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Nilson Matta and Leny Andrade at Dizzy's

Nick Catalano By

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Celebrating the release of Black Orpheus (Motéma, 2013), bassist Nilson Matta brought his band into Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola on February 13, 2013. Along with pianist Klaus Mueller, percussionist Fernando Saci, drummer Alexander Kautz and saxophonist Steve Wilson the show featured legendary singer Leny Andrade, who also performs on the CD.

Although Brazilian music has enthralled American audiences for decades, they rarely encounter the pioneering authenticity that Matta brings to a performance. The producers at Dizzy's have, in recent months, frequently headlined Trio de Paz, also featuring Matta, and that group has given Gothamites real insight into the bossa nova and tropicalismo origins which initially connected Brazilian music and jazz. The rhythmic subtleties and harmonic lines that Trio de Paz delivers provide a healthy measure of the original techniques that have made samba jazz so compelling.

Similarly, when Andrade took to the stage, singing familiar tunes like "Felicidade" and "Corcovado," a fresh energy entered the arena. Her lugubrious Brazilian Portuguese phrasing deepens our awareness of the melodic texture. The resonance of Portuguese diphthongs delivers meaning that no English translation can render, and Andrade's articulation and range manages the task as few others can. Tony Bennett called her "the Ella Fitzgerald of Brazilian music" and, at age 70, she is at the top of her game. Her patter in halting English gave the patrons at Dizzy's chuckles as she recounted memories of composer Vinicius De Moraes's nightly meanderings. And her mastery of the great composers—Jobim, Bonfa and de Moraes—had the audience riveted.

Matta's sidemen also deserved notice. Mueller, a pianist somewhat new to the scene, brought new excitement to "Frevo de Orfeu," as did the exchanges between Saci and Kautz. Wilson wisely featured whole note sequences, which optimized the melodic predominance of the Brazilian hits.

Although listening to these hits here in New York was invariably pleasurable, Matta and his group made the evening feel as if it were taking place somewhere in the back alleys of Sao Paulo or curbside on Ipanema beach. And that was a rare musical transformation, indeed.


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