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Brazil, Brazil

Nick Catalano By

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For many decades now the music of modern Brazil has flowed to our shores bringing rhythmic richness and exotic sounds. It seems like yesterday that Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd and Astrud Gilberto introduced Americans to the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim (and the lyrics of Gene Lees) but that happened almost 40 years ago. Many thought that those early recordings would represent another passing fad in the endless quest for new sounds to cater to ever-fickle U.S. audiences. But in the time since “The Girl from Ipanema” the stream of Brazilian sound has continued unabated to titillate music fans not only in America but virtually everywhere on the planet.

Brazilian musical styles of many kinds have found their way here encompassing much more of the complex culture of this intriguing nation than ever before. The early samba and tropicalismo hits have given way to musics that reflect the Indian, Afro-Brazilian, European and Asian peoples that constitute the country’s multicultural landscape. From the exotic instruments of Bahia to the dissonant harmonies of Sao Paulo composers, musicians, vocalists and dancers continue to weave a tapestry of golden sound that seduces us all.

Rarely has a musical figure been able to adequately perform and interpret these multifarious styles and also educate audiences regarding their history and stylistic qualities. Such a figure is Hendrick Meurkens.

Born in Germany of Dutch parentage, Meurkens has spent much time in Brazil honing his talents on the vibes and harmonica while composing and recording sounds that have resulted in some of the best Brazilian music CDs on the scene. Last month at Sweet Rhythm Meurkens reunited himself with his Brazilian jazz group and continued his unique approach of performing some of the hottest of sounds while carefully, almost professorially, explaining the music, the origins, the early composers and the techniques of the tunes.

His group- an assemblage of NY-Brazilian legends (as opposed to the players in Brazil which after many years have a different sound that these musicians who emigrated here) performs flawlessly. Pianist Helio Alves, bassist Nilson Matta, drummer Duduka da Fonseca and Meurkens on harmonica and vibes play music from Gilberto and Jobim to the ancient (as old as American ragtime) sorinos with an authenticity simply unavailable elsewhere. The group’s next CD is almost ready- it features Paquito D’Rivera and Oscar Castro-Neves. Do not fail to purchase this one.

More excitement from Brazil arrives from Adventure Music – a company that specializes in delivering the latest and most authentic music on the scene. The recording sessions are brilliantly produced, the musicianship is first rate (and the CD artwork is pretty good too!)

Some new releases include:

Moacir Santos, Ouro Negro (Black Gold) – this versatile interpreter of Brazil’s African heritage has been at it for 50 years composing film scores, orchestral suites and ensemble recordings. Ouro Negro is a 2-CD affair that captures his harmonic individualism and mysterious instrumental juxtaposition.

The Orquestra Popular De Camara : an introductory CD that provides a sampling of the wide spectrum of Brazilian styles with some new sonorities and timbres. Nana Vasconcelos is a special guest.

Mike Marshall & Choro Famoso : an American mandolinist/producer surrounds himself with Brazilian all-stars and local musos to reflect upon the use of odd instruments and unusual voicings in highly accessible session.

For a complete listing, visit Adventure Music at www.adventure-music.com .

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