A Conversation with Vanderlei Pereira

Want to know about Brazilian jazz? New York Jazz Workshop faculty member Vanderlei Pereira is a mestre (Portuguese for master). The drummer has been an incredibly important part of the Brazilian, and New York music scenes for decades. Born in the city of Macae in Rio De Janeiro, Pereira was the youngest of seven children. He has recorded or performed with a who’s who of Brazilian music and jazz including Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Romero Lubambo, Antonio Adolfo, Armando Marcal, Toots Thielemans, Nando Lauria on Points Of View (Narada Jazz, 1994) Vitor Goncalves and many more.  At the age of six, Pereira was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, and completely lost his sight at the age of 31.  Rather than let that be a detriment, the drummer moved to New York in 1986 and has led a busy schedule since.  He is full of gratitude for the people and musicians that have helped him along in his journey. He leads his group Blindfold Test, and is a member of Sanfonya Brasileira with Vitor Goncalves, and bassist Eduardo Belo, and both bands plan on CD releases in the near future.


His educational background includes receiving a diploma (degree) and teaching certificate in theory, rhythm and sight singing from Academia de Lorenzo Fernandez in Rio de Janeiro.  He was also selected as participant of Instrumental Preparatory Course of the Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira, where he studied classical percussion, harmony, theory and style analysis and performed with Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira. He also received diploma in jazz studies from Mannes College of music, studied with John Riley, Vernel Fournier. Also studied with Ignacio Berroa, Bobby Sanabria and Johnny Almendra.  His Influences include: Milton Banana, Airto Moreira, Nana Vasconcelos, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Nene, Philly Joe Jones, Steve Gadd, Joe Morello, and Papa Jo Jones.


Our enlightening conversation was conducted in June, 2018 prior to his July 19-22 Brazilian music intensive.  The intensive will be taught in tandem with Vitor Goncalves. Among the many highlights of the interview include his heartfelt rememberances of iconic Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos and his meeting drummer Milton Banana, and his vocal imitation of a berimbau!  My thanks to Vanderlei Pereira for conducting this interview in the midst of a busy schedule, and thanks to his generous spirit.