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Album Review

Marcelo Zarvos: Labyrinths

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Marcelo Zarvos: Labyrinths
The pathway twists many times, one environment giving way to another. A sunny beach becomes a parlor: "Rondo Baiao" starts earthy, a berimbau creeping through a mess of rattles. A cello adds depth, and Peter Epstein twirls a soprano, the light swing of a merry-go-round. Now enters Zarvos: a sweet gentility, delivered with force. The varied tastes recall New Age in its early days; it’s as eclectic as the Penguin Café Orchestra. Marcelo turns lush at the end, as a marimba patters delightfully. It’s a waterfall of sound, ordered but natural — the notes suggest a formal garden, and this is most appropriate.

"Labyrinths" flows like a slow march, textures forming as instruments join. First it’s Mauro Refosco, hammering chords with steady warmth. Zarvos assists, Epstein starts simply, a theme completed by Lawson’s cello. This building is gradual; voices recede and themes evolve, all with the same mood. It’s a quiet hotel, sounding the grace of a bygone age. "Caraiva" is likewise, a piano racing in Impressionist strength. (His classical teacher also taught Jobim.) Refosco chimes in, and Lawson steps forward, her sway copied by Epstein. Now it’s Marcelo, notes shared with Refosco in bright clusters. Romero Lubambo adds wiry lines, a modern touch to this Victorian beauty. The theme returns, and it lives: Lubambo adds a world of passion, a lovely thought over too soon.

A Brazilian album must have a bossa: this one’s a charmer, dedicated to Bebel Gilberto. Marcelo goes easy, a spare touch enhanced by Lubambo. Epstein is stronger, and here the strum glistens. "Chance Meeting", nothing – this is a reunion of best friends. "Lament" goes out to his ancestors in Greece – a tumbling theme calls forth the ocean. Lawson is placid, and piano grows intricate with lovely echoes. A storm builds, and the drums come on like thunder. Much of this is improvised, and it’s hard to tell: the patterns – and lament – are eternal.

The "Ghost Child" is tense: brittle notes, hammered down low. Lawson is firm, with a little groan in her sound. Percussion runs riot, and Marcelo sounds hopeful; it’s more a hymn than a dirge. And listen close for "Lu’s Rag": soft whooshes trade speakers and Zarvos walks humbly, a simple sound, and full of hope. The brushes come in, and Epstein follows the leader; Lawson does likewise. No embellishment, and none needed; just a parallel statement, stronger as it’s repeated. There’s "nothing" to this tune, yet it speaks volumes; hard to describe, but easy to enjoy. Same with the album: it goes all directions, and it ends up in a familiar place. The center of your heart.

Personnel

Marcelo Zarvos.

Album information

Title: Labyrinths | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: MA Recordings


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