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Guilherme Monteiro Quartet The Jazz Gallery New York, New York June 20, 2009
Guilherme Monteiro took the stage at the Jazz Gallery with his quartet on a subdued Saturday night in June as part of the Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records (BJUR) festival. Monteiro was playing in support of his debut album, Air, recently released on BJUR. By show time, it had been raining off and on for the better part of three straight days, and walking the streets of New York, it was obvious that much of the energy had been sapped from the city that never sleeps. Monteiro & co. responded with a set made up primarily of ballads, choosing to stay with the mood rather than manufacturing a forced energy.
Monteiro (guitar) was born in Rio de Janeiro, and his quartet of like-minded musicians includes compatriot Jorge Continentino (sax, flute), Anthony Pinciotti (drums) and Barcelona-born Alexis Cuadrado (bass), one of the founders of BJUR. This foursome has been playing together for over two years at this point, and the chemistry was especially evident in the arrangements, which were exceptionally tight.
The opening tune began ominously, or tentative, but developed a palpable groove, with a Brazilian influence implied by the laid back feel of the song. Monteiro took the first solo, his tone similar to that of Kurt Rosenwinkel, and patiently built to a head. The guitarist seemed quite conscious of playing his instrument like a horn, pausing in between flurries of notes and opening his mouth to take a breath before delving back into the solo. However, a climax was never quite reached, as Monteiro's staid approach often sounded overly academic, or devoid of emotion. Continentino then took his turn and infused life into the proceedings, seeming to blow feelings rather than mere notes through his horn. Cuadrado and Pinciotti ably and tastefully followed the saxophonist's twists and turns, Pinciotti keeping his own elastic version of time while adding color at the right moments.
The third tune of the set, a Continentino composition entitled "Hazy Afternoon," soon acquired a nice groove. Here, Pinciotti was all over his kit, sounding as if there were a percussionist in addition to the drums. Cuadrado, meanwhile, knew exactly when to lay out, showing himself to be a master of addition by subtraction.
After another atmospheric ballad in which bass, guitar and flute solos flowed seamlessly into one another, the set closer proved to be the highlight of the evening. Beginning as a ballad, this tune emitted an enticing atmospheric aura. Monteiro took his most complete solo of the night, using reverb effects to add to the secure groove. His solo built in energy until Continentino joined in and the song developed into an extended group improvisation before reverting back to the original theme.
This last offering best showed the potential of this group, and maybe on a different night with better weather that potential would have been more fully realized. But on this night, Monteiro's playing was inconsistent, occasionally lacking fire. Nonetheless, these musicians are obviously quite capable, and it should prove rewarding to follow the progress of the recently-formed BJUR collective. Here's hoping that they are wildly successful.