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Arthur Verocai: March 15, 2009

Chris May By

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Arthur Verocai

March 15, 2009

Mochilla

2010

A commercial flop on original release, and forgotten but for a cult following prepared to pay top dollar for used copies, Brazilian songwriter Arthur Verocai's self-produced debut, Arthur Verocai (Continental Records, 1972), was rereleased on the Ubiquity label in 2003. By then, the disc had been all but forgotten by Verocai too; disheartened by its failure to sell, he had retreated into the world of TV jingles and theme tunes, where he'd begun his career in the mid-1960s.

Verocai's music is steeped in that uniquely Brazilian mélange of styles popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s—jazz, samba, lush strings, fluttering flutes and reeds and, on occasion, big brass. Strong on melody and with a high chill-out factor, it comes across like superior exotica or soundtrack music. It is easy to listen to, like a Titian portrait is easy to look at, but to call it "easy listening" would be to ignore the brilliantly crafted, nuanced arrangements and the consummate artistry of the singers and instrumentalists involved. How Arthur Verocai could have missed out first time around is bewildering.

Following the Ubiquity release, things changed for Verocai. Samples from the album were taken up by US rappers and remixers, and his international star began to shine. One result was the concert he gave with a 33-piece orchestra at the Harriet and Charles Luckman Fine Arts Complex in Los Angeles in March 2009, roughly half of which featured songs from the 1972 album. March 15, 2009 is a film of the performance, and it's magic from start to finish.

The orchestra put together for the Los Angeles gig includes some compelling soloists—among them singers Carlos Dafe and Clarisse Grova, alto saxophonist Justo Almario, tenor saxophonist Charles Owens, keyboardist Jose Roberto Bertrami, trumpeter Todd Simon, trombonist Elizabeth Lea, viola player Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and percussionist Airto Moreira. Their performances are bathed in rich horn and string arrangements and supported by a cracking rhythm section anchored by drummer Ivan Conti.

Stylishly filmed in black and white, and directed with unobtrusive flair by B+, March 15, 2009 contains concert performances of 18 tunes, with another two, in perfectly acceptable board mixes, added as special features. There's also a slide show of carnival in Recife.

The DVD is released by Mochilla as part of a three-disc box, Timeless. The other discs include father of Ethio-jazz, Mulatu Astatke's February 1, 2009, another excellently realized film, reviewed here.

Tracks: Karina; Sylvia; Dedicada A Ela; Velho Parente; O Mapa; Pelas Sombras; Caboclo; Seriado; Filhos; Quemadas; Balada 45; Sucuri; Flying To LA; O Tempo E O Vento; Isabel; Bis; Na Boca Do Sol.

Personnel: Arthur Verocai: composer, arranger, conductor, vocals (8), guitar (10, 12); Chris Lea: piccolo, flute, alto flute; Bobby Marshall: clarinet; Justo Almano: alto saxophone, flute; Tracey Wannamae: alto saxophone; Charles Owens: tenor saxophone; Geoff Gallegos: baritone saxophone; Dusty McKinney: trumpet; William Artope: flugelhorn, trumpet; Todd Simon: trumpet; Amy Sanchez: French horn; Elizabeth Lea: trombone; Paul Cartwright: violin; Wes Precourt: violin; Tylana Enomoto: violin; Daphne Chen: violin; Erika Walzak: violin; Ina Veli: violin; Reiko Nakano: violin; Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: viola; Tom Lea: viola; Peter Jacobson: cello; A.J. Fanning: cello; Jose Bertrami: keyboards; Alosio Aguiar: keyboards; Woody Aplanalp: guitar; Marcel Camargo: guitar; Edwin Livingston: electric bass, acoustic bass; Airto Moreira: percussion; Andres Renteria: percussion; Ivan "Mamao" Conti: drums; Carlos Dafe: vocals; Clarisse Grova: vocals; Diana Booker: vocals.

Production notes: 73 minutes; black & white. Extras: downloadable audio; special features; slideshows.

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