Luciana Souza: Tide

Since her marriage to bassist/producer Larry Klein, Luciana Souza has shifted her musical focus from jazz singer to singer/songwriter. While she has composed superb song cycles on the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop and Pablo Neruda, those songs always seemed linked to jazz, samba or both. On her CD, Tide, some of her original songs are not in the jazz realm. However, Souza has not actually abandoned any styles and the CD shows that she has melded some styles together and maintained some of them in their original form. There are three songs in Portuguese, fueled by a taut rhythm section headed by Romero Lubambo, two pop-ish songs with Rebecca Pidgeon on backing vocals, and two original songs with lyrics adapted from poems by e.e. cummings. The second of the cummings songs, “Tide”, is a brilliant combination of Souza’s singer/songwriter, jazz and poetry modes. The poem is a free adaptation to be sure, with none of cummings’ lines kept intact, yet the poem’s theme of romantic jealousy and reconciliation remains. Souza and Klein compare the ebb and flow of relationships to the ocean’s tide, and the band creates a shifting, constantly changing mood behind the swaying melody line. Vinnie Colaiuta is especially creative throughout with tom-tom rolls and cymbals portraying the ocean water as it hits the rocks. Souza’s delivery is intense as always, and while her improvised interludes with Larry Koonse are obviously based on jazz scat singing, Souza uses sustained tones and open vowel sounds to make them into something very different.

July 02, 2009 · 0 comments


Antonio Valdetaro: Bossa Louca

Carry yourself off to Rio with this self-produced Brazilian offering by guitarist Antonio Valdetaro and his group. "Bossa Louca" is a loosely-played bossa that captures the easy swaying feel of this delightful, regionally inspired music. Electric bassist Carvalho contributes an accomplished solo which leads into a melody statement by guitar and saxophone. Valdetaro’s style is carefree, tasteful and loose capturing the laid back feel of a balmy tropical breeze. Saxophonist Josué dos Santos, with his ultra-polished tone, recreates his own brand of Getz-ian cool. Sit back, close your eyes and enjoy being transported for a moment by the captivating rhythms of Valdetaro’s Brazil. Don’t worry, D’Elia’s bateria adds just enough punctuation at the coda to stir you out of your trance.

June 30, 2009 · 0 comments


Bud Shank & Laurindo Almeida: Little Girl Blue

Almost a decade before "Girl from Ipanema" hit the charts, Bud Shank and Laurindo Almeida were exploring ways of combining Brazilian music with the ethos of cool jazz. Contrary to what you might have heard elsewhere, they didn't invent bossa nova—Almeida's guitar is much more on top of the beat than what João Gilberto would deliver in a famous session held a few weeks after this Hollywood date. This Shank-Almeida collaboration captures a more overtly classical sensibility, and establishes its mood with a stately elegance that is rare in jazz of any era. If you want to hear Shank in a loose, blowing vein, this is not the place to start. But the other side of Bud Shank—inquisitive, experimental, and (yes) cool—comes to the fore on this track. The entire Shank-Almeida oeuvre is too often treated as a footnote to the bossa nova story, but deserves to be better known on its own merits.

May 13, 2009 · 0 comments


Torcuato Mariano: Back to the Road

Mariano moved to Brazil from his native Argentina at age 14, and soon became part of the contemporary Brazilian music scene, touring with such artists as Leo Gandelman, Gal Costa, Sergio Mendes, and Ivan Lins in the '80's and '90's. After a detour as A & R director for EMI Brazil, Mariano returned to recording himself, and Back to the Road is his sixth CD as leader. He's an extremely versatile and polished guitarist, proficient playing Latin, rock, blues, or Brazilian jazz, as proven by this diverse session.

The yearning title track is probably the most unfettered performance on the CD, allowing Mariano to let loose aggressively. Colaiuta's propulsive, resonating drum beat makes this piece come alive from the very start. Mariano is channeling a very early influence in his playing here, namely Carlos Santana, as is apparent in his twangy tone and sleekly flowing lines. Calasans' supple B3 chords and Stubenhaus's sturdy bass add to the unwavering foundation over which Mariano sails with genuine feeling. Well-placed brass punctuations enter just before and during the guitarist's blazing solo. A false wind-down ending gives way to Martins' nimble, bluesy tenor solo instead, but this appealing track fades out for real just as Martins is hitting his full stride.

May 03, 2009 · 0 comments


Milton Nascimento: Tudo Que Você Podia Ser

What The White Album was to American rock, Milton Nascimento's Clube da Esquina was to post-bossa Brazilian music. Like the Beatles, Nascimento and company created a double-disc masterpiece with a fresh sound that nicely balanced visionary compositions with crisp, under-produced textures. This was music that made its own rules up as it went along with a boldness that still inspires imitators today. "Tudo Que Você Podia Ser" is a classic track, which starts with just soulful acoustic guitar and Nascimento's soaring voice. Soon other instruments enter, at first with occasional colors—check out Tiso's subtle organ notes, Horta's guitar, and a growing cascade of percussion sounds. Surprise! . . by the midway point this song has morphed into a simmering dance number. Give credit to the whole band, especially co-leader Lô Borges, but Nascimento's bittersweet vocals are what will grab you here. They are a soothing counter-balance to this musical tempest, holding everything together even as the energy level elevates. Welcome to the magical world of Milton Nascimento on the cusp of his thirtieth birthday, when a song could start in one dimension and end up in another place completely. But this was more than changing a tune in midstream, it was altering the whole landscape of what we now call "world music."

March 21, 2009 · 0 comments


Claudio Roditi: Dinner By Five

Brazilian trumpet master Claudio Roditi takes flight both as composer and soloist in this lively samba, demonstrating why he was in such demand as a New York session player. After a relaxed, thoughtful drum intro, the spirited samba tempo gains traction as Claudio launches into the head and solo. His phrasing is free and cliché-free, as his horn sings with a clear voice, never strident or jarring. Helio Alves follows with an electrifying chorus on piano, without dropping the airborne feel of the rhythm. "Dinner by Five" is a welcome feast for the heart and mind.

February 09, 2009 · 0 comments


Claudio Roditi: Tune Up

"Tune Up" is one of the hardest-working, most dog-eared staples in most jam session satchels, favored for its II-V-I cycles and shifting tone centers. But there's nothing stilted or overworked in this outing by Brazilian trumpeter Claudio Roditi, a seasoned veteran of sessions with Paquito D'Rivera and a former member of Dizzy Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra. Roditi's playing here makes it seem as if the ink was still wet on Miles's composition.

There are times when you don't want to be pelted in the face with hard-boppin' chops; sometimes you want to sit back and enjoy steady, flowing lines springing from the depths of an old soul's well, chock-full of minerals and something the French refer to as terroir – the taste of the earth. This is the feeling evoked by Claudio Roditi's lyrical horn work. Sit back, relax and tune up to the terroir of one of Brazil's freshest, coolest drinks.

February 09, 2009 · 1 comment


Milton Nascimento: San Vicente

This song, from the outstanding Miltons album, opens with Nascimento singing plaintively over a rubato guitar accompaniment, the music matching the dreamlike ambiance of the lyrics. Coração Americano, acordei de um sonho estranho. That gently tinkling piano in the background is Herbie Hancock. In the second chorus the tempo solidifies, and Hancock no longer accompanies but pushes the rhythm. Nascimento responds by raising the intensity of his vocal. At the 3-minute mark, the song seems to be coming to a gentle conclusion on one of those beautiful arcing vocals in the stratosphere that Nascimento delivers so well. But this is only an April-in-Paris fake-out. After a brief pause, the piano-guitar vamp returns, then the energy level kicks up into high, high, high gear. Hancock delivers one of the most spirited solos of his career, a real gem. There are so many aspects to this pianist that it's easy to forget at how good Herbie is at delivering an old-fashioned groove. Remember "Watermelon Man" and "Cantaloupe Island"? Well, this is similar, though less R&B-ish and more diatonic, but above all more Brazilian in feeling . . . yet still intoxicatingly intense. This sounds like a Herbie Hancock who grew up in Minas Gerais instead of Chicago. There is no reprise of the vocal, but that was a wise decision. After all, how could you top such a piano outing? This one will hit you like the third caipirinha on an empty stomach.

January 03, 2009 · 0 comments


Garoto: Nosso Choro

Garoto's death in 1955, a few days before his 40th birthday, robbed the music world of one of the most provocative guitarists of the 20th century. Even now, his name is typically unknown even to passionate fans of so-called "World Music," although his pioneering efforts set the stage for the rise of bossa nova a few years after his passing. Indeed, it comes as little surprise that Luiz Bonfá and Laurindo Almeida were among his protégés and that the master of bossa nova guitar João Gilberto has been active in preserving and spreading Garoto's music.

This solo track captures the distinctive virtues of Garoto's guitar work. A song such as this might fool you into thinking that it is some timeless folkloric piece . . . except that the sophistication of the harmonic movement is far too modern for any traditional work. Not until Antonio Carlos Jobim rose to fame would Brazilian commercial music have such a master of impressionistic chord changes. One suspects that this artist, born Anibal Augusto Sardinha in 1915, soaked up the sounds of American jazz when he toured the U.S. with Carmen Miranda in 1939-40. No, the rhythm is not bossa nova, but "Nosso Choro" captures the wistfulness of that later style of music. Above all, Garoto impresses with his tone control and relaxed mastery of the guitar.

Note: I also recommend Paolo Bellinati's impeccable recreations of Garoto's music. Those who find themselves put off by less-than-high-fidelity audio quality may want to start with Bellinati before moving to the original Garoto recordings.

December 08, 2008 · 0 comments


Chuck Bernstein: Delta Berimbau Blues

The malleability of the Delta blues tradition has been demonstrated all over the world, from Liverpool to Calcutta. Here Chuck Bernstein adopts the Brazilian berimbau, the one-stringed bow from Bahia, for his cross-cultural explorations. As Shelly Manne once said, the berimbau "is good for many uses: you can hunt with it or smoke it." Well I am not sure about the wisdom of lighting up your berimbau, but clearly you can also play blues on it. Think of it as a South American alternative to the diddley bow, that African-inspired one-string instrument that was the starting point for many Delta blues masters of the past. Bernstein makes the most of his inspired vision of berimbau blues. He claims that he first heard the instrument on a Sergio Mendes record, but anyone listening to this track would think that these guys grew up in some juke joint outside of Clarksdale. Due credit must be given to Bernstein's partner, Greg Douglass, whose outstanding guitar work is responsible for most of the bent thirds on this track. This self-produced CD could easily get lost in the shuffle, but it is a contender for my list of best blues recordings of the year.

November 20, 2008 · 1 comment


Chico Pinheiro & Anthony Wilson: Planicie

Here is a case where less is most certainly more, in that the interlocked guitar arpeggios, while inspiring in and of themselves (and where the handoff of ideas seems telepathic), are not just background and structure but integral parts of the solo passages to follow. Guitars, 6- and 7-string acoustic plus electric, all seem to be living inside the same melodic storyline. There are times when the shift from one instrument to the next is so subtle as to defy reality. Imagine a beautiful chord solo (by, say, Gene Bertoncini), and then recast it with three guitars.

November 17, 2008 · 0 comments


Milton Nascimento: Anima

Anima marks one of the highlights of Milton Nascimento's career. On the title cut, he somehow creates a music without passport or lineage. You can try to fit this into the history of Brazilian music, but it really sounds more African. Or maybe it's pop or some new type of jazz. You might even be forgiven for labeling it as a crazy takeoff on the minimalism of Terry Riley and Philip Glass. But toss all the labels out the window. This is Milton's universe, and he has created an individual soundscape out of his own personal musical journey. He enlists the group Uakti to help out with their unusual homemade instruments, and layers shimmering, echoing vocals on top of a hypnotic rhythm. This is magical stuff, the sonic equivalent of pixie dust. In fact, the whole Anima project marks a milestone in modern world music. It's a shame it isn't better known.

October 30, 2008 · 1 comment


Milton Nascimento: Chega de Saudade

Most casual fans will find nothing surprising in Milton Nascimento releasing a bossa nova CD, and covering the classic Jobim tune "Chega de Saudade." Yet those with longer memories will recall that Nascimento did more than any musician to topple the supremacy of bossa nova in Brazilian music. Nascimento's rhythmic sensibility, with its hypnotic even eights (which Pat Metheny and others would eventually incorporate into jazz settings), instilled a far more Africanized sensibility into Brazilian music than anything found in the Jobim songbook. Early in Nascimento's career, even when this artist performed bossa nova songs, listeners were struck by how different they sounded in his interpretations.

But all things mellow with age, and now Nascimento not only records "Chega de Saudade" but delivers it with genuine bossa nova feeling. And he brings Jobim's son and grandson in on the festivities. Don't expect any musical revolutions here, just a bittersweet, relaxed tribute to a classic song, a brilliant composer and a timeless style of music. This track, and most of the other performances on the Novas Bossas CD, will stand out as outliers on the bell curve of Milton's music, but fans of Brazilian music will enjoy this release and want to add it to their collection.

October 29, 2008 · 0 comments


Antonio Carlos Jobim: The Red Blouse

Jobim's first A&M recording wraps his minimalist compositional style around Claus Ogerman's lush strings and horns and producer Creed Taylor's thick wall of reverb. No real rough edges exist, but the track's main theme is striking and the production does not detract from the performance. A minimum of forcefulness is provided by Ron Carter, whose deep, active walking basslines provide counterpoint to Jobim's understated glissandos. Together, these elements drape the track in sonic regality and, even though the recording methods may have been modernized on this recording, the track remains an essential part of a historic album of jazz pacesetters.

October 23, 2008 · 0 comments


Various Artists: Morena Faceira (Naughty Brunette)

From an album paying tribute to popular music from the 1940s through the '50s, we have the slinky (Hmmm...doesn't that apply to all bossa nova?) "Naughty Brunette." While Mario Adnet provides some beautiful and textured vocals, and the group background vocals are just beyond fun, the secret weapons here are the guitars of Adnet and Rodrigo Campello. The rhythm work that supports the harmonic structure ends up sounding like a song-length chord solo, and the melodic fills add color by winding their way around Adnet's story. Given the state of today's popular music, it's almost impossible to imagine a world where music this vibrant held sway.

October 13, 2008 · 0 comments


Previous Page | Next Page