Most fans, even aficionados of contemporary music, still only vaguely know the great trumpeter Claudio Roditi as the “Brazilian who joined Arturo Sandoval in Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra”. It is a pity that Roditi’s musical reputation rests on so narrow a spectrum in his enormous musical career. Few know, for instance, that Roditi was one of the first Brazilian musicians to relocate in the United States of America: in 1970 as a matter of fact. Since then he has criss-crossed America playing with the likes of Tito Puente, Mario Bauzá, Ray Barretto and Dizzy Gillespie. In Brazil he played with José González and a host of others. He has played in every idiom of music: from bebop to rumba, samba and was nominated for his first Grammy in 1995 for his quintessential solo album Symphonic Bossa Nova with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ettore Stratta.
In recent years, Roditi has come into his own again in intimate settings that he has created with fellow Brazilians, percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca, bassist Leonardo Cioglia among others. And his work literally shines in deep bronze colors and shades. Roditi has a singular voice as melodious and spare as that of Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown, both of whom he once cited as reasons for his coming to the US. However, Roditi has forged a path of his own, melting the sensuous nature of Brazilian music into an idiom aglow with the infinite ache of saudade and alive with bebop. So stunning and inimitable is his sound that he seems to set fire to a room in which his music is heard and much of this comes in fact from the exquisite recordings he has made with George Klabin and Resonance Records.
His third album is Bons Amigos that takes its name from a gorgeous melody created by another fine Brazilian musician, Toninho Horta. Once again Roditi soars and this time, it seems, into the proverbial azure so much so that he creates a blues of his own. It is the warmth of his tone, which can be both heartbreaking and joyous at the same time, that seems to emanate from so deep within his musical soul that it brings with it a gravitas that creates splashes of color and shade of mauve and brown and gold as well as indigo and deep blue. His silken timbre is gracefully resonant and infinitely bold and his notes rise and fall like cascading waves. He is—in a word—unique. Roditi has also picked his repertoire here with such studied majesty that the charts sound positively regal even as they are quite accessible to even the casual fan.
“O Sonho,” with its brisk “maracatú-like” rhythmic attack makes a stunning beginning for the album that rises to greater heights as it progresses. Roditi’s latest drummer, the brilliant Mauricio Zottarelli gives notice here that he is a force to reckon with as he shades the piece with earthy tones and polyrhythms. Elsewhere—on “Fantasia” for instance—Zottarelli shows how sensitive he can be. Roditi is also joined by the Brazilian guitarist, Romero Lubambo, one of the finest and oddly, one of the most neglected geniuses of modern guitar. Lubambo shows his ingenuity throughout, especially on “Amandamada” where he appears almost vocal-like on electric guitar. Nicaraguan pianist, Donald Vega is another member of Roditi’s stellar cast here and wastes no time in showing how much in the pocket he is, especially on the trumpeter’s original, “Levitation”.
Then there are the two outstanding pieces on the album: the first is “Ligia,” a heartbreaking ballad featuring Roditi on vocals. With a voice so full of longing and remarkable phrasing, Roditi negotiates a marvelous piece. And then there is “Piccolo Samba” played on the piccolo trumpet, a rather difficult instrument that Roditi has appeared to have come to terms—even mastered in his own way. This chart also features a fine solo from the Italian bassist, Marco Panascia.
This album must surely cement Claudio Roditi’s reputation as a modern master of brass and win him both accolades and awards if true aficionados in this otherwise dismaying industry are paying close attention.
Track list – 1: O Sonho; 2: Para Nada; 3: Bossa de Mank; 4: Ceu e Mar; 5: Bons Amigos; 6: Ligia; 7: Levitation; 8: Fantasia;
9: Amandamada; 10: Piccolo Samba
Personnel – Claudio Roditi: trumpet, flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet, vocal (6); Romero Lubambo: electric and acoustic guitars; Donald Vega: piano; Marco Panascia: bass; Mauricio Zottarelli: drums.
Released – 2011
Label – Resonance Records
Runtime – 1:03:45
Rique Pantoja: Live in Los Angeles
The West Coast of the United States has had a rather long – and celebrated – association with the music of Brasil. Rique Pantoja is tapping into the Brasilliance on his Live in Los Angeles album. Moacir Santos created by far the greatest series music when he moved to Pasadena, California from Brasil in 1967. He quickly began turning heads with his spectacular take on the lineage of the [post bebop] cool, melding it with the music of his home-state, Pernambuco, in his very singular mix of other dance forms from Brasil. Other influential Brasilian musicians whose artistry collided with West Coast Cool were Cesar Camargo Mariano, Airto and Flora Purim [when she was there once upon a time] to name a few Brasilians who influenced the North American West Coast sound.
Rique Pantoja, by virtue of his extraordinary musicianship, his long-limbed compositions that seem to roll along with their exquisite, naturally danceable rhythms, can also lay claim to this august line of musicians. His music, captured on this beautifully-recorded album seems to express the sheer joy – the alegria – of being alive and in love. The composer [and pianist] seems to indulge fully his predisposition for dreamscapes as he is on stage, allowing the lyrical saxophonist [and flutist] Steve Tavaglione to stretch and take extraordinary melodic and harmonic excursions with winding, lyrical lines of his own seemingly intoxicated by the enraptured emotions ensconced in the music.
The pianist’s poetic fantasies – such as we listen to on “Da Baiana” – evoke images of voluptuous eloquence in the form of a sultry, baiana, rhythmically hip-swishing her way down along fine white sand of the Coconut Coast in Bahia. With rippling keyboard grooves, Mr Pantoja conjures vivid, lifelike imagery of surf beating around us, while Mr Tavaglione’s flute, with cascading lines from the guitar of Ricardo Silveira wail and moan and whistle melodically. Meanwhile the percussionist – Cassio Duarte – and drummer Joel Taylor – re-create the sizzle and steamy seduction of baiana’s rolling rhythm along with the deep rumble of the bass played with extraordinary facility by Jimmy Earl.
“Arpoador” is one of the finest songs on the album that had already mesmerised the audience with its tintinnabulation of the keyboards introducing the opening strains of Mr Pantoja’s magical and mystical song. Even under the Brasilliance of “1000 Watts” the audience seems to be under the hypnotic spell of the music from then on… a spell that is only broken when Rique Pantoja and this marvelous ensemble gently awaken them with the balladic – and balletic – aural dreamscape of “Pra Lili”, to close a beautiful set that offers an astonishing insight into Mr Pantoja’s artistic conception.
Tracks – 1: Arpoador; 2: Julinho; 3: 1000 Watts; 4: Da Baiana; 5: Bebop Kid; 6: Que Loucura; 7: Morena; 8: Pra Lili
Musicians – Ricardo Silveira: guitar; Steve Tavaglione: saxophones and flute; Rique Pantoja: keyboards and vocals; Jimmy Earl: bass; Joel Taylor: drums; Cassio Duarte: percussion
Released – 2022
Label – Moondo Music [MDO-2022
Runtime – 1:08:13
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