How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Brazillian jazz has advanced light years beyond Getz/Gilberto, the best-selling 1964 record that introduced mainstream American audiences to bossa nova. Trio Da Paz, a guitar/bass/drums trio featuring three Brazillian New Yorkers, exemplifies the freshness of color and pulse that this particular combination of music can offer. The group draws deeply from the traditions of both Brazillian music and jazz, and in the process crafts a distinctive new sound. On their fourth record, Café, Trio Da Paz explores a range of compositions from Bach (yes) to the American songbook and Brazillian tunes, exercising a flair for crystalline melody and rhythmic color.
Three special guests join the trio for this record: vocalist Dianne Reeves, saxophonist Joe Lovano, and organist Cesar Camargo Mariano. Unfortunately their involvement on six tracks does little but detract from the percolating energy of the trio. Fans of these artists may find their efforts in this special context remarkable, but they simply fail to keep up with Trio Da Paz. Reeves handles melodies with characteristic warmth and clarity, but her improvisations sound dated and simplistic. Lovano completely misses the point when it comes to rhythm: he boxes himself in to the detriment of the simmering energy that otherwise characterizes the trio. Finally, Mariano adds texture but he just can't keep up with the depth of the group's sound.
That said, the remaining tracks on Café are phenomenal. These three players have incredible intuition, and they speak with one voice. Guitarist Romero Lubambo takes melody, rhythm, and harmony and fuses them into one soaring entity, always assuming a forward-looking posture. Bassist Nilson Matta provides deliciously understated counterpoint, alternately serving as foil and anchor. Finally, drummer Duduka Da Fonseca deftly delivers multi-dimensional patterns that draw upon the rich drumming heritage of the African diaspora without ever losing the lightness that is the essence of the Brazillian tradition. When Trio Da Paz gets up to speed, it is mind-numbingly successful. Perhaps that's why the special guests on this record just don't work out: they just can't come close to the level of interplay and cohesion that defines the core trio. Regardless, Café is some of the finest Brazillian jazz to hit this reviewer's ears in a long time.
Track Listing: Saudade da Bahia; Love is Here to Stay; Arioso; Baden; Wave; Blues
Walk; Cafe; Influencia do Jazz; Softly As In A Morning Sunrise; 48th Street Baião; Gentle Rain; Humpty Dumpty.
Personnel: Romero Lubambo: guitars; Nilson Matta: acoustic bass; Duduka Da
Fonseca: drums. Featuring Dianne Reeves: voice (2,9); Joe Lovano:
tenor saxophone (5,10); and Cesar Camargo Mariano: Hammond B3