Bossa's Explosive drumsticks

Edison Machado, the drummer that changed the way of playing samba, died 10 years ago

Tárik de Souza e Nana Vaz de Castro
Bossa nova is a style that privileges instrumental abilities, and has generated icons for every instrumental section. Rio de Janeiro native Edison Machado (1934-1990) was one of its biggest drum heroes. He is credited for having created the ride-driven samba, due to a snare drum that broke down during a concert, making him keep it going with only the ride and the toms. The trick pleased the crowd and Edison incorporated the extension of the hum to the tonic accent of the percussion, as Jimi Hendrix did adding feedback to the chords in his guitar. Along with the hum ("my drums tell what I see and feel. Therefore, I’m noisy", he defined), his remarkable performances were punctuated by the grimaces he made as excitement grew during his solos.

That helped spread the "Crazy Edison" myth, which followed him throughout his career. In the USA, he performed at the Ed Sullivan show, recorded with Tom Jobim, with Bossa Três and with accordionist Jo Basile. The drummer also lined up a powerful big band for the album Edison Machado É Samba Novo (CBS), released on CD by Sony with imprecise cover information and badly mixed.

Working in America
As military dictatorship advanced in Brazil, many musicians went in self-imposed exile and bossa nova was diluted, making the lives of artists like Edison a lot harder. Soon, he was out of work. An interview for a national newspaper in 1972 opened with a type of classified ad: "The best drummer in Brazil is available for any kind of performance (...)". A few years later, he would admit to having sold his drum set to travel to the States, where the environment for musicians was friendlier.

Not surprisingly, he remained there for 14 years. Edison recorded with Chet Baker and Ron Carter, besides playing jazz festivals. He would only return to Brazil in 1990, playing a series of gigs that would represent the final apotheosis of a shining career interrupted by limiting market reasons. He would die of a heart attack three months later, in Niterói (Rio de Janeiro). A star with an instrument that is usually not in the spotlight, he had the charisma of the idols. Even Jorge Ben (before becoming Ben Jor), during a historic performance of the song Chove Chuva, in 1965, did not resist the rhythmic train and, halfway through the song, shouted: "Play, Edison!"