Meeco – Amargo Mel (Connector Records 2009)

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Meeco is a rather young musician who appears drawn not simply to the musical idioms of jazz, popular music and a myriad ones in the Latin tradition, he also set out to do what musicians of his age seldom attempt. He made a troubadour record. “Amargo Mel” is a very difficult project to pull off, even if you have a stellar cast that includes the likes of Reggie Moore on piano, Ron Carter on bass, Eddie Henderson on trumpet and flugelhorn, the late David “Fathead” Newman on tenor saxophone, Charlie Mariano on alto saxophone and Mario Morejon on trumpet… among a host of others.

But this is primarily a contemporary troubadour record. And there appears to be a seemingly unending source of lyrical material here. To showcase the material are several vocalists who have collaborated with Meeco to provide the lyrics and the vocals as well. Eva Ventura from Spain, Olvido Ruiz from Cuba, Rolanda Faria and Eloisia da Silva from Brasil. They are all fine vocalists, who show great sensitivity for the material they sing. Eva Ventura casts the songs she sings with an otherworldly atmosphere and she is expert at phrasing as well. She delivers her lines with sublime breath control and sensuality. “Nocturna” and “Para Siempre a mi Lado” are fine examples of her work on this record.

Eloisa’s contralto is also quite beautiful and memorable, but it is Rolanda Faria who is the outstanding vocalist of this record. He is able to tell a story, vary his tone ever so slightly on “Nao Chora Nao,” where he literally “cries” out the song that pierces the heart. On the moody, existentialist-sounding “Neste Mundo” Faria in a classic baritone–alternately exquisitely noir and star bright–turns the lyric into a black and white, dark and bright narrative reminiscent of the great Brasilian Dori Caymmi.

The instrumentalists provide great atmospherics as well. The classical music-oriented David Friedman does a positively symphonic reading of the score on “Neste Mundo” and Hubert Laws plays a haunting alto flute that weaves in and out of Friedman’s vibes and also Pepe Berns’ pedal point bass. Eddie Henderson provides the most sensuous moments on “Noites Vazias” and then returns to score a fine interplay with David “Fathead” Newman, who both swing through the rhythms of Rolo Rodriguez’ percussion and Olvido Ruiz’ mesmerizing vocals.

The record may have minor flaws. For one it is much too long. Perhaps Meeco could not find a way to keep some of the material out of it. But it is an accomplished work comprising some of the most romantic charts that ought to haunt the waves of jazz and Latin radio stations for a long time to come. As a first record this is music of considerable character and maturity. Meeco has a fine grasp of idiom and phrasing and also a singular feel for writing material sensitive to tone and color.

Track Listing: Nocturna; Impossible; Noites Vazias; Nao Chora Nao; Para Siempre a mi Lado; Neste Mundo; Enamorate; Amargo Mel; Esperando Voce; Eloisa; Eterno Amor; Lo Perdido; Intocable; Despedida; Ma Vie Feu d’artifice; Meu Amor (pro Eloisa).

Personnel: Eva Ventura: vocals (1,5,13); Olvido Ruiz Castellanos: vocals (2,7,10,12); Rolanda Faria: vocals (4,6,9,15); Eloisia da Silva: vocals (3,8,11,14); Reggie Moore: piano; Guilherme Castro: electric bass; Rolo Rodriguez: drums, percussion and background vocals); Bob Lenox: piano (6); Michael Griener: drums (6, 15); Jan Roder: acoustic bass (6); Pepe Berns: acoustic bass (9); Natalie Blaum and Alani Hoff: background vocals (6); Ron Carter: acoustic bass (15); Daniel Friedman: vibes (4,9); Eddie Henderson: trumpet, flugelhorn (2,3, 8,10,15); Hubert Laws: alto flute (9,11,14); Charlie Mariano: alto saxophone (6); Mario “El Indio” Morejon: trumpet, background vocals (7,12); David “Fathead” Newman: (tenor saxophone, flute (5, 10, 13); Meeco: all production.

Meeco on the web: www.myspace.com/meecojazz

Review written by: Raul da Gama

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