Paradise in Brazil

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For decades, music from Brazil has served to illustrate valid arguments from BOTH sides of the classic “heredity vs. environment” debate. Listeners almost naturally sense an organic connection between the softly flowing rhythms of samba, bossa nova, and other Brazilian staples, and the tropical paradise of Brazil’s topography. At the same time, names such as “Jobim” and “Gilberto” and mysterious girls from Ipanema still twinkle with stardust and remain synonymous with the musical magic of Brazil.

Ziriguiboom: The Now Sound of Brazil
(Ziriguiboom / Six Degrees)

The Ziriguiboom label puts forth the sound of modern Brazil, and not just traditional samba and bossa nova but also plenty of electronic and club music. This sampler, assembled by Marc Hollander and Béco Dranoff (musical consultant for Angélique Kidjo’s luscious Black Ivory Soul ), compiles roster material from Bebel Gilberto, Zuco 103, samba-rockers Trio Mocotó and Bossacucanova, and others, combined with new works from Celso Fonseca and Cibelle, both of whom will release full length albums for the label in 2003.

The daughter of singer / songwriter and guitarist João Gilberto (known in Brazil simply as “O Mito” –“the legend”), Bebel Gilberto is probably Ziriguiboom’s most famous artist through her breathless and breathtaking 2000 debut Tanto Tempo, represented here by a remix of its title track by Peter Kruder of trendsetting European club mix producers Kruder & Dorfmeister. Trio Mocotó shakes down the house with “Os Orixas” from their twenty years in the making comeback, the charming and funky Samba Rock. So does Bossacucanova, three young Brazilian DJs / producers with guest vocalist Carlos Lyra who kick out “Influência do Jazz,” soulful Montuno funk strung along sly single note piano runs that wink and grin like Horace Silver weaving mischief.

It’s certainly no surprise but it bears mention that in Brazil there’s a whole lot of clubbing going on. Bossacucanova also appears with guitarist Roberto Mensecal, who led one of the first Brazilian instrumental bossa nova groups way back in 1958, to cut dashing figures through a smooth fusion of club music and soft jazz in the sleek Euroglide “Guanabara.” The production crew Raw Deal updates Erlon Chaves’ 1970s soul swinger “Cosa Nostra” into a funky hot dance track that bursts with cowbells and cymbals and whoops and flutes, softly dusted with electronic strings like confectioners’ sugar, plus a touch of be-bop in its peppery blue horns. Suba’s “Tantos Desejos,” remixed by Nicola Conte, “updates” its modern club thumping sparkle with the quaint island roots sound of trombone.

P’Taah: Staring at the Sun

Staring at the Sun is the second project as P’taah by producer, composer, and keyboard player Chris Brann, who has also released experimental club and electronic music as Wamdue and Ananda Project. Vocalist Terence Downs returns from the first P’taah set, Compressed Light, along with members of the roots electronica collective Kudu plus Julius Speed on Rhodes and other keyboards. Brann’s vision, expressed through eleven compositions interspersed with three ambient “Meditations” by Kima Moore, brushes Brazilian shades – specifically the pastels of airy vocals and melodies – into broader strokes of modern electronica, jazz fusion, and club music.

“I think the album covers some different angles of my influences. The Chick Corea, Herbie (Hancock) vibe, especially in the Rhodes sound. I’m fascinated with early Return To Forever, with Airto and Flura Purim,” says Brann. “This really sums up so much of my emotional influence and it truly represents ‘fusion’ music. There is also the more esoteric ECM overlay that creeps up as the album progresses away from the more club-oriented sound; Keith Jarrett, Steve Tibbetts and Pat Metheny / Lyle Mays are definite influences.”

This Sun provides precious little emotional warmth, due mainly to its fragile and icy, ECM-records’ style production, but it’s not without heat. The title track features Bramm on electronic keyboards in an edgy exploration of ground broken by Corea, Hancock, and Jarrett while in Miles Davis’ electric employ. Brann’s atmospheric and murky “Path” also conjures Davis’ mercurial modal spirit: Repeated piano chords, two pairs of two, lay the foundation for Gordon’s illuminative vocalese and trumpet passages that rise as slowly, steadily, and majestically as the morning sunrise. The sounds of Eddie Henderson meeting Pink Floyd meeting the Pat Metheny Group – wow!

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