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Jazz at Kitano: Duduka Da Fonseca and Brazilian Express

Nick Catalano By

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New Yorkers' search for the quintessence of the classic Brazilian samba sound must inevitably lead to Maucha Adnet, Helio Alves, and the leadership of Duduka Da Fonseca.
Brazilian percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca has led a variety of groups in Gotham venues for the past several years, performing the wildly popular samba music he learned growing up in Rio de Janeiro. His December 8 performance at The Kitano Hotel lounge in New York City was a high point of the holiday season, celebrating the music of pianist Dom Salvador. Fourteen-year-old Da Fonseca would play along with Salvador's album Rio 65 Trio (Philips, 1965). Da Fonseca and Brazilian Express stunned a standing room only crowd with Salvador's compositions, now rarely heard in New York.

Three enchanting Salvador compositions opened the set. Burners " Clauditi" and "Gafieira" serviced pianist Helio Alves's keyboard wizardry and bassist Martin Wind's haunting harmonic lines, and the ballad "Maria" displayed saxophonist/flutist Billy Drewes's unique lyricism. Vocalist Maucha Adnet took the stage and announced that the evening marked the 24th anniversary of Antonio Carlos Jobim's passing, proceeding to sing the Jobim standards "Pato Preto," "Retrato em Branco e Preto," and "Polo Pony," the latter written just before he died. Adnet's vocal stylings are always delivered with a singular sonority unsurpassed by others performing samba literature. Her delightful patter is a virtual seminar in Brazilian musical history.

An intriguing trio version of Salvador's memorable "Samba Do Malandrinho"—also recorded on Da Fonseca's latest album, Plays Dom Salvador (Sunnyside, 2018)—followed the Jobim tunes. The evening's highlight was a Dori Caymmi composition, "Amazon River," launched with a scintillating berimbau solo by Da Fonseca and followed by Adnet and Drewes sharing a chorus of breathtaking counterpoint.

Big Apple jazz fans have often discovered that the present day search for the quintessence of swing leads inevitably to John Pizzarelli, Pat Martino, and Joey DeFrancesco. Similarly, their search for the quintessence of the classic Brazilian samba sound must inevitably lead to Maucha Adnet, Helio Alves, and the leadership of Duduka Da Fonseca.

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