To begin, a couple of small but important details: first, saxophonist Spok (given name: Inaldo Cavalcante de Albuquerque) is the leader of this remarkable seventeen-piece "orquestra." Second, Frevo isn't Spok's co-leader but a form of Brazilian swing / dance music whose wellspring is the area in and around Recife, Pernambuco. Is it jazz? Most definitely, as it satisfies all the criteria: rhythmic and harmonic finesse, improvisation on almost every number, and, even more important, an unreserved desire to lay into every written note and make it swing like there's no tomorrow.
It is, however, a brand of jazz that isn't often encountered in these northern climes, more akin to the exhilarating tangos of Astor Piazzolla or those zany themes from Warner Brothers cartoons of the '40s than to the more measured, straight-ahead swing of Basie, Herman, Goodman, Barnet, Thornhill or other standard-bearers of the Big Band Era. But make no mistake, the technical proficiency required to play these themes would test even the most virtuosic musicians bred in the cradle of jazz. As a unit, Spok and his teammates deliver letter-perfect renditions of charts designed with malice in mind. In other words, diabolically thorny. The ensemble sails through each of them with nary a false step or pause for breath. Solos, on the other hand, are more an afterthought, and it is here that SpokFrevo parts company with its North American counterparts. As noted, there are solos galore on Ninho de Vespa (The Wasp's Nest) but they are as a rule more colloquial than inspired, even though, again, no one is devaluing their technical mastery.
Spok himself is among the soloists, on alto ("Spokiando," "Moraes e Frevo") and soprano sax ("De Baixo do Frevo"), as are a number of guests: clarinetist Paulo Sergio Santos ("Onze de Abril"), pianists Jovino Santos Neto ("Comichao") and Adelson Vianna ("Spokiando"), trumpeter Ze Maria and trombonist Nilsonho Amarante ("O Que Nelson Gostou"), accordionist Beto Hortis ("Capibarizando"), guitarist Luciano Magno ("Pisando em Brasa"), pianist Nelson Ayres ("Quatro Cantos"), mandolinist Hamilton de Holanda ("Ta Achando Que ta Devagar?"), bassist Braulio Araujo ("De Baixo do Frevo"), flutist Cesar Michiles ("Pipocando") and pianist Thiago Albuquerque ("Cara de Carranca"). The great Brazilian vocalist Dori Caymmi makes a brief guest appearance on his own composition, "Ninho de Vespa." Neto, Viana, Hortis, Magno, Ayres, Holanda, Araujo, Michiles and Albuquerque are soloing on their own compositions.
Ninho de Vespa is admirably recorded, its playing time a respectable fifty-eight minutes. Those whose musical tastes are enhanced by a Latin flavor are sure to fall in love with SpokFrevo, whose irrepressible rhythms are guaranteed to elicit smiling faces and tapping toes.
Onze de Abril; Comichao; Spokiando; Capibarizando; Pisando em Brasa; Quatro Cantos; Ninho de Vespa; O Que Nelson Gostou; Ta Achando Que ta Devagar?; De Baixo do Frevo; Pipocando; Cara de Carranca; Moraes e Frevo.
Spok: leader, alto, soprano, baritone sax; Enok Chagas: trumpet; Augusto Franca: trumpet; Flavio Sanatana: trumpet; Erico Verissimo: trumpet; Carlos Cleber: alto sax; Gilberto Pontes: tenor sax; Rafael Santos: tenor sax; Elci Ramos: trombone; Marcone Tulio: trombone; Adonis Garcia: trombone; Thomas de Lima: trombone; Renato Bandeira: guitar; Helio Silva: bass; Adelson Silva: drums; Augusto Silva: drums, percussion; Dede Simpatia: percussion. Additional studio musicians – Fabinho Costa, Jailson Silva, Peto: trumpet (1, 7); Flavio Souza: trombone (1, 7); Nilsinho Amarante: trombone. Special guests – Adelson Vianna, A Trombonada, Beto Hortis, Braulio Araujo, Cesar Michiles, Jovino Santos Neto, Luciano Magno, Mestre Ze Maria, Nelson Ayres, Thiago Albuquerque.