Emiliano Sampaio is a guitarist from Brazil who is currently headquartered in Graz, Austria. His basic band is a three-piece unit called Meretrio which also serves as the foundation of a nonet he calls Mereneu Project. The tracks on this CD are music he has composed for different expanded versions of this large group, one with strings, one adding French horn, oboe and harp and one, a full blown big band with seventeen musicians.
In all these groups, Sampaio's writing carries a sense of drama and often shows the influence of various film composers. The Mereneu Project & String Orchestra is featured on three tracks. "For Astor" is a sumptuous tribute to tango composer Astor Piazzola, an atmospheric tango melody wreathed in lush strings that features Adam Ladanyi on solo trombone. "Afrika" is dedicated to the rhythms of Sampaio's native Brazil and their roots in African music. Even with that background though, the actual music comes out as a dancing percussive base under strings that have the folkish atmosphere of a Western movie soundtrack. This is further enlivened by mischievous lines of trumpet, flute and baritone sax that dance through the piece. "Relax" is a mix of melodic ideas and group improvisation. Horns and woodwinds periodically burst through a curtain of shivery string noises, then weave around each other singly and in groups while the strings waft through everything like tendrils of smoke. The music has the adventurous edge of a large scale Muhal Richard Abrams or Anthony Braxton work.
Mereneu Project Extended, the unit with French horn, oboe and harp, appears four times. "The Gard Nilssen Pattern" is a percussive dance melody that gives way to delicate interplay by Sampaio's guitar and Sandra Macher's harp. "Jet Lag" is a noirish collage of Quincy Jones-style crime movie motifs and bits of "West Side Story" that roll along over a stew of reggae and funk rhythms. Macher's harp leads "Naked Tree," a impressionistic piece where the ensemble gently floats and broods before getting heavier and denser, leading into a dramatic conversation between Patrick Dunst's clarinet, Adam Ladanyi's trombone and Florian Pottler's percussion. "Mr. Tappler" is a feature for French horn player Karl-Heinz Tappler who solos beautifully over an uneasy sing-song rhythm reminiscent of Bernard Hermann's score for the film, "Vertigo"
The big band version of the group, Mega Mereneu Project, plays on "Balada para Brumadinho," which was written about the collapse of a dam at a mine near Brumadinho, Brazil and an ensuing mudslide that killed over 250 people. This music is appropriately somber and grand with pianist Michael Lagger and tenor saxophonist Tobias Pustelnik rising up eloquently through droning waves of sound.
Overall, these pieces give a picture of the broad scope of Emiliano Sampaio's writing and his ability to mix differing ideas into strong original works. His music combines the drama of classic film composers with the majestic sweep of the Gil Evans-Bob Brookmeyer-Maria Schneider jazz composing lineage and tosses in the occasional hit of dance rhythms to keep things lively. His work is both passionate and powerful.
For Astor; The Gard Nilssen Pattern; Afrika; Jet Lag; Naked Tree; Balada para Brumadinho; Mr. Tappler;
Simon Kintopp: trombone (6); Johannes Oppel: trombone (6); Karl Rossmann: trumpet (6); Zan Cesar:
trumpet (6); Michael Lagger: piano (6); Michael Leitner, Isabella Sedlaczek, Andreas Semlitsch, Anna van
der Merwe, Iulia Ioanas, Yanet Infanzon, Darja Vasovic, Alyona Pynzenyk, Miona Vujovic, Nicolas Jose
Sanchez Gilabert: violin (1,3,8); Anita Gnamus, Cristina Arandes, Jao Kotaro, Meng Jung: viola (1,3,8);
Charlotte Hirschberg, Fernando Trigueros, Katja Finsel, Gustavo Rodriguez: cello (1,3,8).