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
Jules Hay: Where Next?
Where Next? The title of this disc seems to ask an existential question that many musicians might ask themselves. But do not be under the impression that the English guitarist, Jules Hay has found himself in a musical quandary at the proverbial fork in the road, unsure where he is going to next. Because if the title is asking an open question, the answer leaves one in no doubt about the music of Mr Hay. He is outward bound, which is to say that no musical convention is ‘safe’ at the silken touch of his deft fingers on the steel strings of his guitar. Mr Hay’s music is unmistakably English – elegantly minted with a singing quality melded with bluesy and funky, given the subtlest twists, nicely graded and transparent of texture that increases in density when electronic effects – delays such as rolling, metalic loops swirl in parabolic arcs in harmony with the melodic content of the songs.
And anyone who knew of Mr Hay’s previous recording would also know that he had a yen to travel to Brasil. But if you think you know what that might bring then you are in for a surprise. While this is a Brasilian project, it is anything but bossa nova and samba. If anything this music is – to use a term the great Charles Mingus once called a piece he defined as moving between a myriad of harmonic and rhythmic styles related to bebop: the word he used was ‘Osmotin’. Not only that the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic conception of this music lies deep in the funky groove with subtle hints of the hip-swish that is characteristic of Brasilian rhythms – the kind that is rooted in the heat of passion that – in turn – is at the very heart of Brasilliance.
The surprise for many listeners who have a notion of what Brasilian music must sound like is that the Brasilian musicians who share Mr Hay’s journey are on a similar – outward-bound – journey. Bassist Diogo Burka is one of the three pistons that drive this relentless musical engine, providing the most combustible grooves throughout this recording. Together with keyboardist Thiago Ueda, Mr Burka bends and twists the mystical capoeira-like rhythms as if he [alone] was privy to its secrets. While he constantly changes course to use a ‘less is more’ philosophy he challenges Mr Ueda to dig deep[er] into his music psyche.
The percussionists of note on this music are Marcus Cesar and Mauricio Bana. Together with drummers Roger Alexio and Elthon Dias the four colourists raise an imposing rhythmic edifice onto which wave upon wave of inventive harmonic variations beat down on our sensibilities. Mr Hay’s music inspires these Brasilian musicians to manipulate their own experiences of music – the balletic hints and moves typical of the mysterious and mystical codes of capoeira – in order to respond spontaneously and joyously to Mr Hay’s excellent music. These musicians convey a very real sense of Mr Hay’s [and Mr Burka’s] poetic conceptions being transformed into music.
The astonishing, sculpted inventions of “The 16th Baião” define the pinnacle of Jules Hay’s music. And just when you thought things couldn’t get any more spectacular, the mystical music of “Indígena”, whose measures eloquence takes on haunting colours and undertones as its hypnotic maracatu and marcha rhythms wash over your senses. There is great amplitude and warmth in the phrasing of this piece, which lets the music unfold with a thrilling upsurge of emotion, driven by the ethereal vocals of Mr Burka. It’s quite the magical apogee of this record that also owes much to the inspiration of the other Brasilian involved in this project – and that is Mr Hay’s old friend Alexandre Bressen, who produces this [and other music by My Hay].
Tracks – 1: Where Next? 2: Habanese; 3: The 16th Baião; 4: Looking for a Distraction; 5: Hope; 6: Blast from the Past; 7: Indígena; 8: The Road Out; 9: Destination Found
Musicians – Jules Hay: guitar; Diogo Burka: bass, and vocals ; Thiago Ueda: keyboards; Elthon Dias: drums; Roger Alexio: drums [4, 6]; Marcus Cesar: percussion [1, 2, 3, 5]; Mauricio Bana: percussion [4, 7, 9]
Released – 2022
Label – Independent
Runtime – 55:56
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