pop and malleable rock; bear in mind that there were not many accessible options at that period since Spain was completely isolated -despite the success of Los Bravos in the US- in the music maps due to Franco´s dictatorship.
Relatives say that even then there were signs of budding genius from Ramon and not only for his quixotic adventures... However his craftmanship as musician was not forged until he discovered the sounds of jazz, samba and bossa nova by the early seventies. Not strangely he immediately embraced bossa nova as his natural territory and habitat and for more than thirty years he has been interpreting ¨The Girl from Ipanema¨, the signature tune for the entire 1960s bossa nova movement.
In short a new era started when he discovered a glittering array of names and talents as Gilberto, Jobim, Lobo, Buarque, Veloso, Valle, Hime, Caymmi and also arrangers-producers as Deodato, Santos, Riddle, Menescal or LiPumma. Surprisingly, the music in his hands got even more sympathetic, effective and syrupy than the worshiped originals. His secret formula came from having a smooth guitar style, freedom and catchy melodies and elaborate orchestras behind.
With his growing fascination for music and his learning to win friends, he became a true professional musician by the mid seventies. Ramon toured Spain and there were marvellous and legendary gigs in jazz cafes, seedy night clubs and outdoors festivals. He played with talented musicians such as Javier Mora, David Thomas, Jaime Muela, Agustin Pereyra Lucena, Tatsuo Aoki, Angel Celada, Paco Espinosa, Quique Alvarado, Enrique Garcia or Carlos Carli. This was a galvanizing experience and a formative period for him to deliver melody after glorious melody, improvise frameworks of songs and harmonize as an accomplished performer. During these adventurous and stimulating times musicians were eager to explore new musical directions. Someone described it as ¨the joy of performance¨.
In parallel to becoming a session man, he created the band Linea Clara with friends Juan Pablo Zielinski (Banda inaudita), Santiago Puente, and Fain Duenas (Radio Tarifa) but this act was ostracized and soon disappeared from the stages. It was a stage for him of dreaming and womanizing (as Vinicius de Moraes), but his main passion was still music.
In the eighties he was considered a perennial outsider and despite masterfully playing guitar with Astrud Gilberto in her Spanish tour, his talents remained unnoticed and no record label was available to sign him. There was a negative response to his work and there were no offers or opportunities on the horizon. At that time there was a predominant scene of mainstream and funny alternative music in Spain. No room for our maestro. It was a decade of bad fortune and frustration for him.
When the smoke cleared Ramon got married with Mariate Clara (bassist player) and his son Damian was born in 1989. He could not deny his ambition to be a full-time bossa-nova musician but as a perfectionist he decided to improve his guitar technique and percussive skills. Ramon is one of those rare guitarists whose virtuosity falls gently on the ear and this is not easy.
Well, Ramon Leal could eventually find the right partner in the nice singer of Ana Laan. In the tradition of Elis Regina & Tom Jobim, Maria Creuza & Vinicius de Moraes or Astrud & Joao Gilberto he formed the enchanting female-male duo Ben Bom with Ana Laan. Ramon's refined interpretation, typical of the Brazilian composers, and the sublime voice of Ana (Rita Calypso) proved to be a perfect combination as the duo retrieved the elegance of the Brazilian popular music with a solid set of covers.
Mr Leal has always demonstrated an innate understanding of the singers art, writing arrangements that perfectly suited and enhanced the style, tone, edges and nuances of the singers voice.
Some years later Ramon Leal decided to establish an alliance with the Italian singer and actress Beatrice Binotti and created a bossa nova quartet with two Uruguay brothers (and rhythm section) Juan and Jose San Martin. They recorded Bossanova 1999 between 1997 and 1998. With the benefit of hindsight we can say that it was the moment of truth in his career.
Ramon´s unique sound was discovered by Mateo Guiscafre (co-founder of Siesta records) by chance in 1998. After hearing his evocative songs, he noticed that Ramon Leal was the soulful musician that Siesta had been looking for so many years to begin a bossa nova roster and a productive and long cooperation.
With a label deal under his belt, Ramon´s dreams were well on their way to being fully realized. Bossanova 1999 was a successful record with understated and compelling arrangements, precise vocals from Miss Binotti and real class and style. Siesta soon learned that Ramon was a brilliant arranger, a polite guy and a true potential friend. Apart from these important facts it was evident that his musical talents were immense and his orchestrations were inventive, mellow and colourful.
Mateo almost immediately commissioned him a new record under the name of Real Carioca, an imaginary and nostalgic combo with Brazilian flair and smooth sixties appeal, like an instrumental accompaniment for gentle cocktail drinking or celebrating Ronaldo´s goals in the World Cup. Fans of acoustic guitar work should find themselves dazzled by this little gem: Anos dourados is a bossa nova masterpiece.
In year 2000 Ramon Leal recorded ¨Clube da Chave¨, his second album featuring the silky and sensual voices of Ana Laan and Beatrice Binotti as guest singers. There are tour de force and majestic performances and this release gained a strong cult following on the bossa nova circuit. The disc contains some romantic sambas and saudades not to be missed.
Between 2002 and 2003 he recorded ¨Cordas e metais¨, a piece that should bring him the acclamation that he deserves. It is comparable to the best bossa nova works.
These are Mr. Guiscafre (Siesta Records manager and owner) opinions. I have to say there are some things with which I dont agree.