Luxurious, green rolling hills probably spring to mind when thinking of Brazil's northeastern region. As rich in culture and traditions as it is in chlorophyll, the areas of Pernambuco, Paraiba, Sergipe, and particularly the small coastal state of Alagoas have all produced many renowned artists. One of thosemulti-instrumentalist/composer Hermeto Pascoal, a fascinatingly unique, iconoclast musicianwas pianist Jovino Santos Neto's employer from 1977 to 1992.
In Alma Do Nordeste, Santos Neto offers a diversified program, one that includes a wide palette of hues consisting of folk-based pieces and musically-transposed personal encounters with the region's "soul" (hence the "Alma" of the album's title), spirit and diverse cultural elements. Like his mentor, the Carioca (or Rio-based) pianist succeeds in transmitting the region's multifarious beauty and appeal.
Aided by a slew of capable Brazilian musicians, Santos Neto frames his pieces in a contemporary-sounding, jazz-infused setting with soft fusion overtones that sometimes verge on the festive. Out of the happy bunch, the sweet slurs of harmonicist Gabriel Grossi command attention on the two more pop-ish tracks, "Rede, Sossego e Chamego" and "Biboca," as do the fretless glissandi of Dudu Lima, whose playing recalls Jaco Pastorius, the late bassist and friend of Pat Metheny. While their compositional styles and artistic aspirations are quite different, many will find in this music a comfortable extension of the Metheny Group's amazingly popular recordings of the 80's and early 90's.
One also learns that Santos Neto was greatly influenced by percussionist Airto Moreira. So it comes as no surprise to find a fierce musical leader and master technician in drummer Marcio Bahiaespecially his playing on "Amoreira," with its crazy coda, but also on "Forro Vino," a driving track with tight, syncopated accents.
Exemplifying the old saying that all music is folk music, the opener "Festa na Macuca" recalls the accordion-squeezed, gumbo-drenched Creole shindigs heard in southern Louisiana. Drawing on the homeland's African heritage and, consequently, more ritualistic/spiritual traditions, "Passareio" is a percussive vignette with a pair of flutes wailing above sampled natural sounds, superimposed rhythmic patterns and repetitive drum beating.
In sum, it may not be too far-fetched to state that, in the album's peculiar co-sponsorship by Brazil's Ministry of Culture and energy giant Petrobras, as well as by its own artistic factory, Alma Do Nordeste somewhat symbolizes Brazil's sociological dichotomy: enthusiastically looking ahead into the future, yet inhabited by the weight of its history; looking for ways to honor the past, while at the same time, going beyond it.
Track Listing: Festa na Macuca; Saudade de Sua Gente; Amoreira; Passareio; Sao Pedro na Jangada; Rede, Sossego e Chamego; Fulo Sertaneja; Alma do Nordeste; Biboca; Forro Vino; Borborema; Donkey Xote; Vermeio Agreste Lampiao.