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Peter Scharli Trio featuring Ithamara Koorax: O Grande Amor

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Their pairing may seem like an odd mix: Ithamara Koorax, born in steamy Rio de Janiero and expert voice for all the lusty and romantic musical treasures of Brazil, teaming with trumpeter Peter Schärli from Switzerland, where modern jazz often assumes a more astringent and ascetic (and often quite electronic) tone. Pianist Hans-Peter Pfammatter and bassist Thomas Dürst, who complete the Schärli Trio, are also Swiss. And yet their combination of tropical heat and frosty chill have already created—on The Peter Schärli Trio Featuring Ithamara Koorax: Obrigado Dom Um Romao (TCB, 2009)—and on O Grande Amor continues to create transcendent jazz that is beautiful for every language and region.

Pfammatter introduces the opening reflection on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Fotografia" so tenderly that he seems to reincarnate Bill Evans, a helpful supplicant for Koorax as she caresses the lyrics, tenderly wrapping and delivering each note like a precious newborn. Speaking of Evans, Schärli's mid-song break echoes Miles Davis' profound ballad style, concentrating on the song's tonal core, modulating softly, and playing more a mood than a melody.

Ivan Lins' pensive "Setembro" simultaneously sounds like a broken-hearted lovesong and reverent church hymn, with Schärli's trumpet passage so sad and melancholy and yet so beautiful, like the French horns in a Burt Bacharach-Hal David classic. The way their respective singing and trumpet voices harmonize on the closing melody to "Setembro"—and later, as these voices intertwine to grow "Para Machucar Meu Coracao" like a creeping rose vine—is just so beautifully musical.

The title track, a stately arrangement of a tune co-written by Jobim and Vinicus de Moreas, leaves ample room for vocal and instrumental verses, and is unquestionably the highlight of this set. Just catch the first few words of Koorax's opening verse to become transfixed by her breathless romanticism, while Schärli again plays in a compressed harmonic range with explosive emotional power. Perhaps there's an easier way to describe it, but if Barbara Streisand ever went into a recording studio with Michel Legrand and Miles Davis, "O Grande Amor" is what might have come out. It is simply stunning and spectacular.

Pfammatter and Dürst provide such strong and sure rhythm support that you might not ever notice there's no drummer, but you'll surely notice how beautifully and delicately O Grande Amor flows and floats.

Track Listing: Fotografia; Sandalia Dela; Setembro; Wedileto; O Grande Amor; Deixa; Para Machucar Meu Coracao; Zum Zum.

Personnel: Ithamara Koorax: vocals; Hans-Peter Pfammatter: piano; Thomas Durst: bass; Peter Scharli: trumpet.

Title: O Grande Amor | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: TCB Music


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