There is distinct nobility surrounding the virtuosity of the guitarist, Carlos Barbosa-Lima. His South American sojourn, Merengue presents sweeping vistas and myriad emotions described by such technical superiority as only a few musicians have achieved. Unfortunately Barbosa-Lima’s reputation has not kept pace with his magnificent musicianship.
This record offers a staggering array of music from under-exposed music that comes from relatively unexplored regions of Brazil. Classics from such composers as Heitor Villa-Lobos—who is represented by the dense vibrancy of “Veleiro,” a movement from his symphonic poem, A Floresta do Amazonica and “Prelude No. 2,” with its ever expanding dimensions of sonority. Redamés Gnattali, who composed several pieces especially for Barbosa-Lima, wrote the spectacularly performed “Invocation to Xango” that is carved out of Afro-Brazilian ritualistic celebration. Here it is given a fresh lease on life by Barbosa-Lima, who is accompanied by the percussion colorist, Duduka da Fonseca, bassist, George Anderson and the exquisite Guitar trio, comprising Barbosa-Lima, with Karin Schaupp and Christopher McGuire.
Nestling cheek by jowl with the classics from Brazil are two charmingly moody pieces by Tom Jobim—“Modinha” that features a heartfelt duet with the magnificent, Hendrik Meurkens, who returns to grace the guitarist’s splendid efforts on Jobim’s “Caminho de Pedra.” The Cuban composer, Leo Brouwer is also represented here by The vivacious “Danza del Altiplano” and “Guajira Criolla,” a marvelously performed piece in all its colorful glory. Of course, there is much more here to give cause for considerable celebration. The music of Ernesto Cordero, Uruguayan Isaias Savio, and another Brazilian legend, Jacob do Bandolim, whose “Implicante” highlights the dazzling mandolin skills of Marcillio Lopes. There are also works by Paraguayan, Agustin Barrios, Brazilians, Ernesto Nazareth and Laurindo Almeida, the Venezuelan, Rodrigo Reira. The great Venezuelan guitarist is honored by “Seis por Derecho.” The Columbian composer Gentil Montaña is represented by “Nunca te Olvido,” a rather lyrical piece.
Throughout the record, however, the music is given new life by the exquisite lyricism of Carlos Barbosa-Lima. The guitarist has technique that is staggering and uses dynamics that few guitarists are capable of today. With great mastery and unbridled genius, Carlos Barbosa-Lima has singlehandedly expanded the literature of the guitar. The Brazilian is a bold innovator and has blurred the lines between classical, folk and popular idioms. His ingenuity makes the word, “legendary” seem quite inappropriate in describing just how intelligently and gracefully he is able to create utterly enduring jewels in a musical language.
Carlos Barbosa-Lima has been a stellar concert guitarist for over five decades and has many recordings to his credit. This is his fifth for this Zoho label. Sadly many of his recordings are now lost as a large part of his catalogue existed in the vaults of Concord music and have since been deleted. This record is also significant as it has been carefully produced by Heiner Stadler, a remarkably knowledgeable aficionado whose work spans the classic and the modern, as in his wonderful A Tribute to Bird and Monk (Tomato Records, 1986).
Here, however, Mr. Stadler presides over sessions of glorious vibrancy. The magic of this music remains in the memory many moments after the exquisite last chords have been struck by Carlos Barbosa-Lima on the Hawaiian, Byron Yasui’s “Fantasy On A Hawaiian Lullaby.”
Tracks: 1. Invocation to Xango; 2. Merengue; 3. Veleiro; 4. Modinha; 5. Batuque; 6. Caminho de Pedra; 7. El Marabino; 8. Seis Por Derecho; 9. Prelude No. 2; 10. Seis Milonga; 11. Danza del Altiplano; 12. Guajira Criolla; 13. Cajita de Musica; 14. Canhoto; 15. Implicante; 16. Cancion Carorena; 17. Pais de Abanico; 18. Nunca te Olvido; 19. Escorregando; 20. Fantasy on a Hawaiian Lullaby.
Personnel: Carlos Barbosa-Lima: guitar; Gustavo Colina: cuatro (2, 7, 8); Hendrik Meurkens: harmonica (4, 8); Marcillio Lopes: mandolin (14, 15); Duduka da Fonseca: percussion (1, 14, 15, 19); George Anderson: bass (1); Guitar Trio (1, 3, 19): Carlos Barbosa-Lima, Karin Schaupp, Christopher McGuire.
Carlos Barbosa-Lima on the web: www.zohomusic.com
Review written by: Raul da Gama