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Meeco: Beauty of the Night

Chris May By

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Meeco

Beauty of the Night

Connector Records

2012

Anyone unfamiliar with Paris-based composer/producer Meeco and his gorgeous, sophisticated jazz can get approximate bearings from two other artists. One is Antonio Carlos Jobim, partly for the influence of bossa nova on Meeco's writing, partly for the heart-on-sleeve romanticism his songwriting shares with Jobim. The second is Astrud Gilberto, who is suggested by the Brazilian vocalist Eloisia, Meeco's regular collaborator. That said, Meeco is more jazz centered than either of those bossa stylists.

Beauty of the Night is Meeco's third disc, following Amargo Mel (Connector, 2009) and Perfume e Caricias (Connector, 2010). As on the earlier albums, the music has a retro vibe evoking the early jet age's glamorous conflation of Rio, Rome and the Côte d'Azur—something the albeit fleeting presence on the new album of chanteuse Jane Birkin does nothing to diminish. But it is more than retro. Classicist is a better description. Pianist Ahmad Jamal calls the music he makes not "jazz," but "American classical music." South American and European provenances notwithstanding, the description lends itself to Beauty of the Night: well crafted songs, elegantly arranged and performed with intelligence and virtuosity.

Meeco assembled illustrious lineups for both his earlier discs, and did so again for Beauty and the Night. Pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Buster Williams, who came aboard on Perfume e Caricias, are again at the band's core; trumpeter Eddie Henderson, featured on both previous albums, is still present; and flautist Hubert Laws, included on Amargo Mel, is back. New faces include tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, bass clarinetist Bennie Maupin, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, drummer Victor Lewis and guitarists Lionel Loueke and Romero Lubambo.

Everyone gets to solo, most of them more than once. Henderson, Golson, Barron, Harris and Maupin turn in gems, and so does Loueke on his feature, "Luzes de Flores." Loueke's own-name albums have been underwhelming—he needs to loosen up and not strive so hard to impress—but his solo here reminds us why bandleaders such as keyboardist Herbie Hancock rate him so highly. Lubambo is another six string treat.

The guest singers—who share the vocals with Eloisia on five tracks—are as distinguished as the intrumentalists. From jazz, or ACM, as you prefer, Freddy Cole and Gregory Porter; from Latin soul, Joe Bataan; from Braziliana, Zé Manoel. Birkin is briefly heard reciting the poem "Ombres et Luminieres," written by Meeco's French/Spanish mother (his father is German), to whose memory the album is dedicated. The rest of the lyrics were written or co-written by Eloisia.

The CD release of Beauty and the Beast includes a second disc of remixes by brothers Marco and Robert Meister, from the Paris/Berlin musicians' and DJs' collective Terranova. Synths, both pumping and ambient, are to the fore; house and chillout beats replace free-flowing jazz and bossa rhythms. Rather surprisingly, it works. The music retains its essence, and, while the original instrumentalists are pretty much mixed out in favor of the Meisters' synths, Eloisia and the other singers remain centerstage.

A beautifully conceived and realized album. Play it and be seduced.

Tracks: Refrao de Amor (Chorus of Love); Gotas de Adeus (Tears of Farewell); Luzes de Flores (Lights of Flowers); Amor e Encantos (Love and Delights); Refrao de Amor (Sad Guy); No Fundo do Teu Silencio (In the Depth of Your Silence); Ombres et Lumieres (Shadows and Lights)/Nua Solidao (Bare Solitude); Beleza da Noite (Beauty of the Night).

Personnel: Eloisia: vocals (1-7); Freddy Cole: vocals (2); Zé Manoel: vocals (4); Joe Bataan: vocals: (5); Gregory Porter: vocals (6); Jane Birkin: vocals (7); Hubert Laws: alto flute (4, 7, 8); Eddie Henderson: trumpet (2, 6, 8); Benny Golson: tenor saxophone (2, 8); Bennie Maupin: bass clarinet (1, 5); Kenny Barron: piano (2-4, 6-8); Lionel Loueke: guitar, vocals (3); Romero Lubambo: guitar (1, 5); Stefon Harris: vibraphone (1, 5); Jaques Morelenbaum: cello (2, 4, 5, 7); Buster Williams: bass (1-8); Victor Lewis: drums (1-3, 5, 7, 8).

Track Listing: Refrao de Amor (Chorus of Love); Gotas de Adeus (Tears of Farewell); Luzes de Flores (Lights of Flowers); Amor e Encantos (Love and Delights); Refrao de Amor (Sad Guy); No Fundo do Teu Silencio (In the Depth of Your Silence); Ombres et Lumieres (Shadows and Lights)/Nua Solidao (Bare Solitude); Beleza da Noite (Beauty of the Night).

Personnel: Eloisia: vocals (1-7); Freddy Cole: vocals (2); Zé Manoel: vocals (4); Joe Bataan: vocals: (5); Gregory Porter: vocals (6); Jane Birkin: vocals (7); Hubert Laws: alto flute (4, 7, 8); Eddie Henderson: trumpet (2, 6, 8); Benny Golson: tenor saxophone (2, 8); Bennie Maupin: bass clarinet (1, 5); Kenny Barron: piano (2-4, 6-8); Lionel Loueke: guitar, vocals (3); Romero Lubambo: guitar (1, 5); Stefon Harris: vibraphone (1, 5); Jaques Morelenbaum: cello (2, 4, 5, 7); Buster Williams: bass (1-8); Victor Lewis: drums (1-3, 5, 7, 8).

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Connector Records | Style: Latin/World


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