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Dani Gurgel: DDG19 Big Band

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Dani Gurgel: DDG19 Big Band
Dani Gurgel was born into a musical family in São Paulo. Her mother Debora Gurgel (a busy pianist and arranger) and father (an amateur jazz saxophonist) met on the bandstand. Following her own musical path, Dani skirted gender biases in jazz culture that might have limited her opportunities by learning to do and play "everything," as she put it. She is quick to point out that things are "getting better," but hedged her bets by gaining proficiency in many instruments, including piano, flute, saxophone, guitar and bass. Her main instrument today is voice—the quintessential feminine role—but it was the last one she tried on.

Growing up in a cosmopolitan environment, she had access to such Brazilian jazz greats as the eminent Zimbo Trio, who founded the Centro Livre de Aprendizagem Músical (Free Center of Musical Learning), where Dani entered as a young child and—in her early teens—became part of the faculty. She holds a Ph.D. in communication from the University of São Paulo, with a dissertation on música popular brasileira (MPB). In addition to her schedule as an active touring and recording artist, she runs a studio and production company, Da Pá Virada, which produces photography, music and audiovisual content for various artists, labels and networks.

DDG19 Big Band, Gurgel's tenth album as a leader, is the first to employ a large ensemble format. At 19 pieces, the group runs slightly larger than is typical in the US, augmented by the addition of two flutes and voice. Dani and Débora Gurgel wrote the compositions, together and individually, with the elder contributing the arrangements. Buoyant up-tempo grooves predominate. The voice is often presented wordlessly in a palette of phonemes that is both personal and recognizably Brazilian. The album opener "Três Luas" (Three Moons) sets the pace, moving nimbly between partido alto, samba, baião and maracatu rhythms.

"Garra" (Claw) follows with a lively samba-funk feel. In a vein similar to Norman Mapp's "Jazz Ain't Nothin' But Soul" (Fresh Sound Records, 1961), the lyric refers to independent musicians who do all sorts of difficult things with "little or no help and a lot of good humor," as Gurgel put it, by rolling up their sleeves and maintaining faith in the sweat they give ("no suor que coloquei minha fé").

The contrapuntal, fleet and flute-infused "36-47" gives the singer a chance to demonstrate her chops as an improviser in a solo that signifies on the Great American Songbook with a reference to "It Might As Well Be Spring" (Rodgers and Hammerstein, 1945). Débora Gurgel stretches out at the piano in her lovely ballad "Luz" (Light), a melody that recalls Django Reinhardt's "Nuages." Among her arranging touches is a luscious blending of voice and trombone in octaves.

Guest appearances by American singer and trombonist Natalie Cressman (on "Dá Liçença" [Excuse Me]) and Brazilian electric bassist Michael Pipoquinha (on "Veredas" [Paths]) round out the program beautifully (YouTube, bottom of this page). Other highlights include the brisk baião "Rodopio," which lays a danceable rhythmic foundation upon which Maiara Moraes (flute) and Vitor Alcantara (tenor sax) spin swirling solos.

DDG19 Big Band is a joyous and thoroughly enjoyable outing. The album launch includes a remarkable US tour that has the core quartet (the Gurgels, drummer-percussionist Thiago Rabello and bassist Sidiel Vieira) conducting weeklong residencies in such venues as Berklee College of Music and California Jazz Conservatory, teaching their music to and ultimately performing with local big bands.

Track Listing

Três Luas; Garra; 36-47; Podicrê; Rodopio; Luz; Quiet Little Lady; Adagio - Sem Fronteiras; Sem Fronteiras; Veredas; Dá Licença.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Josué dos Santos: alto saxophone, flute.

Album information

Title: DDG19 Big Band | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Self Produced


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