The known versus the unknown-the famous versus the unfamiliar. I received this disc during World Cup fever/championship golf/hoops playoff time. A relevant ESPN piece weighed the relative number of worldwide fans for Tiger Woods, the Shaq and Brazilian soccer sensation Ronaldo. I'd never heard of the Brazilian dude, but evidently, he has more fans worldwide that Woods and O'Neal combined
! It would be nice if that were the way of things here, because I can't imagine receiving a recording featuring three musicians more unknown to and more deserving of an American (or worldwide, for that matter) audience than this one from a spectacular Brazilian trio.
It seems that this cd was independently released, in Brazil, no less, by Nelson Faria , who literally wrote the book(s) on popular Brazilian styles. What notoriety Faria does have is as a nylon string expert and arranger par excellance, performing on over 50 recordings with Brazilian stars like Joao Bosco, Ivan Lins, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Milton Nascimento, Toninho Horta, and Wagner Tiso. Guess what? He's on electric telecaster here and sounds as if Mike Stern and Wayne Krantz had merged , immersed themselves in Brazilian styles, and incorporated full measure of the idiom's elegance. But Faria is quite surprisingly capable of going wild like those other guys, spinning out line after line of blues-rock inflected bop and displaying similar mastery of unusual, high concept and very clean- sounding chords-all while incorporating every subtlety of the genre that has to be lived to gain.
Assumpção? Simply the greatest electric bassist in the history of Brazilian music, lost from this plane at the age of 46, to cancer, in early 2001. If you don't trust us, how about Michael Bourne, of DOWNBEAT who wrote: "Nico is one of the most flabbergasting electric bass virtuosi I've heard." He's played with every Brazilian name you can think of, including all listed above for Faria, plus Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Marcio Montarroyos, Raphael Rabello and (the equally criminally underheard) guitarist, Helio Delmiro. Internationally, such luminaries as Kenny Barron, Billy Cobham, Larry Coryell, Eliane Elias, Joe Henderson, Lee Konitz, Pat Metheny, Phil Woods and Airto have shared the bandstand and studio with Nico. I encourage you to visit his self-made website , maintained as he left it, for more details on his far- ranging career. He pioneered the use of five and six string basses, almost single-handedly reinvented the root/5 vocabulary of the Brazilian bass line, and is simply as freakishly adept a linear soloist on the instrument as anyone who has ever played it. Oh yeah - he was one helluva acoustic bassist as well, which might be the reason he employs a wonderfully woody tone on the electric instrument.
Cheib has played with Nasciemento also, and is given benefit of the extremely well-recorded proceedings here. His work is right up there with the world's finest in the idiom-convincing evidence of this is his incredibly wide pocket on "Los Turcos", the Latin fusion of "Ce Sa Ce Sons Pas Savas", or his solo on the closer, "Vera Cruz".
All the songcraft here, while refined, never crosses that line into "smooth" styles. "Sacopa" is a great example beginning with a tight but relaxed groove into Faria's solo, building into blisteringly clean descending riffing, the drumming intensifying until throttling back at precisely the moment things start to get out of hand. "Paca tatu, Cotia Nao" sports clever unison gymnastics between guitar and bass that in lesser hands, gave fusion a bad name, while maintaining a swing and a bounce that so often was a missing ingredient in many of these types of tunes. Dig Nico's sax-like sensibilities and transposition of lightning fast licks in the solo vamp. Then check out his tricky use of chromatic motifs in the unison passages, inspiringly pulled off, insofar as the ensemble reflects such high regard for form.
"Vera Cruz" takes a hypnotic, two-handed pattern by Assumpção, overlays perfectly comped telechord clouds, and is then succeeded in a clinic of root/five variation by Nico. The solo section begins as a reggae break, only to return to a the Latin bass line, with Nico providing another lesson in tasteful use of the lower string on the six string bass. Faria gets to stretch and build, showing us his capabilities in the electric arena, spicing his flowing, popping single note statements with double stopped blues rock power. Check out the climax of his solo for the record's best example of those long, linear Stern-like, sophisticated, scalar based bop runs, sporting clean, yet thick, tone.
"Juliana" is the embodiment of atmospheric Brazilian balladry, with what sounds like Faria accompanying himself on acoustic that is in fact actually being laid down by Assumpção, comping as tastefully as any fellow six stringer, although his six of choice happens to be a bass. It's a study in grace and depth, both of experience and technique. For all of Nico's linear facility, this one, with no solo, may be his most impressive work of the recording. To listen in remembrance of his spirit is to shed a tear. I prefer to think of that smile and the vitality that was captured by the Brazilian magazine VEJA who said: "What most players bite one's tongue to do, Nico does it laughing."
The precious 45 minutes herein begs for more, but as it stands, is an invaluable document of what happened when these guys went into the studio in April of 2000. Ten months later, any possibilities of recording this trio again were tragically cut short. To my knowledge, this recording is unavailable in the US, so get it through Nelson (who honored me by personally sending a copy from Brazil)'s website , or at Nossa Music .