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Peter Scharli Trio featuring Ithamara Koorax: O Grande Amor

Douglas Payne By

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In their second recording together, Swiss trumpeter Peter Schärli and Brazilian singer Ithamara Koorax have come up with a beautiful reflection on Brazilian music that goes far above and beyond expectation.

Schärli, whose attractive sound and complimentary interjections suggest the influence of Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, and Koorax were first brought together in 2006 by legendary Brazilian percussionist Dom Um Romao (1925-2005), who had previously worked with both musicians on separate occasions, to record Obrigado Dom Um Romão (TCB, 2009).

Here, Schärli teams his remarkably sensitive trio, with pianist Hans-Peter Pfammatter and bassist Thomas Dürst, with the ethereal and lovely voice of Ithamara Koorax in a most unusual way. They never give the impression of a trio backing a singer; instead, this is a superbly integrated quartet of musicians who play with each other, not for the benefit of making one soloist sound better.

The sound of the Schärli trio with Koorax never falls into patterns of predictable. Theirs is a cohesive jazz logic that belies the standard bossa nova pretense. These imaginative creatives rethink their melodies, many of which are not the typical Brazilian standards. The absence of percussion also requires the melodists to think and react rhythmically, which makes for a more compelling listen.

The program starts beautifully with Antonio Carlos Jobim's romantic "Fotographia"—first heard on 1965's The Astrud Gilberto Album (Verve), and then on the composer's 1967 A Certain Mr. Jobim (Warner Bros.), which also featured Romão—before alternating to the spirited consideration of "Sandalia Dela," Luiz Claudio's little-known sprite from Duke Pearsons How Insensitive (Blue Note, 1969, with Flora Purim.

Launching into Ivan Lins' "Setembro"—best known from its appearance on Quincy Jones' Back on the Block (Quest, 1989), Sarah Vaughan and Take 6—the quartet falters a bit. Each player's performance is assured and attractive but, together, the group isn't as sure of the tune's highly reverential tone. This is corrected by the pianist's own "Wedileto," a gorgeous piece of wordless celebration, that engages Schärli in a lovely duet with the singer and elicits several noteworthy solos.

A certain sort of climax is reached with the quartet's uncannily elegant consideration of Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes' "O Grand Amor," which first appeared on the 1963 Verve classic, Getz/Gilberto, as did the most well-known version of Ary Barroso's 1943 song "Para Machucar Meu Coraçao," which the quartet regards here with especially loving consideration.

Never distancing itself too far from Brazil's melodically intoxicating rhythms, the quartet delivers surprisingly danceable versions of Baden Powell's memorable "Deixa"—first heard as "Let Me," on the Wanda de Sah / Sergio Mendes Trio recording Brasil '65 (Toshiba, 1965)—and Edu Lobo's "Zum-Zum"—originally from the composer's Cantiga De Longe (Universal, 1971)—introduced by some of Schärli's most unexpected and open-minded explorations.

O Grande Amor is, ultimately, a superb exploration of Brazilian music, made by musicians who not only understand the music thoroughly, but deliver it more beautifully than expected.

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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