Thanks in large part to the inimitable drummer Duduka Da Fonseca and Family Adnet, the music of the great Brasilian maestro, Tom Jobim remains top-of-mind and is not relegated to becoming a kind of saveur du jour, something that the music of composers no longer with us is often left to become. It does, of course, help that Mr Da Fonseca is married to the vocalist of immense allure, Maucha Adnet, who performed for a decade with Mr Jobim’s last prodigious ensemble, Banda Nova. But there is something more and quite extraordinary that the drummer is doing about [and with] Mr Jobim’s music and that is to bring to light rarely heard gems together with rendering them in a manner that is wholly new and set in a completely new soundscape, yet evocative of the majesty of Mr Jobim’s Bossa Nova own idiom.
Mr Da Fonseca speaks of Samba Jazz, which might sound somewhat quaint. But what he is trying to do here is to provide a spark that will ignite a combustive new kind of musical idiom. This is done by invoking the cool and languid shuffle of ars Brasilia that is propelled in the wide, swerving swing that is invoked in the name of Jazz. This might seem simple, but it is, in fact, a rather delicate art undertaken on a rhythmic tightrope that many have attempted, but few rhythmists have achieved with the sense of Brasilian “bigness” with which Mr Da Fonseca does – and has done for years. In this regard he has had the unstinting support of his vocalist-wife, who sings with the kind of rarefied air of romance that endeared her to Mr Jobim for all those years.
On Samba Jazz and Tom Jobim Mr Da Fonseca has brought together a somewhat differently constructed group, front-loading the music with horns of Billy Drews, who plays off the harmonisations of another quite extraordinary expatriate Brasilian – pianist [and composer] Helio Alves. Another fine addition to the group is bassist Hans Glawischnig, whose sinewy rumbling on the contrabass fortifies the harmonic and rhythmic end – even stepping out to make a powerful melodic statement on Mr Alves’ superb composition “Helium”. The superb Brasilian virtuoso guitarist Romero Lubambo – a third of Mr Da Fonseca’s Trio Da Paz – is unleashed on five charts and turns the Jobim-rarity, “Polo Pony” into a masterpiece. The great [and sadly, late] trumpeter Claudio Roditi is heard in all his glory on “Gemini Man” and masterful Wynton Marsalis is gem-like on “A Vontade Mesmo”.
The album’s crowning glory is, ironically, the song that is neither samba, nor jazzy, or anything from Tom Jobim. Instead it is a feature for Miss Adnet singing in English. And she responds by offering us a glimpse of Bess’ elemental pain. George Gershwin had always intended to describe the pathos of his character as such but Miss Adnet’s Bess is a thing of such absolute beauty that you don’t hear her Portuguese inflections, focusing instead on the monumental sadness of the lyric and its bittersweet pain. In doing so she turns “I Loves You Porgy”, a great cathartic moment on this exquisite recording by Duduka Da Fonseca, one of the most inventive Brasilian drummers around.
Track list – 1: Gemini Man; 2: Alana; 3: Untitled; 4: Pato Preto; 5: Dindi; 6: A Correnteza; 7: Pedra Bonita da Gavea; 8: Helium; 9: Você Vai Ver; 10: Poly Pony; 11: A Vontade Mesmo; 12: I Loves You Porgy
Personnel – Billy Drews: saxophones and flute [2 – 7, 9, 10, 12]; Romero Lubambo: guitars [1, 2, 5, 9, 10]; Hans Glawischnig: bass; Maucha Adnet: vocals [4 – 6, 9, 10, 12]; Helio Alves: piano and Fender Rhodes; Duduka Da Fonseca: drums; plus featured guests – Claudio Roditi: trumpet ; Wynton Marsalis: trumpet 
Released – 2020
Label – Sunnyside Records [SSC 1563]
Runtime – 1:05:15