So once again we are presented here with Awakening, an album by a Carioca living in New York, Itaiguara Brandao, and first things first: with about 6000 sessions under his belt in Brasil and the US, we must recognise genius. Itaiguara is that genius, a guitarist and bassist, but above all a musical polymath, brilliant in every aspect of the art – writing and arranging, and instrumentalism. This album proves what most of the cognoscenti have known for a while, that this young musician is an exceptional artist worthy of that term that is usually applied to an artist who has produced record after record of perfect art. And yet it is possible to recognise Itaiguara Brandao as a kind of artist with just this one record. He excels at everything he does musically to the extent that only one other young Brasilian I have heard recently (André Mehmari) has done.
Whatever fretboard Itaiguara Brandao wraps his long fingers around responds to him like a pliant lover who has been sensuously aroused. I love the crisp articulation and lightly caressed strings in the introductions and outer movements of his songs, arresting, impetuous genius that pops up without being blasé. He has little inclination to bathe the passagework in an impressionistic haze, as many players do. He occupies a sound world where his guitar and bass becomes a painter evoking places and events, and Itaiguara Brandao reacts accordingly with playing of beguiling, warm sensuality (try Meu Rio – both versions – or the profoundly beautiful waltz Meditando, or the wickedly brilliant rendition of Jacob do Bandolim’s O Vôo da Mosca), which, to my ears, are intimations of greatness. On the latter you will find that you might not have heard such virtuosity since one Jaco Pastorious or Victor Wooten.
As a writer Itaiguara Brandao employs labyrinthine counterpoint, the like of which you might only hear in music of a classical idiom (Listen to his Choro) and you will find its classically inspired textures wholly attractive and beautifully played that you will be left – as I was – quite breathless. He writes idiomatically not only for the instruments that he is a virtuoso exponent of, but also brass and woodwinds and strings as well. But more than anything, Itaiguara Brandao’s writing is rich in melodic grace, poetry and whimsy as well as harmonic imagination. His music is so appealing and varied in form and mood that it’s impossible to resist its intimate magic. His waltz and Choros are especially captivating but so too are his portraits, ballads and sambas.
The performers on this record approach these gems on this recording as if they adore every note. Cellist and pianist, saxophonist/flutist and percussionists wrap Itaiguara Brandao’s voluptuous sound around their melodies and toss off the occasional acrobatic solos with panache. Every one of the musicians contributes his or her mite with deeply felt emotion and so they become terrific partners on this recording which really takes off when Itaiguara Brandao packs nuanced and crisp artistry into each and every piece. Clearly my album of the year already.
Track List: Why Dream; Awakening; Meu Rio; Cerro; De Volta ao Brasil; Luana; Cores; Meditando; O Vôo da Mosca; Chorinho pro Cidinho; Meu Rio (instrumental).
Personnel: Itaiguara: guitar, bass, double bass and backing vocals; Dom Salvador: accordion; Paulo Braga: drums; Oriente Lopez: flute; Mauricio Zottarelli: drums and percussion; Jorge Continentino: woodwinds; Klaus Mueller: piano; Gilmar Gomes: percussion; Davi Vieira: percussion; Laura Metcalf: cello; Cidinho Tiexeira: piano; Nadia Maudoo: violin; Greta Panettieri: vocals; Jessé Sadoc: trumpet and flugelhorn; Rob Curto: accordion; Janet Grice: bassoon; Naná Brandao: vocals; Eliano Braz: violin; Ofer Assaf: tenor saxophone; Yotem Silberstein: electric guitar.