For the carioca, Sergio Pereira, playing on the Portuguese word “Nu” as the title of his album Nu Brasil and then following it up with a wonderful play on strings to make it all come alive must be the easiest thing in the world. After all he is a strings player himself, playing what Brasilians call violão in the grand tradition of the long line of Brasilian guitarists which he not only follows but embellishes enormously. Mr Pereira has also taken a leap into the great unknown, so to speak, with music that has complex orchestrations, thereby mixing the traditions of men like Laurindo Almeida and Baden Powell with those of Heitor Villa-Lobos. A bold move indeed as Mr Pereira has not attempted before. His debut album, Swingando – although it featured a constellation of Brasilian superstars was a small ensemble effort. But this recording is another matter altogether…
Not only has the core group of guitar, piano, bass and drums together with percussion been expanded to include brass, reeds and woodwinds, but the unique feature is the addition of strings on two important – “East River” and “Per Te”. Also as before the voice emerges as a featured instrument and because Mr Pereira has employed an array of artists here he has been able to create an enormous palette of colours and textures. He sets the tone for this with “Down South” on which he sings in his floating style but then springs a surprise with Devin Malloy’s extraordinary rap that not only livens up the proceedings but adds a fabulous dimension to the music that adds a broodingly percussive tumbling groove to the music of this piece.
Elsewhere more surprises and intense harmonic pleasures abound rising to a crescendo on “Nu Brasil” with the gorgeously voice of Viktorija Pilatovic, whose soprano is pure, lithe and high-sprung. Harmonising her lead lines by doubling up on vocals and also with the horn of Voro Garcia is pure magic. The inimitable Paula Santoro appears on “Arpoador” and “Trem do Tempo” and for these two pieces no finer vocalist could have possibly been found. Miss Santoro is breathtaking. Her vocals grace both works floating and weaving with sublime clarity, precision and feeling. The rest of the group accompanies her with exemplary beauty. But it is pianist Baptiste Bailly who is exceptional here as elsewhere as is drummer Mauricio Zottarelli, who obviates the need for complicated percussion, sounding like a whole percussive ensemble with a simple drumset.
Of course neither of these vocalists are alone in taking one’s breath away. The incomparable Sergio Santos on “Greta” does much of the same. And so does the brilliant Helio Alves with his extraordinary pianism on “Sambinha” and “14 Clicks Away”; as do the ingenious harmonica player Gabriel Grossi on “Sambinha” and “Lascia Stare”, and the great Spaniard, Perico Sambeat offers a superlative mellow account of the music of “14 Clicks Away”. But it is Sergio Santos whose energising precision and passionate performances throughout who makes this album altogether special. His breathtaking articulation, and warm intonation adds colouristic brilliance to the music making this album something truly special.
Track list – 1: Down South; 2: East River; 3: Arpoador; 4: Greta; 5: Nu Brasil; 6: Per Te; 7: Sambinha; 8: Trem do Tempo; 9: 14 Clicks Away; 10: Lascia Stare
Personnel – Sergio Pereira: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals (1) and percussion (1, 7); Ales Cesarini: contrabass (1 – 6, 8 – 10) and vocals (1); Mauricio Zottarelli: drums and vocals (1); Baptiste Bailly: piano (1 – 3, 5, 6, 8, 10) and vocals (1); Alex Leon: soprano saxophone (1); Devin Malloy: rap (1); Patricia Garcia: violin and viola (2, 6); Sandra Villora Arenas: cello (2, 6); Paula Santoro: voice (3, 8); Sergio Santos: voice (4); David Gadea: percussion (4, 8); Oriente López: flutes (4, 8); Viktorija Pilatovic: voice (5); Voro Garcia: trumpet (5), flugelhorn (6) and string arrangements (2, 6); Marcus Teixeira: electric guitar (7); Ariel Ramirez: electric bass (7); Gabriel Grossi: harmonica (7, 10); Helio Alves: piano (7, 10); Perico Sambeat: alto saxophone (9)
Released – 2018
Label – ZOHO Music (ZM201808)
Runtime – 52:09
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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