Brazilian nylon string guitar virtuosos Sergio and Odair Assad grew up playing traditional Brazilian music before delving into the world of classical guitar and will be striking a balance between the two genres during their next Santa Barbara performance on February 14 at the Lobero Theatre. The concert’s first half will consist of classical compositions by composers such as Mauro Giuliani, Isaac Albeniz, Astor Piazzolla, and Joaqin Rodrigo, while the second half will switch to works by Brazilian composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Egberto Gismonti. Though he said he and his brother could at this point most accurately be described as classical guitarists, Sergio Assad told the News-Press that it is hard to determine where their guitar playing’s classical influence ends and the Brazilian begins.
“It’s very difficult to tell where the boundary of classical music ends,” he said.
Originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Assad brothers grew up in a musical family and at a young age were exposed to the traditional Brazilian music that their father played. Though their father was a very talented musician, he was still an amateur. As Mr. Assad recalled, his dad wanted him and Odair to become professional musicians and thought that classical training was the best avenue for getting them to that level of musical accomplishment.
“He had good intuition,” Mr. Assad said of his father.
Mr. Assad described classical guitar as possessing a “magical” quality, able to create a wide range of sounds and atmospherics. When played on guitar, classical music is strummed and plucked from nylon strings, the same that is used in traditional Brazilian music. Calling the nylon string guitar Brazil’s “national instrument,” the guitarist remarked that it is very common for people in his home country to grow up learning at least a few chords on the instrument. A teacher at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Mr. Assad has observed that America’s relationship with the guitar is very different. Most of his students spent their formative years on the instrument playing rock and roll, which means they grew up playing electric guitar.
When Mr. Assad and his younger brother take the stage of the Lobero on February 14, the second half of their set will include an original number by Mr. Assad among their renditions Brazilian compositions. Mr. Assad described the show’s original composition as a fast samba piece with jazzy harmonies and “a million notes a minute.” The piece’s fast phrases are perfect for his brother, whose technical ability on the guitar is second to none.
“He’s such a virtuoso and he can play all these crazy lines that I write,” he said.
Having now played as a duo with his brother for 54 years, Mr. Assad said the connection between them when playing live is “telepathic.” This translates into a palpable feeling of mental synergy, one that he expects the audience will notice and hopefully enjoy.
“It’s like there’s a mental thing going on onstage, and people can feel that,” he said. Tickets for Sergio and Odair Assad’s February 14 concert at the Lobero Theatre can be purchased online at www.lobero.org. The concert will begin at 8 p.m.