The seven-piece Latin-fusion group The BraziLionaires add 50+ pieces to their sound when they merge with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra for their annual Romance Concert.
The central Illinois born and now Nashville-based outfit will play orchestrated originals with the symphony Feb. 10 in the Peoria Civic Center Theater.
“To be able to hear these pieces we’ve created become these symphonic masterpieces is going to take (our songs) to a whole new level ... a totally different take on our music. But the music of the BraziLionaires is still very much apparent in this symphonic music,” said vocalist Dove Benoit.
The combo is already relatively large for club dates, so band founder and guitarist Rico Wayne Johnson says the key to pulling off adding a 50-piece orchestra to this date is retaining The BraziLionaires finely honed Latin groove.
“That’s kind of the ‘hot sauce’ of our band,” said Johnson. “And the two orchestrators that have helped us do that … they’ve made sure that has happened. It’s almost like taking our music from two dimensional to three dimensional. “
Both are excited to hear how their songs translate from three-minute pieces conducive for radio play to six- and seven-minute orchestrations with lush introductions and interludes.
“Just amazing things,” said Johnson about the arrangements they’re working out with orchestrators Scott Hall of Columbia College in Chicago, and Illinois State University Director of Instrumental Jazz Studies Tom Marko, who serves as the group's drummer.
“He actually co-wrote (their song) ‘Blue October’ with Rico” said Benoit of Marko. “He really wanted to orchestrate that one specifically. We then decided to do another song we love from that CD called ‘The Encounter,’ and he orchestrated that as well. We were a little concerned about how that would blend with one orchestrator doing a bunch of songs and Marko some others, but it’s perfect. It’s beautiful.”
The romance concert will open with concert master Marcia Henry Liebenow’s performance of Bruch’s romantic Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, followed by the BraziLionaires with orchestra in tow.
“She just seems really excited about this, because it’s a different type of music they’re playing,” said Benoit of Liebenow, who will join the group for a song. “It will be different for them, and fun.”
When the band plays clubs including Jazz UpFront in Bloomington sans orchestra, you might hear a samba, or a bossa, maybe cha-cha or even a flamenco influenced arrangement. Johnson and Benoit said that fusion is what has helped the group grow an intense following in central Illinois, which they still consider their base despite the recent move to Nashville. Johnson said they need to be where the music infrastructure was strong, including publicists and agents.
Do the BraziLionaires have what it takes to make a “go of it” in the hypercompetitive music performance business? Johnson thinks "yes" because of the group’s unique sound.
“Even in Nashville,” said Johnson. “There’s a club I went to last Monday night in Nashville that has a killer Afro-Cuban Latin band. There are really amazing jazz players and obviously great songwriters there. But I think the fusion we do with Latin grooves with jazz and pop, I’m not just seeing many groups doing what we’re doing.”
The BraziLionaires and Peoria Symphony Orchestra play the Peoria Civic Center Theater on Feb. 10 as part of the Romance Concert. The show begins at 7:30 p.m.
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