A single letter separates the English and Portuguese spellings of the world's fifth largest country, but that letter distinguishes between an outsider's view and the way that an insider takes it all in. Brazil is for tourists, but Brasil is for those initiated in the musical ways of this South American land of wonder. While Israeli guitarist Yotam Silberstein was born more than six thousand miles from Ipanema Beach, he displays the understanding, insight and sensitivity of a man who was born and bred in the land of Jobim.
For this, his fourth leader date and second effort on the Jazz Legacy Productions label, Yotam, who dropped his last name when Resonance (Jazz Legacy Productions, 2010) dropped into stores, assembled a collection of rarely-covered gems from the pen of Antonio Carlos Jobim ("Antigua"), and some of the better known works of Brazilian composers that rarely get their due beyond the borders of their homeland (i.e. Edu Lobo, Carlos Lyra, and Dorival Caymmi). His cast of collaborators include Brazilian bigwigs (guitarist Toninho Horta and Claudio Roditi on flugelhorn), up-and-coming Americans (woodwind wonder Sharel Cassity), high profile horns (Roy Hargrove and Paquito D'Rivera), and underrated veterans (bassist and label head John Lee), and they all come together as one, under the banner of Brasil.
The music itself can be subdued and sensitive, as shown during the profoundly beautiful meeting of Yotam and Horta on the leader's "Nocturno," cutesy and playful ("O Barquinho"), or lively and effervescent ("Influência Do Jazz"), but it's always absorbing, regardless of the emotions at hand. Drummer/percussionist Vanderlei Pereira creates a solid rhythmic foundation at every turn, which makes for a smooth ride through the music, and the soloists feed off of his energy during the more excitable numbers. "Piano Na Mangueira" is the perfect example, as Pereira's drums, cuica and samba whistle set the party tone for the song, creating a solid foundation for Yotam and pianist David Feldman to work over.
Hargrove and Roditi add depth and substance to each number they appear on, and D'Rivera brings an impish sense of joy to the music during his two guest shots, but Cassity deserves to be recognized as best supporting actor or actress. She lightly colors the music with her clarinet and brings some additional warmth into the picture with her alto flute.
While it's a given that an established leader should be able to solo, the mark of a fine leader is in their ability to bring a band together with an aligned sense of vision and purpose. Yotam deserves high marks on both accounts for Brasil.
Influência Do Jazz (Influence Of Jazz); Doce De Coco (Sweet Coconut); Falando De Amor (Words Of Love); Saudade Da Bahia (Missing Bahia); Antigua; Nocturno; Piano Na Magueira; O Barquinho (My Little Boat); Eu Te Amo (And I Love Her); Pra Dizer Adeus (To Say Goodbye); Samba Da Minha Terra (Samba Of My Country).