This CD is not for Coltrane purists: they might be horrified when the master's compositions ride in on a Brazilian beat. But for those who are merely fans, Impressions
offers a tuneful and intriguing alchemy, as classics like "Moment's Notice," "Naima," and "Giant Steps" are interpreted by a top Carioca quintet. This is especially enjoyable when the leader is the marvelous trumpeter Claudio Roditi.
Roditi is an inexplicably underfamous talent who left his native Rio in 1970 to study at the Berklee School of Music. He settled in New York in 1976, returning home each year to see his family and musician friends. In January of 2006, the visit included a nearly-spontaneous recording session with some of Brazil's best musicians, and Impressions is the happy result.
Roditi plays a Rotary Valve B-flat trumpet, which is said to have a rounder, warmer tone than the standard piston-valve instrument. His bold, inviting sound has enhanced recordings by Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, and Herbie Mann, among others. A member of the Dizzy Gillespie United Nations Orchestra, Roditi has over a dozen recordings under his name, including four well-received trio dates from the German label, Nagel-Heyer.
This session was originally produced by the legendary Jacques Muyal for his Groovin' High label, and more recently released on Sunnyside. The CD achieves that ideal balance between relaxed and swinging, with terrific solos all around; each time drummer Pascoal Mereilles takes the spotlight, the scene shifts from smoky jazz club to Carnival parade. Aside from bathing the four Coltrane tracks in sunlight, this particular jazz/samba mix works well on "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Speak Low," and "Come Rain or Come Shine," while Roditi's own exuberant "The Monster and the Flower," is approaching standard designation itself (do catch the blazing 10-piece version on Darmon Meader's CD release, And So Am I).
It's clear that any of Roditi's bandmates would have successful careers in the U.S. if they ever left the undulating beaches of Rio. In the meantime, it's a pleasure to hear them supporting and inspiring their homeboy leader. In fact, the whole 69 minutes are a delight from beginning to end: expertly played, crisply recorded, and highly recommended as a seamless mix of bop and Brazil.