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Brazilian pianist Helio Alves has put together Portrait in Black and White , a wonderful trio collaboration with bassist Santi Debriano and drummer Matt Wilson, who appeared recently at the Montréal Jazz Festival as part of the Charlie Haden Trio.
The opener, "Frenzy," an Alves original, develops slowly within its circular theme, then accelerates quickly into a first-class burner, with Alves whipping off a dazzling and complex solo, the ideas flowing effortlessly from his fingers as Wilson and Debriano scamper alongside him. "Sambetinho," another Alves original, is a breezy hybrid of samba and straight ahead jazz with more great piano, crisp drumming from Wilson and some nicely aggressive plucking from Debriano.
"Angel Eyes" is a bright, bouncy tune with compelling changes. Alves is a dazzling technincian and this tune bears it out. Debriano takes a nice plucked solo, Alves and Wilson trade fours and the group takes it out. The title cut, written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, is a ballad which Alves plays with both tenderness and reverence. "Falling Grace" again shows how light Alves is on his melodic feet, and Debriano takes a lovely bowed solo. A lush version of "You Must Believe In Spring" follows, with Wilson on brushes and Debriano playing a wonderfully melodic plucked bass. Alves and the group shift the focus, playing it a with a bop rhythm.
Another Alves original, "Loose Samba," is a clear example of the way in which Alves likes to challenge established ideas of rhythm, structure and harmony. He writes the songs to reflect the same type of deliberation with which he builds his solos, letting ideas expand gradually until they reach their full potential. "Song For Anna" is another Alves tune, a blues-filled ballad, wonderfully spare and uncluttered. Alves doesn't overplay his hand, so to speak - his melodic lines are clean and crisp.
"Loro," the disc's closer, is a light Latin bounce where Alves skips nimbly along the melody while Wilson and Debriano each have laudable solos turns to close out this impressive disc.
Track Listing: 1 Frenzy Alves 5:39
2 Sambetinho Alves 4:14
3 Angel Eyes Adair, Dennis 8:06
4 Portrait in Black and White Jobim 6:01
5 Falling Grace Swallow 6:32
6 You Must Believe in Spring LeGrande 7:41
7 Loose Samba Alves 5:14
8 Song for Anna Alves 5:54
9 Loro Gismonti 5:51
Personnel: Helio Alves: Piano;
Santi Debriano: Bass;
Matt Wilson: Drums.