Enlightening Uruguayan fusion for the new millennium. In the late 50s, young brothers Hugo and Jorge Fattoruso played in Uruguayan street festivals with their washtub-bassist father Antonio. A few years later the brothers founded the popular Latin-rock band Los Shakers, and eventually the New York fusion band Opa, which combined the traditional candombe
rhythms of their homeland with red-hot fusion chops. They also performed with Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira in the 70s; Hugo was the principal writer on Airto’s 1973 album Fingers
Forty-odd years later, back home in Uruguay, the brothers have reformed the trio with Hugo’s son Francisco on electric bass. Unlike the original trio, however, here’s no street-busker folkiness here. The group’s breeding in multiple Latin and fusion styles results in a torrential downpour of fresh sounds. While the South American roots of Trio Fattoruso are evident, the disc isn’t as dominated by Latin rhythms and structures as one might expect. This is a matchlessly remarkable fusion effort, no matter what its nationality.
The pinpoint interplay of the three performers gels into a vital solidity, exemplified by the perfectly coordinated accents of piano, bass and cymbals on the intro of “Ahchi Kohchi”. The light-hearted waltz “Esa Tristeza” features a vocal by Hugo that recalls Michael Franks, but wittier and more mind-adhesive. “De Igual A Igual” almost reaches thrash-metal intensity at times, intercut with rapid minor passages. Drummer Jorge machetes his way through “Distortion Generator” beneath Francisco’s searing metal guitar and Hugo’s funky keyboard dance-quacks. “Gospel For J.F.P. III” sounds as if it was generated by a computer possessed by the Holy Spirit. It’s both unexpected and utterly uplifting, like many of the other selections here. While the band veers through wild stylistic changes from track to track, the disc never sounds unfocused. The variety is all part of the grand plan.
Hugo selects keyboard sounds that are both unusual and completely appropriate to the tunes. In other settings some of these tones might sound cheesy, but they work magically here. Hugo’s spidery rhythmic sense is also quite singular. The fleet, complex performances of Francisco and Jorge almost imply the presence of a few extra limbs. Francisco’s bass work is particularly invigorating throughout. He colors “Tiempo” with Pastorian harmonic figures, then moves into a melodicism reminiscent of Pat Metheny. While he has obviously done his homework regarding fusion styles, he takes it far beyond the usual aping of icons and into brand new territory. His emotive plucking on “Queixa” is firm enough to drive the mood home without overwhelming the underlying gentleness. And from the subtly complex lope of “S.T.C.-P.M.” to the pure crush of “De Igual A Igual”, Jorge is focused and wholly versatile as a drummer. He clings to these elaborate rhythms like white on rice but can stretch out like Silly Putty when needed.
Between them, the members of Trio Fattoruso have conjured a refreshing, consistently surprising disc. This Latin American family affair bears much repeated listening; one of the year’s most entertaining releases. (http://www.bigworldmusic.com; http://www.candombe.com)
Personnel: Hugo Fattoruso, keyboards, vocals; Francisco Fattoruso, bass, electric guitar on #4, 12; Jorge Fattoruso, drums.