Carlos Barbosa-Lima: Merengue

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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Carlos Barbosa-Lima
Zoho Music

There is distinct nobility surrounding the virtuosity of guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima. His South American sojourn, Merengue, presents sweeping vistas and myriad emotions described with degrees of technical superiority only a few other musicians have achieved. Unfortunately, Barbosa-Lima's reputation has not kept pace with his magnificent musicianship. But with this disc, he makes more than a double-leap forward.

Not only does Merengue do great things for Barbosa-Lima's reputation as a true master of the guitar, it also offers a staggering array of music from relatively unexplored regions of Brazil. Heitor Villa-Lobos is represented by the dense vibrancy of "Veleiro," a movement from his symphonic poem, A Floresta do Amazonica, and "Prelude No. 2," with its ever expanding dimensions of sonority. Redamés Gnattali, who composed several pieces especially for Barbosa-Lima, wrote the spectacularly performed "Invocation to Xango" that is carved out of Afro-Brazilian celebration ritual. Here it is given a fresh lease on life by Barbosa-Lima, who is accompanied by the percussion colorist, Duduka Da Fonseca, bassist George Anderson and the exquisite guitar trio of Barbosa-Lima, Karin Schaupp and Christopher McGuire.

Nestling cheek by jowl with the classics from Brazil are two charmingly moody pieces by Antonio Carlos Jobim—"Modinha," that features a heartfelt duet with the magnificent harmonica player Hendrik Meurkens, who returns to grace the guitarist's splendid efforts on Jobim's "Caminho de Pedra." The Cuban composer Leo Brouwer is also represented here by the vivacious "Danza del Altiplano" and "Guajira Criolla," a marvelously performed piece in all its colorful glory. Of course, there is much more here to give cause for considerable celebration, includng the music of Ernesto Cordero, the Uruguayan Isaias Savio and another Brazilian legend, Jacob do Bandolim, whose "Implicante" highlights the dazzling mandolin skills of Marcillio Lopes. There are also works by the Paraguayan Agustin Barrios, the Brazilians Ernesto Nazareth and Laurindo Almeida, and the Venezuelan, Rodrigo Reira. The great Venezuelan guitarist is honored by "Seis por Derecho." The Columbian composer Gentil Montaña is represented by "Nunca te Olvido," a rather lyrical piece.

Throughout the recording, however, the music is given new life by the exquisite lyricism of Barbosa-Lima. The guitarist has technique that is staggering and uses dynamics that few guitarists seem capable of in 2010. With great mastery and unbridled genius, Barbosa-Lima has singlehandedly expanded the literature of the guitar. The Brazilian is a bold innovator and has blurred the lines between classical, folk and popular idioms. His ingenuity makes the word "legendary" seems quite inadequate when describing just how intelligently and gracefully he is able to create utterly enduring jewels in music.

Barbosa-Lima has been a stellar concert guitarist for over five decades and has many recordings to his credit. This is his fifth for this Zoho label. Sadly, many of his recordings are now lost—a large part of his catalogue once existed in the vaults of Concord music but have been deleted. This album is also significant as it has been carefully produced by Heiner Stadler, a remarkably knowledgeable aficionado whose work spans the classic and the modern, as in his wonderful A Tribute to Bird and Monk (Tomato Records, 1986).

Here, however, Stadler presides over sessions of glorious vibrancy. The magic of this music remains in the memory many moments after the exquisite last chords have been struck by Carlos Barbosa-Lima on Byron Yasui's "Fantasy On A Hawaiian Lullaby."

Tracks: Invocation to Xango; Merengue; Veleiro; Modinha; Batuque; Caminho de Pedra; El Marabino; Seis Por Derecho; Prelude No. 2; Seis Milonga; Danza del Altiplano; Guagira Criolla; Cajita de Musica; Canhoto; Implicante; Cancion Carorena; Pais de Abanico; Nunca te Olvido; Escorregando; Fantasy on a Hawaiian Lullaby.

Personnel: Carlos Barbosa-Lima: guitar; Gustavo Colina: cuatro (2, 7, 8); Hendrik Meurkens: harmonica (4, 8); Marcillio Lopes: mandolin (14, 15); Duduka da Fonseca: percussion (1, 14, 15, 19); George Anderson: bass (1); Karin Schaupp: guitar (1, 3, 19); Christopher McGuire: guitar (1, 3, 19).

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Zoho Music | Style: Brazilian

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