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Film Review

Gustavo Assis-Brasil: In Concert

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Gustavo Assis-Brasil
In Concert
Abstract Logix
2008

There is much to be said for presenting material live as opposed to recorded in a studio, particularly if improvisation is at the core of a group; pianist Keith Jarrett's trio has been doing this to great effect for years. On this DVD/CD double disc, Brazilian guitarist Gustavo Assis-Brasil, in trio setting, displays the chemistry and excitement generated by a one-take performance in the company of like-minded musicians. The twelve original compositions were recorded in Santa Maria, Brazil, his hometown, in front of a respectful and appreciative audience.

Assis-Brasil has authored two books on his unusual, hybrid plectrum and finger-picking technique but this DVD doesn't really reveal any secrets. In the end, how the strings are manipulated is of less significance than the brain behind the technique. Technically impressive without a doubt, Assis-Brasil forges elaborate, heady runs, though in just the right doses. The lasting impression from these dozen tunes is one of compositional strength and fidelity to form, harmony and melody; in this respect there are many echoes in Assis-Brasil's music of Pat Metheny, circa Bright Size Life. (ECM, 1976)

There is also a touch of Stanley Jordan about Assis-Brasil's more extravagant excursions, but the combination of quiet, understated play and bursts of quick-fingered athleticism makes for a personal and quite unique style. One has the impression that Assis-Brasil can do whatever he chooses on his instrument; to have such mastery, and yet to exhibit such taste and restraint is an admirable facet of his playing.

When he does stretch out—and you can take your pick of any number of impressive solos—his improvisations are like brief sonic sculptures, framed as they are by the lovely chord progressions and seductive melodies at either end, which characterize and form the body of the songs.

On most of the tracks, bassist Jose Peinasola and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli provide more than just a solid foundation: Peinasola's subtle playing, as unhurried as a native of the tropics on an evening stroll, contrasts with the more animated approach of Zottarelli, whose solo on "The Same Day," brimming with ideas and played with palpable enthusiasm, is a highlight of the set. There is undeniable empathy among the three, and they have that tight-but-loose air, the freedom that comes with knowing each other's steps so well.

Julio "Chumbinho" Herrlein, another fine guitarist, guests on several tunes, and his elegant, more traditional style blends well with the less predictable approach of the leader. The two play nicely off each other, harmonize deftly, and exchange impressive solos; their sympathetic playing on "Invisible Meeting" sways like the easy conversation of old friends. Elsewhere, Nene Vianna's fretless bass brings additional lyricism to the leisurely "Dec 31st," with Bruno Tessele's brushes marking time.

Gustavo Assis-Brasil's strong debut as leader has little overt Brazilian accent; it is music steeped in the American jazz tradition, but it succeeds in sounding vital and fresh, due in the main to Assis-Brasil's writing skills and his wonderful playing. A name to watch out for.

Track Listing on DVD: The Same Day: The Reason Why: Eba Fubah: Fim de Tarde; Pra Anamaria; 55 (for Wayne Krantz); Dec 31st; Sul; Invisible Meeting; New Idea; Sanguessuga; Long Gone

Track Listing on CD: The Same Day; The Reason Why; Eba Furbah; Pra Anamaria; 55; New Idea; Dec 31; Next Week (for Cris)

Gustavo Assis-Brasil: guitar, nylon guitar; Mauricio Zottarelli:drums; Jose Pienasola: bass; Julio "Chumbinho" Herrlein: guitar ( 3,5,9); Nene Vianna: bass, fretless bass (7,10,11) Bruno Tessele: drums (7,11)

Production notes: 68 minutes. NTSC All Region. Recorded July 2007 at Santa Maria, RS, Brasil. Extras: "making of the DVD;" Credits

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