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Back to Brazil: Part Two

Mark Holston By

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Charlston's meticulous arranging concepts avoid straightforward appropriation of the base rhythms initially employed by Pascoal and the other composers represented here. He leaves plenty of open spaces for marimba ostinatos and the reverent tone of Nash's clarinet and flute work. The intertwining of the leader's shimmering vibraphone line and Soskin's relaxed pianistics on the ballad reading of Hermeto's "Os Guizos" (The Jingles) underscore the session's expressive breadth.

Brazil's Biscoito Fino has become the symbol of excellence in that country's recording industry—a label that works studiously to ensure that every release is an undeniable work of art, from the photography and packaging choice of artists and repertoire. A kind of Latin American ECM, Biscoito Fino takes seriously its role in documenting the talents of Brazil's most distinguished instrumentalists. But, is the programming too esoteric for North American audiences? You be the judge.

Edu, Dori & Marcos is an example of a successful formula used by the label to spotlight the still vibrant talents of iconic national artists, in this case vocalists and composers Edu Lobo, Dori Caymmi and Marcos Valle. The mood is relaxed as the three stars take turns singing one of the others' compositions. The performances, mostly arranged by pianist Cristovão Bastos and featuring such notable jazz session artists as trumpeter Jessé Sadoc, trombonist Aldivas Ayres, and saxophonists Mauro Senise, Marcelo Martins and Idriss Boudrioua, as well as a sparely used string section, are the definition of unforced sophistication. Highlights include Caymmi's version of Valle's "O Bloco do Eu Sozinho," framed rhythmically by what sounds to these ears as a Marcha; Valle, with strings and horns backing him, crooning Lobo's hit "Canto Triste;" and Lobo's reading of Caymmi's sentimental "Velho Piano" (Old Piano). Lobo's stirring "Corrida de Jangada" (Raft Race), immortalized by the late Elis Regina's 1968 recording and sung here by Valle, is the session's lone up-tempo work.

Quase Memória, also on the Biscoito Fino label, features an 11-track program of mostly underexposed works by Edu Lobo. The composer is the date's sole vocalist. Two world class Brazilian jazz artists, woodwind player Mauro Senise and guitarist Romero Lubambo, get deserved equal billing. Such guests as clarinetist Anat Cohen, pianist Cristovão Bastos, and accordionist Kiko Horta are occasionally showcased. Lobo may not be a full-fledged jazz singer, but he is one of his generation's most intriguing vocalists—a master of phrasing with the kind elasticity and subtle inflections in his delivery that reflect strong jazz sensibilities. "Lábia" (Lip), a tune Lobo co-authored with Chico Buarque, is notable for Cohen's showstopping solo.

John Finbury is a Yank pianist and songwriter whose compositions sound as if they had been written by one of the great MPB (Popular Brazilian Music) composers. Sorte! (Luck) (Green Flash Music) features the definition of an all-star rhythm section—bassist John Patitucci, guitarist Chico Pinheiro, drummer Duduka Da Fonseca, and percussionist Airto Moreira, among others—with the arresting vocals of Thalma De Freitas. The singer mixes a lowkey approach and soft, pure vocal tones with an occasional surge of emotion. Go no further than the title track, where at times she sounds remarkably like vintage Elis Regina. This is the kind of Indi-label project that can get lost in the barrage of new releases. A strong suggestion: Don't let this one get away.

Yet another release that benefits from the presence of drummer Duduka Da Fonseca, A Moment of You (Blue Line), by vocalist and composer Daniela Soledade, owes the presence of a stylistically diverse setlist and orchestral variety for its fetching appeal. The date taps an interesting historic reference—a mid-1950s samba composition, "Sonho Desfeito," by the singer's grandfather Paulo and Jobim. Paulo Soledade is featured in a solo guitar turn on "Song for Baden," a tribute to guitarist Baden Powell he co-authored with his granddaughter. On "Veja Bem Meu Bem," a tune by Brazilian rock guitarist Marcelo Camilo, a dreamy reading with the addition of vibes and a solo by cellist Yves Dharamraj make it a standout track. And there are many. Marcos Valle's "Safely in Your Arms" and George Gershwin's "The Man I Love" are also on the hit list. At times, the singer sounds unerringly like Stacey Kent—a reference that is cemented by tenor saxophonist Jeff Rupert's Getz-like solos. That's a flattering comparison that will escape some and doesn't detract from the session's overriding level of exquisite and heartfelt performances.

In the concluding Part Three of this survey, we will consider the merits of new recordings by Eliane Elias, Benji and Rita, Marcos Silva, Ricardo Peixoto, Luciano Franco, Dalwton Moura, Claudia Villela, and Sofia Ribeiro.
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