Producer Neil Weiss founded the Big Music label in order to release some live performances of legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius in various configurations. After the label was off the ground, he turned his attention to the south and released some noteworthy CDs by steel drummer Othello Molineaux, Brazilian Toninho Horta, and a nice collaboration between Romero Lubambo and Gil Goldstein. But Weiss’ latest passion, to which he has devoted the label’s attention for the time being, is the music of Uruguay. That small nation, wedged in between Brazil and Argentina, obviously feels the musical influence of those countries, but also claims it’s own unique African-flavored music called “Candombe.” One of Uruguay’s premier musicians (and a common factor on all but one of Big World’s Uruguayan releases) is keyboardist/composer Hugo Fattoruso. Fattoruso has worked extensively in Brazil with such luminaries as Airto, Milton Nascimento, Djavan, Chico Buarque, and Toninho Horta. He’s spent time in the U.S. as well, so he has absorbed a wide range of musical influences into his own personal style.
Homework is largely a family affair. Hugo’s wife Gabriela sings on several cuts, son Francisco plays bass, and Alex and Christian play guitar. Brother Jorge, a world-renown drummer with whom Hugo frequently records, isn’t on this CD; however, there’s an ensemble of twelve percussionists on hand to keep the Candombe rhythms firmly in place.
The music on this disc focuses on folk tunes, a few with the surging percussion (especially “El Gramillero,” on which the last three minutes is all percussion ensemble), but more often accompanied only by Hugo’s keyboards, accordion, or guitar. You’ll hear some pop, jazz, and other Latin styles embedded in the work. But you’ll hear more of these genres on the Trio Fattoruso and Ruben Rada CDs, which I will review in the near future. This CD is more home-grown. Hugo is primarily known as a keyboardist, but he sings extensively on this disc and turns in competent performances. Almost all of the vocals are in Spanish, with the exception of the tender lullaby “Can’t Reach,” sung in English to a child he must be away from too often.
Hats off to Neil Weiss for introducing us to this previously under-recorded musical culture! (Big World BW 2020)