In one of those eternal conundrums in the life of an artist, while Nando Michelin gets plenty of recognition he is relatively little known outside the small coterie of musicians who have taken the proverbial creative leap and transcended cultural boundaries. To be as little known as Michelin in outside intellectual circles is a pathetic fallacy. This is no fault of Michelin of course. He is technically superb and forges virtuosity and creativity together, turning out adventurous compositions.
Michelin fortunately remains unfazed by his small following and he has released eight outstanding albums. His latest is Reencontro, a joyous reunion of his trio – with Esperanza Spalding on bass and Richie Barshay on drums and percussion – adding Leala Cyr, a musician with an ethereal voice and who plays a superb trumpet as well. The pianist’s teenage son, Tiago also joins in on drums, on two tracks.
For this set Michelin brought two charts that he had recorded before, but he has recast them here. “Oxossi,” a forest sylph derived from Yoruba worship was first recorded on Michelin’s Double Time Jazz release, Chants (2000), a musical journey through Brazil’s Candomblé rituals and “Paul Gauguin,” from his splendid visual-driven Art (Double Time Jazz, 1999). Both charts are fresh and memorable all over again. “Oxossi,” with its mesmerizing shifts in rhythm that draw wonderful performances from Barshay and Spalding, who follow Michelin’s commanding lead. “Paul Gauguin,” equally tantalizing a melody is exquisitely navigated by Cyr, with her celestial flights of fancy as the ensemble is anchored by Barshay’s tabla in jhap taal.
The new material on this album makes it twice as memorable. “Reencontro,” begins tentatively, but then settles into a wonderful 5/7 pattern. “Parabola,” with its sharp architecture continues what seems to be a common theme of hypnosis with its shifting rhythms as does “Chymera,” which features stealthy tabla and “Kekume,” which comes with a quaint story of its origins, as it was coined from a phonetic transcription of a word that Michelin’s younger son invented. Once again, Michelin melds folk rhythms—such as chacarera, some maracatu (on “”Kekume”) and other Uruguayan folk forms—into a truly contemporary approach to the jazz idiom, using its elasticity and surprise to create some swirling, floating rhythms around which surprising melodic invention takes place. Although this is expected, Michelin and his core trio bring exquisite harmonic sophistication to everything they do on this album.
The tenderness of the ballad, “Paula” and the wistfulness of “Sea and Sand” should not be missed as they serve to shine a light on the softer side of the album that might otherwise pass off as one that merely features musical gymnastics between the musicians.
Much has gone into making this Reencontro exciting and an unforgettable experience. Most of that has to do with the tremendous empathy between the musicians, something that could not have been planned, but simply happened out of the telepathic transmission of pure joy
Tracks: 1. Reencontro; 2. Parabola; 3. Sycamore; 4. Question Mark; 5. Paula; 6. Oxossi; 7. Paul Gauguin; 8. Sea and Sand; 9. Chymera; 10. Kekume.
Personnel: Nando Michelin: piano; Leala Cyr: voice (1, 7, 10), trumpet (4); Esperanza Spalding: bass, voice; Richie Barshay: drums, percussion (1 – 5, 7 – 9); Tiago Michelin: drums (6, 10).[audio:http://www.latinjazznet.com/audio/reviews/Nando-Michelin-Reencontro.mp3|titles=Track 1 – Reencontro by Nando Michelin – From the CD “Reencontro”]
Nando Michelin on the web: www.myspace.com/nandomichelin
Review written by: Raul da Gama