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Brasilian Report

The Reunion Project: Varanda

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The Reunion Project - Varanda

The Reunion Project - VarandaListening to Varanda by The Reunion Project, I am struck by how they make of music a living, breathing being, drinking in its heady notes as if savouring some creamy nectar, pulsating rudiments of some refined anthropophagic repast. Such is the aroma of this feast that I am drunk just from being near it; long before sitting down to enjoy what I am beckoned to feast upon. I regard these musician anthropophagi, smiling at me from the photograph on the CD cover. Certainly they are not the same anthropophagi, whom we encounter in Pliny’s account of them, “dwelling ten days’ journey beyond the Borysthenes, according to the account of Isigonus of Nicæa, (who) were in the habit of drinking out of human skulls, and placing the scalps, with the hair attached, upon their breasts, like so many napkins…?”

For these are five Brasilian musicians, benign anthropophagi that form The Reunion Project that hardly seems something they will do. It is true, though, I am more inclined to follow Cyro Baptista’s vision of anthropophagi – musicians who have consumed notes that form melodies and harmonies, and polyrhythmic pulsations in every musical language on earth, digesting each sinew and extracting from that every drop that might bring flavour to what these musicians might create from it. This is what the music of Varanda comes into being; not some conscious beating of a drum or manipulation of keys on a piano, guitar or double bass but, as Felipe Salles puts it: a “natural chemistry”, a depth in the way they know each other “that’s unexplainable but that translates into the music”.

To this Salles might have also pointed to “Maracatim”, a piece of such spellbinding rhythm that a sudden drunkenness comes over me, which transports me through a musical portal into the long room where the table has been set for the musical feast. I am constrained; bound hand and foot, and with mouth gagged and eyes blindfolded only allowed to experience what I can through its aroma and its sound. The musicians count off one tune after the other quietly as if they are introducing me to the banquet set upon the table; the turntable of my CD player. “Sinuosa”, “Cobalt Blue”, “Sunset”, “Jack and the Goblin Brother”, “Varanda”, “Reunion”, “Mathias” and “Yesterdays”…names of fine creations to set upon with sensual, ravenous delight.

This is a musical experience that is at once something both dream-like and real, and something so utterly unforgettable not the least because of Felipe Salles and his radiant woodwinds and reeds, whose rhapsodic contributions are intertwined and juxtaposed with those of Chico Pinheiro, legendary for his maddening virtuosity on guitar, the dazzling pianism of Tiago Costa, the elegant rumbling of Bruno Migotto’s bass and the velveteen rumble of Edu Ribeiro’s drums, all redolent in a gleaming tonal quality. Together the tone of the music on Varanda is often lingeringly elegiac, and may well surprise those who associate Brasilian music primarily with the raucous samba than with such music as played by The Reunion Project, which lives and breathes in all its anthropophagic glory.

Track list – Sinuosa; Cobalt Blue; Maracatim; Sunset; Jack And The Goblin Brother; Varanda; Reunion; Mathias; BR; Yesterdays.

Personnel – Felipe Salles: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Chico Pinheiro: guitar; Tiago Costa: piano; Bruno Migotto: bass; Edu Ribeiro: drums.

Year Released – 2017
Record Label – Tapestry/Capri Records
Running time – 1:06:33

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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Brasilian Report

Rique Pantoja: Live in Los Angeles

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Rique Pantoja

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: Live in Los Angeles
Rique Pantoja: Live in Los Angeles

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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