Scott Kettner sees a direct line that connects the rivers of northeastern Brazil to the parishes of New Orleans and the streets of Brooklyn. A master percussionist, bandleader, producer and songwriter, Kettner is the guiding force behind Nation Beat, a band whose teeming, vibrant rhythms find common ground in the primal maracatu rhythm of Brazil’s northeastern region, the Big Easy’s funky, hypnotic second-line and strolling Mardi Gras Indians, and the unfettered freedom of big-city downtown jazz.
For Kettner, the discovery of maracatu was a life-changing experience. The great jazz drummer Billy Hart, who served as Kettner’s instructor at New York’s New School University, first informed him of the mysterious music. “He was turning me on to African music from different regions,” says Kettner, “and we started getting into Afro-Cuban rhythms and Brazilian rhythms. After a couple of years studying samba and bossa nova, I asked him, ‘Are there any other rhythms from Brazil that I should be learning?’ He said, ‘Yeah, man, there’s this music called maracatu!’ I pointed to his drum set and said, ‘Show it to me,’ and he said, ‘I don’t know how to play it! I just know it’s a badass rhythm and you have to go learn it, then come back and teach it to me.’”
As a side-man, Scott Kettner has performed and/or recorded with Willie Nelson, Cyro Baptista, Stanton Moore and Galactic, Frank London, The Klezmatics, Cascabulho, Vieux Farka Toure, Maracatu Nação Estrela Brilhante and many more.
His book entitled “Maracatu for Drum set and Percussion” is the first in-depth percussion book about the rich culture and music of Maracatu de Baque Virado with photos, history, recordings and an instructional CD-Rom.