Among all of the musical idioms of the world Brasilian music must be one of the most seductive; the most attracting of musicians no matter what their compulsion. But let it be known that mastering their complex and myriad rhythms is no easy task. Samba is deceptively simple, but ever tried to dance correctly to it? And then it gets more exciting and challenging: capoeira, frevo, maracatú, xôte, and the list goes on as the music and dance gets more dizzying. Still the brave and the foolhardy alike never tire of attempting music and dance in the Brasilian metaphor. There is a little bit of both in Phil DeGreg: a kind of reckless ingenuity that makes this album, Brazilian People really worth listening to. More than once. There is something here that suggests the music belongs to the rollicking rhythms of the streets rather than the relative facile elegance of a concert hall, though the rustic charm of Brasilian music also has a place there sometimes. However, like a frevo in Pernambuco, the greatest enjoyment might be gained from experiencing the music and dance on the street.
Brazilian People is authentically Brasilian. Anytime that Hermeto Pascoal appears on a collection of music then it is a sign that the musicians are making an effort to go deeper. And this recording begins with “Valley of the River,” a rarely heard gem from El Brujo, (“The Sorcerer”) as Hermeto Pascoal is affectionately regarded. His composition offers a peep into Mr. Pascoal’s world, which is beguiling and draws the listener in as if a monumental spell has been cast. Mr. DeGreg captures this spirit convincingly and with maximum animation. In one of several surprises here the melody is also expanded a bit to allow the song to take on a kind of life of its own, without being washed too far away from where Hermeto Pascoal wanted it to be. There are also three charts by Antonio Carlos Jobim and although they are somewhat predictable numbers the music reveals a firm control of (Bossa Nova) tempo while still providing ample room for expressive playing.
Of course there is no way a recording that attempts to traverse the musical topography of Brasil without the work of Antonio Brasiliero, some important and monumental musicians are conspicuously absent: Vinicius De Moraes, Dorival Caymmi, João Gilberto… to name but a few. On the flipside João Bosco, Marco Silva and Edu Lobo (whose profoundly beautiful “On Lia’s Island, In Rosa’s Boat” is profoundly beautiful in Phil DeGreg’s hands) get an even shorter shrift, so the selection of charts achieves an ultimate balance anyway. And then there are the musicians themselves… all fine to a man. It is impossible to single out any one for special mention. All of them deserve the accolades they will receive in their time. And Phil DeGreg is not only a fine pianist, but also a worthy leader, who makes it all happen with class and finesse.
Track List: Valley of the River; A Felicidade; Fresh Biscuits; Ano Novo (New Year); Brazilian People; A Yankee in Brazil; Café Com Pão; On Lia’s Island, In Rosa’s Boat; Double Rainbow; Triste.
Personnel: Phil DeGreg; piano; Kim Pensyl: trumpet, flugelhorn; Rusty Burge: vibraphone; Aaron Jacobs: bass; John Taylor: drums and percussion; Bruno Mangueira: guitar (4, 6)
About Phil DeGreg: Phil DeGreg began playing the piano in his childhood and now performs as a jazz pianist internationally. His earliest jazz influences were Bud Powell and Bill Evans, but he is accomplished and comfortable in a wide range of jazz styles, ranging from mainstream to bebop to Brazilian jazz. His versatility has led to professional performances with dozens of internationally recognized jazz artists, as well as leading and recording with his own groups. Phil DeGreg has released eleven recordings as a leader and has been recorded as a sideman on many other jazz projects… Read more…
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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