Planeta Azul, A Brazilian Entertainment Group: Bios
Planeta Azul Samba Band - (Overview)
Planeta Azul 7 Minute Video Demo
Planeta Azul, led by Luciano Antonio, is a fusion of uniquely gifted artists who bring forth a consistent, robust & full sound. Whether performing original works or interpreting Brazilian classics, the blend of grooving harmonies & soul leaves audiences wanting more.
Made up of some of the most highly regarded musicians in the Chicago music scene, each musician is a master of their respective craft, possessing the innate sense needed to achieve the passion of this compelling music and beat. This young and dynamic group heats up the Brazilian and Latin music scene throughout Chicago and the Midwest. Individually and together they are among the most commissioned artists for collaborative works, which include professional recordings, concerts, and other social and private events. Recent engagements include the Jakarta International Jazz Festival, opening performances for Caetano Veloso, Vinicius Cantuaria, Virginia Rodrigues, Howard Levy, Roberto Assad, Bobby Broom, Bob Lizik, Yolanda Adams and Joe Vasconcelos, the Chicago Mayor’s Office of Special Events, The Democratic Convention of 2004.
Passistas Samba Dance Group - Rachel Montiel, Founder & Group Director
The Passistas Samba dance group is Chicago's premier samba dance company. Passistas strives to evoke the essence of the rainhas and musas of carnaval, the queens and muses, whose official role is to be the inspiration of the bateria (percussion section), to embody the spirit of their samba school, gracing all with their elegance, charm and passion for samba.
Though a young group, Passistas Samba dancers have transformed the Chicago Samba dance scene, from their costuming, to their performance style, and even their trademark samba poses! According to the founder, Rachel Montiel: "We strive for excellence: every performance, every client experience, every event!"
Passistas has performed throughout the country, making several appearances for regionally and nationally televised programming, including a special guest feature on WGN, guest appearances on Telemundo, Univision, Escandalo T.V. and Control, dancing samba in costume. The group continues to grow in popularity, most recently being commissioned by the City of Chicago to represent Brazilian dance in the Summerdance series for a third year in a row. The troupe was also specially selected to perform for a platinum gala event in Texas, having been chosen over other noteworthy samba dance companies from around the United States!
Passistas Samba can provide whatever the event requires - ranging from the liberal to the ultra-conservative. Past and current performances include Brookfield Zoo's 75th Anniversary, Chicago Summerdance, University of Michigan, Macalester College, Loyola University, Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, White Sox Cellular Field pre-game shows, Chicago Fire pre-game shows, Casinos, corporate events, weddings, platinum galas, fund raisers, children's events, nightclubs, and churches! Passistas work with different costume designers and travel to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro Brazil annually to personally select hand-made designs so that all costumes are brand new or in excellent condition.
All samba dancers employed are Brazilian trained, professional, young, lovely and fit (photos showcased are NOT altered so that the dancer you see pictured is the dancer you get - no false representations and no surprises) We are Chicago's original Passistas! The best choice for authentic professional Brazilian dance in Chicago!
Luciano Antonio, 'Brazilian Jazz Guy' - Guitar, Vocals, Percussion
A force in the Brazilian Music Scene...
Luciano transcends all borders and time through his soulful renditions of some of Brazil's greatest compositions and his own original works and collaborations. Co-founder of Planeta Azul and founder of the Luciano Antonio Trio.
Luciano was born into a musical family in rural Iretama, Parana, Brazil’s southern region. From this melodiously rich environment, he learned first how to sing with his mom, Luiza Maria. By age 14, he took the violão (acoustic guitar) as a self taught instrument, focusing his repertoire on Brazilian Folk and Bossa Nova (Brazilian Jazz) and continued his pursuit through the study of classical guitar at the age of 17. Luciano’s music journey next led him to the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) where he received a bachelor’s degree in music performance. After successfully completing his education at UMKC, he relocated to Chicago where he has since established himself as a popular Brazilian Jazz Artist, having recently performed at the Jakarta International Jazz Festival and completed a mini-tour of Japan. Luciano collaborates with many great fellow artists and through his own project, continues to invigorate the Chicago Latin and Jazz scene. Make no mistake; Luciano has placed his stamp on the Brazilian music scene in Chicago. He also performs with Al Sur, A Cor Do Brasil, Evanston Orquestra de Samba, Som Brasil and as a soloist. Other recent engagements include opening performances for Caetano Veloso, Vinicius Cantuaria, Virginia Rodrigues, performances for the Chicago Mayor’s Office of Special Events, The Democratic Convention of 2004, the Taste of Chicago, Chicago Summerdance and several commercial releases. Luciano also plays classical guitar for weddings, social events and private functions.
Written by Rachel Montiel
Aquele Abraço (Gilberto Gil) Live by Planeta Azul
Yaasha Abraham - Director of Education & Youth Outreach, Choreographer, Artist Coordinator
Yaasha is charged with coordinating after school dance and music programs for Planeta Azul Band and Passistas Samba Dance Group. She also works as a samba dance instructor in collaboration with Brazil in Chicago Brazilian Cultural Center(www.brazilchicago.com)and Quilombo Cultural Center (www.quilombocenter.org), where she is the dance director. Years of dance, years of choreographing for Passistas Samba Dance Group, and years of teaching within the high risk youth sector have given Yaasha the tools necessary to run a successful program. She doesn't just teach her students, she reaches them, helping provide needed skills to achieve both inside and outside of her classroom:
- confidence in self
- self respect
- cultural awareness
Yaasha is also the Artist Coordinator for Planeta Azul & Passistas Samba and helps to manage our large events by assisting Event Coordinators and acting as the liaison between artists and event directors, directing/coordinating the Passistas Samba dancers, and directing/coordinating the Planeta Azul band. No event is ever too large or too complex with Yaasha at hand!
Written by Rachel Montiel
Felipe Fraga - Percussion, Vocals, Drums, Cavaquinho
Felipe Fraga Brazilian percussionist, drummer and vocalist. Felipe, originally from Curitiba in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, has been playing percussion since age 9. At age 13, he began studies at the Fine Arts and Music School of Paraná (EMBAP), where he performed with local orchestras, big bands and marching bands, the MPB Orchestra of Curitiba and with artists such as Arthur Moreira Lima, Altamiro Carrilho, Joel Nascimento, José Canuto and Roberto Gnatalli. Since relocating to Chicago in 2001, he has performed and/or recorded with Howard Levy, Robert Irving III, Wallace Roney, Farred Haque, Miles Evans, Yolanda Adams, Nick Colionne and Joe Vasconcelos and opened for Vinicius Cantuária, Daniela Mercury and Bajofondo. Most recently, Felipe was a featured percussionist for Robert Irving III’s “Sketches of Brazil” project that debuted at Millennium Park.
Jack Zara - Bass Guitar
Jack Zara was born in Chicago, but moved to the coast in LA until he was ten. He moved back to Chicago and began playing bass and piano. Started doing gigs at 15, and at 18 moved to San Antonio. His formative years in Texas playing everything under the sun were what enabled him to land the gig in Von Freeman’s band when he moved back to Chicago in 1998. Since then, he’s been blessed to back up some of the worlds finest musicians and travel the world with the gift of music. He has recorded two albums with Von Freeman, and one with Von’s brother- George (yet to be released). He’s played with Marcus Belgrave, Wynton Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, Chico Freeman, John Young, Jody Christian, … Jack is very involved in the Brasilian scene in Chicago and works with bands like Planeta Azul, Bossa Tres, and Chicago Samba. He is also a member of the Michael Lerich Orchestra, the Chicago Horns, and Mauro Frosio’s trio, as well as his own band Sol Do Brasil. Jack taught music for the city’s Gallery 37 program for 3 years and continues teaching privately.
Edinho Gerber - Guitar, Percussion
Edinho Gerber was born in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, and was fortunate to be raised in both the United States and Brasil. Though still quite young, he has established himself as a multi-faceted guitarist/producer/composer with a range of styles that vary from Brazilian music, Jazz, Funk, and Dance to Pop, Rock, and Blues. His cultural and musical diversity has given him a truly unique sound which is helping to redefine the Brazilian musical diaspora in Chicago.
Geraldo de Oliveira - Percussionist
Clarice Cast - Percussion
Clarice Cast is a percussionist of Brazilian and Afro-Brazilian rhythms. She has performed with many Brazilian and American musicians, and participated on many CD recordings as well. She teaches Brazilian percussion for children, teenagers and adults. Clarice is currently attending Northern Illinois University as a percussion performance major, taking lessons with Robert Chappell and Greg Beyer and can be seen performing throughout Chicagoland with many of the great Brazilian music groups: Evanston Orquestra De Samba, Barioca, Brazilian Jazz Guys, and Bossa Tres...
Heitor Garcia - Percussion, Drums
Heitor was born in the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where he started his music education in 1983 at “Milton Nascimento’s Musica de Minas” and at the Music Conservatory of MG. In 1984, he traveled throughout Brazil, recording and performing on live T.V., concerts, radio shows, and theaters. Heitor moved to Chicago in 1991, and has been working as a drummer and percussionist ever since, participating in various Brazilian, Latin Jazz, and world music groups: Paulinho Garcia’s Jazzmineiro, Ensemble Kalinda, Chicago Immigrant Orchestra; and for the past 3 years as an invited musician of the Joe Vasconcellos US/Canada tours (one of Chile's best known singers/composers in South America). His recent achievements with the band Hijazz (Hijaz) incorporates Brazilian and Latin jazz into Arabic Jazz.
Yuri Hevia - Percussion
Neusa Sauer - Vocalist, Legend
Luciano Antonio & Neusa Sauer informal rehearsal (Verde by Eduardo Gudin/Costa Netto)
Luciano Antonio & Neusa Sauer informal rehearsal (Pierrot by Flavio venturini & Murilo Antunes)