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Vinicius Mendes: Macunaismo Tardio Vol. 1&2

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Vinicius Mendes: Macunaismo Tardio Vol. 1&2
Every now and then, a musician comes along out of nowhere and blows one's unprepared mind. Such is the case with the Brazilian saxophonist, flautist and composer Vinicius Mendes. Based in Belo Horizonte, Mendes began recording, it transpires, in 2013 and has since been a face on the city's jazz-samba scene. His recordings under his own name have been few. But in 2022 and 2023 Mendes and his Quarteto released two seismic blinders: Macunaismo Tardio Volume One and Macunaismo Tardio Volume Two (both on Notes On A Journey).

Trouble was, the albums were digital-only and so inevitably escaped most jazz lovers' attention. (One might say that any artist submitting to the barbarism of digital-only albums deserves everything they do not get. But that can be discussed another time.)

The good news is that Volume One and Volume Two have in 2024 been released on vinyl in a sumptuous gatefold-sleeve double-LP edition.

The two albums, recorded a year or so apart and with two different quartets, are very much an item. On both, Mendes is the composer of half the tunes, with the other half covers of pieces by other Brazilian composers (Lucca Noacco, Toninho Horta, Joyce Moreno, Novelli and Danilo Caymi). On both, Mendes is joined by an electric keyboardist, a bassist and a drummer. He plays soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone and flute, with two tracks featuring each instrument on both six-track albums.

The music, light on its feet and mostly up-tempo, lyrical but not afraid to stretch the harmonic envelope, and dancing in its head as much as on its legs, is not entirely jazz and not entirely samba but a natural-born fusion of the two. In this parish, elitist and unforgiving as ever, "fusion" is usually a dirty word, suggesting airheads and cultural tourism, but an exception has to be made for Brazilian jazz, which reverses the dominant direction of travel and has, since the late 1950s, been giving the practice a good name. All twelve tracks on the double LP are of a uniformly high standard, and track one, side one, "Absurdo No.1" on the YouTube below, is as good a place to start listening as any.

Macunaismo Tardio Vol. 1&2 has no overt message other than its beauty and its love of life. But the album is coming from a serious place. Its title refers to the 1928 novel Macunaima by the Brazilian writer, musicologist and art historian Mario de Andrade, which is generally acknowledged to mark the beginning of the Brazilian modernist movement; and the track "Gente Como A Gente" is dedicated to Andrade's contemporary, the modernist painter Tarsila Do Amaral. The second word in the album album title, "Tardio," translates literally as "late" or "slow" or "tardy," which suggests more precisely where Mendes is coming from.

But, like the vinyl edition itself, better late than never (not Mendes, but modernism).

Postscript: Brooklyn-based tenor saxophone Jedi Oded Tzur now has Cyrano Almeida—the drummer on Macunaismo Tardio Volume One—as a member of his Quartet. Tzur first played with Almeida in early 2023 in a jazz club in Belo Horizonte. Tzur talks about the encounter in a 2024 AAJ interview here.

Track Listing

Side One: Absurdio No.1; Baiao Do Agremia; Meu Canario Vizinho Azul. Side Two: Aldeia De Ogum; Variacoes; Gente Como A Gente. Side Three: Tombe Em Pe; Mineiro; As Margens Do Dese Jo. Side Four: Meio A Meio; Memorial Dos Sentimentos Escusos; Cafuringa.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Vinícius Mendes: tenor saxophone (2:5, 2:6, 4:1, 4:2), soprano saxophone (1:1, 1:2, 3:2, 3:3) flute (1:3, 2:4. 3:1, 4:3), caxixi, agogô, tamborim, queixada, apitos; Lucas de Moro: Rhodes electric piano and Wurlitzer electric piano (1:1-3, 2: 1-3); Paulo Cardoso: electric and acoustic bass (1:1-3, 2:1-3); Cyrano Almeida: drums (1:1-3, 2:1-3), percussion (1:1, 2:1); Igor Neves: Rhodes electric piano and Wurlitzer electric piano (3:1-3, 4:1-3); Rafael de Sousa: acoustic bass (3:1-3, 4:1-3); Estevan Barbosa: drums (3:1-3, 4:1-3), queixada (4:1).

Album information

Title: Macunaismo Tardio Vol. 1&2 | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Notes On A Journey


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