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Duduka Da Fonseca: New York City, March 19, 2011

Dan Bilawsky By
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Duduka Da Fonseca Quartet
Jazz Standard
New York, NY
March 19, 2011 (First Set)

Everybody in Manhattan seemed to be celebrating something on the evening of Thursday, March 17. Those with Irish eyes were smiling as green beer flowed freely in corner bars throughout New York City, but a different kind of celebration was taking place at Jazz Standard. On this particular evening, the club kicked off a four day celebration of drummer/percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca's birthday, and the festive mood carried on throughout the weekend. Fonseca—the reigning king in the Brazilian-meets-Big Apple realm of drumming—book-ended this stint with performances from an augmented version of Trio Da Paz, but Friday and Saturday night featured an expanded version of his quartet.

The (jazz) star studded line-up, which featured the two horn frontline of trumpeter Claudio Roditi and clarinetist-saxophonist Anat Cohen, delivered a set of music that was built atop buoyant grooves masterfully dealt out by Da Fonseca and his rhythm section mates. The band kicked things off with Tom Harrell's "Terrestris," a perky Brazil-meets-boogaloo presentation. Cohen, wielding her tenor saxophone, delivered a remarkably robust solo that was heavy on soul and Roditi fired off some rapid runs as his solo drew to a close. The follow-up—"Pro Zeca"—produced even more fireworks, as Da Fonseca dove headfirst into these lively waters. Cohen, backed by some montuno-like machinations from guest pianist Kenny Barron, came next, and each subsequent soloist added more heat to the mix. Barron's solo exuded a rhythmic joie de vivre that had the audience—and Cohen—dancing in place, and Da Fonseca displayed his percussive brilliance with a solo that that was initially built on the rhythmic structure of the song and went further afield before the band returned to take things out.

"The Peacocks" was the biggest surprise of the set, and Da Fonseca prefaced the performance by reminiscing about his early days in New York, when he would go down to the now-defunct Bradley's to see the legendary Jimmy Rowles tickling the ivories. Guitarist Guilherme Monteiro provided some gentle gestures as the music set sail, but Cohen and Roditi delivered the most haunting performances. Cohen's clarinet spoke the familiar melodic strains of the piece and Roditi—with harmon mute in horn—delivered a spellbinding solo. Da Fonseca and his frequent bass companion, Nilson Matta, supported the music with subtle, yet steady rhythmic underpinnings, while the horn players held the audience in a trance.

Hermeto Pascoal's "Chorinho Pra Êle" proved to be a showcase for Cohen's naturally playful and virtuosic clarinet work, but the focus went back to Da Fonseca for the final number. The percussion master brought out a berimbau and proceeded to perform on the single-string percussion instrument as a prelude to the Baden Powell and Vinicius De Moraes song of the same name. Matta's rich arco lines filled up the room and, after a stunning solo from Monteiro, he capped off the set with a crowd pleasing solo spot of his own. While this celebration actually took place two weeks prior to Da Fonseca's 60th birthday, it was long overdue. Da Fonseca has served as the rhythmic catalyst for countless projects and rightfully deserves the recognition and plaudits he received during this four-night run.

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