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Duduka Da Fonseca Trio: Plays Toninho Horta

Dan Bilawsky By

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A disproportionate number of Brazilian-focused albums centered on one composer's work have been devoted to exploring the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, but he's hardly the only composer from that locale deserving of the tribute treatment. Countless others have become ambassadors who spread the wonders of Brazil through their music, and nobody is more qualified to pay tribute to any of them than the man who has become the very embodiment of Brazilian drumming.

While Duduka Da Fonseca has become an integral part of the mainstream American jazz scene, having worked with John Scofield, Kenny Barron, Joe Henderson, Gerry Mulligan and many others since arriving in New York in 1975, he still breathes the air and rhythms of Brazil. Da Fonseca has put together various sized ensembles of his own in service of the music of his homeland, including the stellar quintet heard on Samba Jazz In Black And White (Zoho, 2006), but he often returns to the trio context, and with good reason. His flexible yet steady time and sophisticated cymbal touch are perfectly suited to this format, and he has continually managed to find the perfect pair of partners to flesh out his musical concepts as a unified threesome.

Trio Da Paz, with guitarist Romero Lubambo and bassist Nilson Matta, and the Brazilian Trio, with Matta and pianist Helio Alves, have both garnered rave reviews in the past, but Da Fonseca formed another trio to record the music of Toninho Horta. Pianist David Feldman—who Da Fonseca worked with a decade before this album came to be—and bassist Guto Wirtti came together with the drummer during a recording session for an album by Brazilian saxophonist Paulo Levi, and their like-minded approach to the music left an impression on Da Fonseca. Around the same time, the drummer was working extensively with Horta, and the idea of recording his music with these collaborators fell right into place.

The nine tracks featured on Plays Toninho Horta represent a small cross-section of the composer's work, while still managing to highlight the different musical styles contained within his compositional portfolio. Da Fonseca delivers quietly contemplative gems ("Waiting For Angela"), waltzing swing fare ("Francisca"), and music that falls in line with the sunny, beach-laden impression of Brazil that sits in so many American's minds ("Luisa"), but the variety doesn't stop there. "Aqui, Oh!" is cheery expression of Brazilian buoyancy that features some notable soloing from Feldman, "Moonstone" is a dreamy number that highlights Wirtti's skills, and the album ends with the feisty "Retrato Do Gato," which features Da Fonseca, in solo trading episodes with Feldman and in an impressive extended spot of his own.

In shining a light on an oft-overlooked Brazilian master composer, Duduka Da Fonseca also manages to raise his own already-impressive profile.

Track Listing: Aqui, Oh!; Bicycle Ride; Moonstone; Francisca; Aquelas Coisas Todas; De Tom Pra Tom; Waiting For Angela; Luisa; Retrato Do Gato.

Personnel: David Feldman: piano; Guto Wirtti: acoustic bass; Duduka Da Fonseca: drums.

Title: Plays Toninho Horta | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Zoho Music

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