There comes a time in the life of a pianist, when the lure of a solo project is strong and he or she inevitably gives in. Having thus satisfied the yearning the musician is struck by an even more daunting task: the thought of a duo program, made even more alluring when there is an opportunity to duet with more than one musician and instrumentalist. Such an extravagance is rarely passed up so it is no surprise to find the wonderful world of pianist Jovino Santos Neto illuminated and festooned with duets with no less than twenty musicians as he makes this extraordinary album, Veja o Som (See the Sound), so named when the remarkable Airto Moreira let it slip after the spectacular duet take made it to the album. To be accorded the privilege of playing with practically anyone he wished to play with is rare indeed for any musician and says a lot about his or her relationship with the record label. And Adventure Music once again lived up to its name as well, by going the distance with Santos Neto this time. So what did the pianist do with this privilege?
First off, the program meanders into a maze of great music, with surprises at every turn. It is almost as if Santos Neto hopped onto a futuristic craft and began his journey through ether, suddenly encountering music and musicians with whom to play it. The surprises are breathtaking and the fact that it took two CDs to realize the dream is indicative of the fact that Jovino Santos Neto chose to choke the listening audience with gold in a bejewelled ornament of a double CD. The second remarkable aspect of the program is the outstanding playing of Santos Neto. His ability to switch from soloist to a supportive role is remarkable. That he is a fine soloist is beyond doubt. His palette is awash with the soft hues of many colors. He plays with great sensitivity, with phrases and lines that flow in whorls and ever widening circles. His approach to song is holistic, seemingly one that emerges from a beguiling place where he hears all music in the totality of the soundscape where it exists as if in an entirely fluid state.
Some of these turn the melodies inside out—Jobim’s “Insensatez,” a duet with the ethereal voice of Gretchen Parlato is one such. He can be puckish and play also with a wry, bouncy sense of humour: The breezy track, “Santa Morena,” played with mandolin wizard, Mike Marshall and Hermeto Pascoal’s spectacular; “February 1” with Anat Cohen is another. Frequently he reinvent melodies by diving in to a magical space and emerging with ideas that seemed impossible until now: Two fine examples of this are “Aquelas Coisas Todas,” with the deep brooding and yet sensuous tenor saxophone of David Sanchez and Moacir Santos’ classic, “April Child,” which is bravely and completely re-imagined with the impossibly brilliant sound of Vittor Santos’ trombone. But the most remarkable tracks of all are those that appear to be almost completely spontaneous inventions. “Veja o Som” with Airto Moreira’s remarkable volley of sounds of nature, including his primordial voice, the haunting “Sonora Garoa” with the magnificent voice of Mônica Salmaso and the ethereally beautiful “Cruzando o Sertão” with the percussionist, Luiz Guello are the crowning glory of the whole project.
Surely this must be one of Jovino Santos Neto’s most remarkable albums. It certainly is a wonderful follow-up to that spectacular piano duet album he did with Weber Iago for the same label, Live at Caramoor, where his pianism was just as spectacular. Here, however, Santos Neto is driven to invent with a remarkable array of musicians, especially voice artists, something Brasil has a surfeit of. Whatever will the pianist be up to next? Perhaps an album with the great Hermeto Pascoal, with whom Santos Neto spent time as Director of Music, would be the only thing that could cap this experience.
Tracks: CD1: Aquelas Coisas Todas (All of Those Things); Santa Morena (Dark-skinned Saint); Insensatez (How Insensitive); O Que Vier Eu Traço (Bring it On); Caminhos Cruzados (Crossed Paths); Veja o Som (See the Sound); Flor de Lis (Upside Down); February 1; Gloria; Nature Boy; CD2: Ahlê Sonora Garoa (Sonorous Drizzle); Morro Velho (Old Mountain); Cruzando o Sertão (Crossing the Hinterland); Feira de Mangaio (Street Bazaar); Canção do Amanhecer (The Dawn Song); April Child; Joana Francesa (Joana the Frenchwoman); Canto de Xangô (Xangô Chant); Alegre Menina (Gabriela’s Song).
Personnel: Jovino Santos Neto: piano, bamboo flute, flute, melodica; David Sanchez: tenor saxophone; Mike Marshall: mandocello, mandolin; Gretchen Parlato: voice; Paquito D’Rivera: C clarinet; Bill Frisell: electric guitar; Airto Moreira: voice, percussion; Tom Lellis: voice, shaker; Anat Cohen: soprano saxophone; Danilo Brito: mandolin; Joe Locke: vibraphone; João Donato: electric piano; Mônica Salmaso: voice; Ricardo Silveira: acoustic guitar; Luiz Guello: Pandeiro, effects, congas, djembe; Toninho Ferragutti: accordion; Joyce Moreno: voice; Vittor Santos: trombone; Paula Morelenbaum: voice; Gabriel Grossi: harmonica; Teco Cardoso: flutes.
Jovino Santos Neto on the web: www.jovisan.net
Review written by: Raul da Gama