Minas to celebrate jazz with a Brazilian flavor

Husband-and-wife duo Orlando Haddad and Patricia King will perform with the Reading Pops Orchestra and saxophonist Andrew Neu.


The Reading Pops Orchestra will celebrate jazz with a Brazilian flavor when it performs "Symphony in Bossa," featuring Minas and saxophonist Andrew Neu and conducted by Willis Rapp, today at 3 p.m. at Reading Area Community College's Miller Center for the Arts, as a collaboration between the Downtown Performing Arts Series and Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest.

Minas is a Lansdowne, Delaware County-based, duo specializing in Brazilian bossa nova, samba and other styles mixed with American jazz improvisation and blues. Guitarist/composer/vocalist Orlando Haddad and pianist/vocalist Patricia King have been performing together as a duo and as part of their own ensembles since the mid-1970s, including several performances at past Berks Jazz Fests.

They also happen to be married to each other.

The fact that they found each other is something of a miracle. King grew up in Carlisle, Cumberland County, the daughter of John King, who was an economics professor at Dickinson College. Haddad grew up in Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil, an area known for its minerals and precious gems.

What brought them together was serendipity and a mutual love for Brazilian music.

King, the youngest of five sisters, lived on the edge of the Dickinson campus, where her mother took art classes and her sisters went to college. She always sang and participated in musical theater at the nearby Allenberry Playhouse in Boiling Springs, Cumberland County, and in Dickinson productions, she said in a recent telephone conversation. But her passion was the music of Brazil.

"My sisters went to Venezuela for a summer and brought back records of Brazilian music," she said. "You could also hear it on AM radio at that time, by Sergio Mendes (and Brasil 66). I became very enamored of the music at a very young age."

Meanwhile, Haddad, the son of a physician, learned guitar as a child and during his teen years went to Rio de Janeiro to continue his musical studies.

"But there was a military dictatorship," he said, "and the government didn't put money into art schools because they tended to be more left-wing."

He decided to move to the United States for college, and his and King's paths crossed in 1974 when both enrolled in the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, he as a composition major and she as a voice major.

"I didn't enjoy the very formal, classical approach to performing," King said, "so I hung out in the conference room playing jazz piano with the instrumentalists. When I met Orlando there, who came from Brazil, we immediately had a connection through the music."

They became friends immediately, but neither was sure about returning to the school the following year. Over the summer, Haddad said, they wrote to each other, and finally decided to come back and put a band together. They started doing gigs in their sophomore year as a duo.

In 1978, while still in school, they formed a quartet and called it Minas, after Haddad's home town. Almost 40 years later, they are still working full time under the same name, not only performing concerts, but giving educational programs, creating film scores and recording albums.

They married and, after their daughter was born, moved to Brazil for two years, where they recorded and released their first album, "Num Dia Azul," in 1983. The album later became a collector's item and was re-released last year on vinyl and as a CD; it has sold all over the world, Haddad said.

When they returned to the United States, they decided to move to the Philadelphia area, where King had family, and they had a son. King earned a master's degree from the University of the Arts in jazz piano performance; Haddad earned a master's in arts administration at Drexel University and another one in music composition from Temple University. He also taught at the University of the Arts for 10 years.

It was during his tenure there that he met Bill Zaccagni, a popular Philadelphia jazz musician who was also on the UA faculty. Around 2004 they decided to collaborate on arranging Brazilian jazz for big bands and strings. The result was a collection of original music and Brazilian classics, which was performed as a concert for the first time at the Merriam Theatre with Minas, the UA Big Band and area string players.

"It was a labor of love for him; he had so much fun putting it together," Haddad said.

They immediately received a request from Ocean City, N.J., for a performance with a pops orchestra, so Zaccagni created two sets of arrangements with different instrumentations, giving them flexibility for future performances.

After Zaccagni died in 2007, King and Haddad raised money through crowd funding and grants, adding their own funds as well, to record an album of his arrangements, which they released as "Symphony in Bossa" in 2015.

For today's performance, which will include all the pieces from the album, Haddad and King will be bringing a sextet, including Neu, bass, drums and percussion.

One of the pieces, Antonio Jobim's "Triste," has been arranged for four vocalists by Wendy Simon; it will be performed by King, Haddad, Simon and King and Haddad's son, Jordon Haddad, who is the lead singer and front man for the rock band Flightschool in Philadelphia.

The Reading Samba School, under the direction of A.J. Merlino, will join the Reading Pops and Minas for a grand finale that should raise the roof.

"We love performing these pieces," Haddad said, "and we're so happy to be carrying the torch and exposing people to Bill's beautiful music."