Bons Amigos is a collection of light, breezy compositions from several generations of Brazilian composers. Lilting sambas and gentle bossa novas make up the bulk of this disc, resulting in a relaxed but heartfelt jam for Brazilian trumpeter/flugelhornist Claudio Roditi and friends.
Roditi admits to playing "a few more notes" than usual here, though he often equates "playing a lot of notes with 'showing off.'" Yet Roditi's double-time phrases on the brooding "Para Nada" plumb composer Eliane Elias' harmonies, rather than simply flaunting his own technique. On his original "Bossa De Mank," Roditi's fast fingers are playful but never over the top. Following pianist Donald Vega's spiky bop lines," Roditi cools down Johnny Alf's "Ceu E Mar," before tossing in his own mellifluous runs.
Roditi's consistently warm, spacious tone suits his innately melodic approach to everything he plays. According to Roditi, it's also a function of the rotary valve instruments he uses; still, he could probably make a kazoo purr. Roditi also treats his material as compositions, rather than just heads to play through. On the disc's title track, he takes his time and shows care for Toninho Horta's tender melody, before improvising his own song without words. Roditi's rich lower register and Romero Lubambo's acoustic guitar take "Fantasia" through several impressionistic variations, yet they never entirely discard its shapely theme.
Roditi surrounds himself with musicians that are confident enough to occasionally let their talents be felt rather than heard. Vega's rhapsodic introduction to "Bons Amigos" diffuses through his whispered comping behind his colleagues. His glowing, Cliff deMarks-inspired chords alongside Mauricio Zottarelli's sensuous brushwork support Roditi's wistful vocal on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Ligia." Trading fours with the group on faster numbers, Zottarelli incorporates swing, bop and Latin excitement without overheating. Bassist Marco Panascia contributes lucid, long-breathed solos and faster, guitar-inspired riffs throughout.
Aside from Egberto Gismonti's driving, minor-keyed "O Sonho," the group paints with colors and ideas, but rarely pushes limits. "Amandamada" includes a jagged theme and harmonically ranging Roditi solo over a carefree samba. Even the straight-ahead swing of "Levitation" has an air of tropical laissez-faire to it. Tamir Hendelman is credited as arranger on several tunes, but his charts are similarly easygoing.
Bons Amigos ends with the carnival rhythms of "Piccolo Samba," and Roditi soaring on piccolo trumpet, before climaxing on a five-part overdub of the diminutive horn. Roditi's high note displays and mixing board effects sound as though he's smiling from behind the horn. He's having fun and is not out to impress. Claudio Roditi and his amigos don't have to worry about showing off, unless warmth, melody and humor sound intimidating.
O Sonho, Para Nada, Bossa De Mank, Ceu E Mar, Bons Amigos, Ligia,
Levitation, Fantasia, Amandamada, Piccolo Samba.
Claudio Rodit: trumpet, flugelhorn and piccolo trumpet; Romero Lubambo:
electric and acoustic guitars; Donald Vega: piano; Marco Panascia: bass;
Mauricio Zottarelli: drums; Tamir Hendelman: arranger (1, 2, 5, 8, 9).
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