Minas: Bringing the Romance of Brazilian Music to Pastorius

One aspect of a successful marriage is the ability to live together in harmony. When it comes to pianist Patricia and jazz guitarist Orlando Haddad—who form the core of the acclaimed local Brazilian sextet known as Minas—living together and playing music together has been about harmony right from the beginning.

You’ll get the benefit of that harmonious relationship Wednesday, July 13, when they perform in concert in Pastorius Park.

The two met as music majors while attending the University of North Carolina in Winston-Salem. Patricia had written a song in the bossa nova style, and she approached Orlando, who grew up and learned music in Brazil, to help translate it into Portuguese. 

“I think the minute we started singing together, our voices blended perfectly—the range, the texture of our voices,” Patricia explains. “That was something we were drawing on. Because Orlando and I had both grown up with classical music and because he and I had such a wide interest in and an openness to so many kinds of music, when we started playing together, it just fit so well. Whatever Orlando would add to a song of mine or whatever I would bring to his, it always seemed to fit like a glove. That just happened on its own.”

As for the marriage, one thing influenced the other. “We get along so well, we’re best friends,” Orlando says. “We raise kids together. We have very similar tastes in our home décor and things like that. Of course, with music and art and traveling, we have the same interests. We’re still different people, but we just have so much that we share. Music influences romance, and romance influences music.”

For both, love of music goes back a long way. Orlando learned classical piano music as a child, but changed course when he saw a rock band play in his town of Lavras. He decided he didn’t want to play piano anymore. 

“I wanted to be in a rock band, and I wanted to play guitar,” he says.

Orlando was quite familiar with bossa nova as a kid and really liked it, but, he says, the chords were hard to play on guitar. Rock chords were far easier. Hence, the rock band detour. 

After a while it was time to go to college. “So, I went to music school in Rio de Janeiro,” he says. “Brazil was a military dictatorship, and our music school didn’t even have a single tuned piano in it. And it was run by a general. I guess musicians were seen as left wing. I had some good teachers, but it was frustrating. I took classical guitar lessons from an ex-pat from Switzerland who was living in Rio and learned a lot about classical guitar.”

Over time, Orlando’s frustration reached a breaking point, and he moved on to the University of North Carolina in Winston-Salem.

Patricia’s path to a musical career began early and was perhaps more straightforward. She started performing in musical theater when she was 7 years old. 

“My mother used to hear me singing around the house and I was always banging on the piano when I was pretty young,” she says. “I was very drawn to that. Then, from musical theater I went into University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where they wanted me to go into the opera department, but I didn’t relate to that whole formal world. I was interested in jazz at that point. I had come across Chick Corea and then at that point I was influenced by Sérgio Mendes. By that time, I was primed, when I met Orlando, to talk to him about putting a group together.”

While at UNC, the two came to attention of an agency in town that hired university music majors. They were both juniors in the program.

“People would call and ask, could you send us a couple of musicians for this or that function,” Orlando recalls. “We got one of those calls, so we put some songs together. They were mostly covers from Sérgio Mendes and Getz/Gilberto.” And that was how, in 1978, Minas began. 

They performed all over the Eastern United States before moving to Brazil to immerse themselves more fully in the music. In 1984, they moved back to the United States, this time to Philadelphia, where Patricia had relatives and ultimately earned a master’s degree in jazz piano from the University of the Arts.

Years later, here they are, still performing to wildly enthusiastic audiences, drawn to their creative approach to the rhythms—and harmonies—of bossa nova, samba, jazz, some avant-garde pieces, and even some Beatles.

After all this time, they can’t imagine doing anything else.

“We both really believe that music is very healing to all kinds of people,” says Patricia. “We’ve seen that over the years with audiences. It’s probably the most important thing to us. Music can just cross bridges and directly influence people from heart to heart. You don’t need to have a conversation with anybody. You can just go and play music.”

Minas appears at Pastorius Park Wednesday, July 13, at 7:30 p.m. Pastorius Park is located off Millman Street and West Hartwell Lane, two blocks in from Germantown Avenue.