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Live Reviews

Free Jazz Festival - Brazil

By Published: March 12, 2004
In the Friday, the Clup opened with Yamandú Costa. Frantically saluted by some critics as "o Hendrix do violão" ("the Hendrix of the acoustic guitar"), Costa played unaccompanied a repertory that included classics of the Brazilian guitar ("Desvairada", "Lamentos do Morro", both by Garoto; "Brasiliana no. 3", by Radamés Gnattali), other classics like the choro "Brejeiro", by Ernesto Nazareth, the valses "Rosa", by Pixinguinha, and "Luíza", by Tom Jobim, along with folkloric songs of his region (south of Brazil) and even his take on two jazz themes ("'Round Midnight" and "All The Things You Are"). Costa evidenced at the same time an exuberant and rustic technique, showing velocity but an unfinished articulation. For those who know well the music of his region of South America, the remarkable influence of Argentinean milongas, zambas and tangos, of the chamamé correntino, of the Paraguayan harp, is easily recognizable, especially in his harmony and overall sensibility. Indeed, in spite of his being a young violonista (21 anos), and of the fact that many of the executed pieces already bring in their structure an advanced harmony (like Astor Piazzola's "Adiós Nonino"), it was evident in his improvisation and arrangements a preference for a melancholic, non-dissonant harmony, reminiscent of the traditional music of that region dominated by feelings of loneliness provoked maybe for its territorial vastness. This is not to say that the overall impression aroused from his playing is that of melancholy. On the contrary, Yamandú, with his preference for the impetuosity, for the spectacular, with his somewhat excessive use of sound, brightness and less subtle percussive effects, and with his natural anxiety to be noticed in this artistic debut, will most certainly benefit from age and experience which, bringing the professional maturity to a musician who already possess the necessary tools for a significant work, will soften what is hard in him, and will fortify what in him still vacillates.

It was when occurred the best in this Free Jazz Fest's edition, and maybe the best moment of all editions. It may be said that the audience was unprepared for Randy Weston's African Rhythms Quintet. Weston, at 75, brought a sound that, through his research on African music, avoided deliberately jazz clichés and conventions in search of a 3rd millennium language. Alex Blake (bass), who had been in Brazil 30 years ago, where he came accompanying Dizzy Gillespie, maybe was the one who best epitomized this conscious pursue through his avoidance of single-note solos, privileging chords and strongly percussive effects. Talib Kibwe (alto sax/flute) and Benny Powell (trombone) dialogued in duets which substituted the extroverted idea of a festival performance for an almost religious introversion, dominated by an attention and respect for the emission of each note that transcended the spectacle and suggested a mystical devotion. The group, which also comprises the percussionist Neil Clarke, presented pieces like "African Sunrise", where Weston explored the piano as a polyrhythmic instrument; "The African Cookbook" and "The Shrine" (which had an Indian-scale ecstatic flute solo).

The night still had much to give with the Benny Golson Sextet (Benny Golson, tenor; Curtis Fuller, tb; Mulgrew Miller, p; Valery Ponomarev, tp; Lonnie Plaxico, b; Carl Allen, d) doing a tribute to Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, with original arrangements. Though Golson's solos were somewhat disappointing, showing a lack of continuity and connection between ideas, the level of the audience's excitation reached surpising levels with the brilliant performance by Ponomarev, followed closely by Miller's at the piano. Ponomarev exceeded himself in fluency and inventiveness both in the quick tempi and in ballads, deserving special mention the classic "I Remember Clifford" (Golson). Correspondingly, Allen was up to the mark of the one to whom the homage was paid, especially in "Blues March" (Golson).

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