So thorough has been the search by jazz musicians for instruments never before utilized in the genre that the supply has all but run out. Now comes Jesse Pessoa with the pedal-less 36-string Paraguayan folk harp. "Nobody did this before," says Pessoa of his fusion of the folk music of Brazil, Paraguay and other Latin cultures with calypso, African rhythms and American jazz on the folk harp. He explains that the folk harp "was created before they had the pedal," and adds that the instrument "has some very big problems." But he assures that "we can survive." Pessoa will join guitarist Charlie Byrd in performance tonight at the Maryland Inn, Annapolis.
Pessoa grew up in Recife, a coastal town in northern Brazil, and first heard the folk harp 20 years ago at the age of 19 on a visit to Sao Paulo. He was fascinated by it and immediately took up the study of the instrument, although up to that time he had played only percussion, "as almost all Brazilians like to do for fun," he says. But Pessoa was no stranger to jazz. "You'd be surprised," he says. "In the night clubs in Sao Paulo, jazz is played more than in the United States."