Review written by: Raul da Gama
Pianist Helio Alves’ playing is marked by the unsurpassed beauty of expression. The poetry of this expression is pronounced and manifests itself in the epic lyricism and melodious splendour of his dynamics. He is also blessed with a virtuosity that borders on perfection but one which he reveals slowly as his work becomes familiar to the ear and the heart. His lines are not as filigreed as would be expected of someone with such ability, but he lets them unfold in diaphanous waves. When he solos, his arms flap gently like the wings of a bird and then the lines emerge in ever widening circles and giant parabolas; and, as the emotion of the soli become pronounced, the melodic lines leap, creating a series of elevations until the heart of the melody is pierced to reveal its spectral dimension.
On this album, simply entitled, Musica Alves pours our his heart and soul in a manner so pronounced it is as if he were risking his life for that perfect note—the Holy Grail of pianists from Egberto Gismonti and Andre Mehmari to those much further back in time. That note is always in sight for Alves, and as he appears to become aware of its presence his playing gets more pronounced and viscous with emotion. This is something that gives his voice its singularity for Alves is a reticent artist; one who is diffident about being too loud and extravagant. However his musicality is recognisable for the depth of his emotion—whether he is playing with long slurred lines or with ones marked by the brevity of the notes and hence almost staccato. This emotional playing is one of his most valuable qualities as it is what distinguishes him from many of his peers and keeps him apart in the manner that someone who is blessed with virtuosity and emotion is.
The main colleagues on this recording are bassist, Reuben Rogers and percussionist, Antonio Sanchez. This is all Alves seems to need on this breathtaking musical expedition. The three musicians are forever interlocked in a perpetual dance that spirals and pirouettes its way into infinity. The bassist and drummer are just as flawless in their technique—this must have been essential to the choice of rhythmists for the date—and also play with extraordinary sensitivity. This abject beauty is typified by charts such as “Sombra” and “Flor das Estradas”. On the latter chart, the trio is joined by the great Brasilian guitarist, Romero Lubambo, who seems to have perfected the music of this song just as the trio has. Alves’ solo here is exquisite in the manner in which it has been paced and expressed—beginning slowly, but then gathering in speed and intensity until it reaches a crescendo at its natural end. Maestro Claudio Roditi graces some charts and his stellar turn on flugelhorn and trumpet on “Gaferia” is awe-inspiring.
This is an altogether memorable album; one that Alves is justifiably proud of. The beauty of the album also owes much to that production and the manner in which it has been engineered—recorded, mixed and mastered—for the resonant tone of the piano and the clarity of bass and drums has been beautifully captured as well.
Track Listing: 1. Gaferia; 2. Kathy; 3. Sombra; 4. Black Nile; 5. Flor das Estradas; 6. Musica das Nuvens e do Chao; 7. Adeus Alf; 8. Tribute to Charlie 2; 9. Chan’s Song.
Personnel: Helio Alves: piano; Reuben Rogers: bass; Antonio Sanchez: drums; Claudio Roditi: trumpet & flugelhorn; Romero Lubambo: guitar.
Helio Alves’ website: www.helioalvesmusic.com
Label: Jazz Legacy Productions
Release date: November 2010