You can tell from just one look that Concerto is serious music seriously played by serious musicians. In the cover photo, Stein presents what us folks in the cliché trade would call "a stern visage and in case you weren't certain of the program, the title informs you directly that this is an international concert of jazz.
Stein recorded Concerto in a São Paolo studio with his touring band during a sold-out tour of Brazil. It is not a concert of Brazilian music; it is a jazz concert played by Brazilian musicians, including a rhythm section tuned to impeccably run: pianist Alexandre Zamith, who often sings in harmony with Chick Corea's "Spanish Heart, bassist Frank Herzberg, who contributes two tunes, and drummer Zé Eduardo Nazario, whom Stein calls (with good reason) "the Elvin Jones of Brazil.
Their journey begins not in Brazil, but in New Orleans, as Stein calls off his own tune, "Happy Hour, to lead the set. This blues shuffle swings from the fulcrum of Nazario's drum rolls and second-line cymbals, perfectly synchronized, bursting with music beneath the guitar and piano solosand in his own crackling solos, too.
Stein next guides the ensemble down his ballad "Lonely Street, intertwined flute and acoustic guitar leading a slow romantic dance that echoes the wistful "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes similarly intimates the classic "Love for Sale while demonstrating Stein's tremendous flexibility and musicality on electric guitar, playing sharply with the tasteful edge of Jim Hall, and the strength of his rhythm section.
Stein shows off his chops further in the simply swinging Grant Green's "Blues in Maude's Flat, slicing and dicing its groovy blues through a duet passage with funky Nazario into taut, hot and tight guitar licks.
The magic of surrounding Brazil does infuse two selections: Herzberg's "Marta, described in the notes as a bossa nova in triple meter and nearly blown clean off its chart by Bocato's trombone; and Jobim's "Inutil Paisagem, a portrait of longing elegantly rendered in sad-sounding trombone, highlighted with quicksilver splashes from guitar and cymbals.
Personnel: John Stein: acoustic and electric guitar; Frank Herzberg: bass; Ze Eduardo Nazario: drums; Alexadre Zamith: piano; Bocato: trombone; Teco Cardoso: bass flute; Pedro Ito: percussion.