While there is no sure cure for the blues, a large dose of Brazilian music often comes about as close to driving the dark clouds away as any remedy a physician is likely to prescribe. It is hard to listen to an album such as guitarist-composer Phill Fest's sunny Café Fon Fon without smiling and tapping your toes as misery and sadness bid their goodbyes. Who could resist the urge to grin while listening, for example, to his rhythmic salute to an "Avocado"?
Fest sings on that tune, as he does on several others, and is quite good at that too, as is Beatriz Mainic who makes it a twosome on "Each and Every Week," "O Barquinho" and "Ele e Carioca." The carioca is delightful, but no more so than the samba or bossa, each of which is used to good effect on various songs. Whatever the rhythm, Fest and his ensemble (basically a sextet plus Mainic) are bright and able, even blending in some North American-style jazz from time to time, as exemplified by saxophonist Pablo Gil and (on "Bossa no Choro") by guest pianist Antonio Adolfo. "Choro" was written by Phill Fest's late father, the renowned Brazilian-born pianist and composer Manfredo Fest.
Phill wrote the jazz samba "Isabel" for his wife, also "Avocado," the carefree "Smile on Your Face" and the irrepressible "Each and Every Week." Betty Krieger, proprietress of the Café Fon Fon (yes, it really is a jazz club) in Porto Alegre, Brazil, composed the gently swinging "Para Lili Fest" for Phill's mother, giving Phill a chance to solo spaciously on guitar, as do Gil on flute and pianist Robert Prester. Antonio Carlos Jobim wrote the easy-going "Ele e Carioca," another of Fest and Mainic's charming duets. The rhythm section, which sparkles throughout, consists of Prester, bassist Paul Shewchuk, drummer Michael Brothers and percussionist Tuti Rodrigues.
For what it is, Café Fon Fon is a splendid album whose compass is pointed for the most part due south. Would that there were more of it, as the playing time for its eight numbers is roughly thirty-three minutes. On the other hand, that's thirty-three minutes of lively music designed to boost one's spirits and banish the blues. You could do worse
Isabel; Each and Every Week; Bossa no Choro; O Barquinho; Smile on Your Face; Para Lill
Fest; Ela e Carioca; Avocado.