As in football, so also in music, Brasil’s cup runneth over. So great is the outflow in fact that both have reached the furthest corners of the world. Interestingly, however, there appear to be more guitarists [percussionists excepted] per square-kilometre in Brasil than any kind of musician and instrumentalist. Both are also Brasil’s greatest gift to the music scene in the USA. Sergio Pereira is one of those great gifts – a musician of such prodigious talent that we listen in a state of wonder and awe – once again – to the music he has created on Finesse.
Expectations are always high when it comes to Mr Pereira’s music and he does not disappoint with this recording. On the contrary, his music thrills as never before. The arrangements are more complex than Mr Pereira has attempted before. Each arrangement seems to provoke the musician interpreting the music to reach deeper into his imagination so as to integrate his own soundworld into the universe of the music that he is playing. The result suggests interpretations [of the music] that are as personal as possible, featuring new ideas and openness towards new horizons.
As a guitarist Mr Pereira also possesses a key to the musical winsomeness and the desire for infinite euphoria. These musical outbursts of alegria tinged by the de rigueur saudades are as Brasilian as anyone can get, and both indescribably ephemeral emotions are present in the glacial harmonic tone textures of the music across the repertoire of this album – especially when the guitarist resorts to his signature chordal and single-note lines that adorn the beautifully sculpted lines of his work. A fine example of this is in the streams of long inventions of “Morning Mist” and in the languid phraseology of “Dreams”.
Sergio Pereira has scored an elegant and proverbial goal by eliciting the partnership of another composer and drummer, the incomparable Mauricio Zottarelli – a fellow-Brasilian – to shape the production. At the very outset it needs to be said that so powerful and vivid are Mr Zottarelli’s percussion colours that the need for a “Brasilian” percussionist to express the Brasilianness of the album is almost completely obviated. The drummer is a whole percussion section in itself. Together with the inimitable bassists Mark Egan, and Brasilians Paulo Paulelli and André Vasconcellos a proverbial rhythmic wall forms the backdrop of these exquisite songs.
The sultry vocals of Paula Santoro [“Samba de Outono” and “Frio Lugar”], the percussive vocalastics of Filó Machado [“Finesse”] and the rhapsodic vocal ornamentations of Milene Corso and Camilla Pereira [“Desfilando e Vitoria”] are all uniformly superb. Meanwhile the alto horn of the incomparable Ralph Moore [“Quase”] and the elegant brass and woodwind section of Rubinho Antunes, Rodrigo Ursaia [“Desfilando e Vitória”], and David Mann [“Let it Out”] richly ornament the respective songs. And few pianists play with the delicate, yet majestic touch than pianist Helio Alves.
But there is also the overall presentation of the leader’s sound world – its luscious tumbling musical sertão [so to speak], unveiled in the flights of fancy courtesy of addition of the radiant Christos Rafalides’ vibraphone infused into the music of “Finesse”. And then there is the high and lonesome harmonica lines of the great Gabriel Grossi, and the robust and character and colours of the horns that shape the musical evocations on “Desafilando a Vitória” and the beautiful dolor of the brilliant virtuoso Vitor Gonçalves’ accordion on “Frio Lugar”… all this and much more makes for an album like no other from the musical genius of Sergio Pereira.
Track list – 1: White Lion; 2: Morning Mist; 3: Samba de Outono; 4: Finesse; 5: Quase; 6: Give Me Five; 7: Desfilando a Vitória; 8: Let it Out; 9: Frio Lugar; 10: Dreamsville
Personnel – Sergio Pereira: guitars [1, 3 – 5, 7 – 9], acoustic guitars [2, 6, 10], percussion  and voice [1, 5, 7, 8]; Helio Alves: piano [1, 5]; Matt King: keyboard, piano and synthesizer ; David Mann: all keyboards and co-arranger , soprano and tenor saxophones, and flute ; Mark Egan: bass [1, 4, 6, 8]; Paulo Paulelli: bass [2, 3, 10]; André Vasconcellos: bass [5, 7, 9]; Mauricio Zottarelli: drums; Emilio Martins: percussion [1, 5, 7]; Reza Khan: rhythm guitar and guitar FX ; Marcos Teixeira: electric guitar ; Christos Rafalides: vibraphone ; Gabriel Grossi: harmonica ; Ralph Moore: alto saxophone ; Rubinho Antunes: trumpet and flugelhorn ; Jorginho Neto: trombone ; Rodrigo Ursaia: tenor saxophone, flutes and horn arrangements ; Vitor Gonçalves: accordion ; Paula Santoro: vocals [3, 9]; Filó Machado: vocals ; Milene Corso: background vocals ; Camilla Pereira: background vocals 
Released – 2022
Label – Sedajazz Records
Runtime – 51:31
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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