To understand the profundity of the nature of “samba” it is essential to understand its etymology. Brazilian folklorists suggest that it is a corruption of the “Kikongo” word, samba, translated as umbigada in Portuguese, meaning “a blow struck with the belly button” this is the depth of the drumming; a bellowing note that is as primal as any rhythmic sound can be. This blow resulted in a frenzied music and dance, a batuque, which was as varied as the people of Africa. Mixed by the master musicians of Brazil it became anything and everything: from bate-baú and samba de barravento to coco and tambor-de-crioula and soco travado; bambelo, Partido-alto and caxambu; muidinho and jongo. The idiom and poly rhythmic drumming of jazz was no different—coming into America from a similar source.
So when Duduka Da Fonseca, a master musician from Brazil melds these together in New Samba Jazz Directions a fabulous and further kind of refinement emerges in all the powerful splendour of 2/4 time of samba melding with the 4/4 time of jazz achieving something like multiple polyrhythms extending the architecture of Elvin Jones and with the classic John Coltrane Quartet to tower over even the proverbial one at Babel. Moreover, Mr. Da Fonseca has created a mighty vortex, from which his drumming creates powerful almost palpable harmonics by manipulating his brilliantly tuned tom-toms to issue plump, round notes as if to add another instrument to the trio, effectively making this almost a quartet with the almost-echo of congas and other African-sounding percussion. Conversely Mr. Da Fonseca has created a sound that moves the percussive nature of his music ever-forward validating the word “new” in the title of his record.
Duduka Da Fonseca is a brilliant composer; something that goes unnoticed almost every time he issues a record. This time around there is an almost deliberate attempt to subsume his compositional abilities into his drumming. It is almost as if he has felt a “new thing” upon him in the same way as Ornette Coleman felt when he created his recordings of the late 50’s and early 60’s. Duduka Da Fonseca seems to be made almost entirely of music; so much so that his manner of playing suggests musical drumming rather than the mere rhythmic attack of conventional drumming. The strokes become notes that emerge from deep within him—a blow struck with the belly button—or even deeper than that; from his very soul. Da Fonseca’s arms are mere vehicles of spectral source that propels them. They first carve the air in wide arcs, from high above his shoulders; then are cut and thrust in the busy area around his waist; slashing the air, which is, by now, simmering hot just above the drums. He rattles the snares, creates whispering notes on a myriad of cymbals; roars on the tom-toms and punctuates his long, yammering lines with the occasional depth bomb on the bass drum. His soli are short; breaking up the songs with wondrous forays into the realm of deep polyrhythms.
Da Fonseca seems to enjoy the compositions created for him and his tight ensemble to shine. The opening chart, “Duduka’s Mood” is a classic case where the drummer has been set free to soar and swoop. His break halfway through the song breaks up its melody by creating a veritable counter melody which sets up the song from samba-jazz to samba. Incidentally this chart, composed by the pianist, David Feldman shows the close simpatico that pianist and drummer seem to enjoy. “Tetê,” and “Bad Relation” are other songs that simply play into the hands of the magnificent drummer. Mr. Feldman serves up another classic chart in “Samblues” that digs deeper into the pulsating heart of African-Brazilian-American music. This chart is Mr. Feldman’s finest hour—literally as well as figuratively. The bassist, Guto Wirti delves into another side of the drummer—the more pensive side Mr. Fonseca shows in his elegiac portraits of his children, “Alana” and “Isabella”. Drummer and bassist create a language that is gorgeous and three dimensional enabling the music to accost the ear with music that imitates a diaphanous canvas. His solo on the former song, where he plays melodiously on his tom-toms is absolutely marvelous. Then there is the richness of harmony and the rousing nature of the rhythms of which begins with “Solito” and continues through both the portraits mentioned earlier… “Céu E Mar,” from the pen of the great Johnny Alf—a favourite of Brazilian musicians who grew out of the 60’s—is awash with splendid harmonies and rhythms.
By inference this is a very important musical expedition by a very important Brazilian-born, New York-based musician. It marks Duduka Da Fonseca’s career with a leap as it simultaneously creates a new kind of drumming that is deeply harmonic and wondrously polyrhythmic. It also adds to the language of drumming on a celestial bridge between Brazil and America, as well as adds to the musical literature of music in general and in samba-jazz in particular.
Track Listing: Duduka’s Mood; Sonho De Maria; Solito; Alana; Isabella; Zelão; Tetê; Céu E Mar; Bad Relation; Samblues.
Personnel: Duduka Da Fonseca: drums; David Feldman: piano; Guto Wirti: bass.
Label: Zoho Music | Release date: July 2013