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Pianist Helio Alves has a light touch, dazzlingly fleet fingers and a knack for drawing listeners into a piece. All those gifts are display on his new album, Portrait in Black and White. Ably supported by bassist Santi Debriano and drummer Matt Wilson, Alves presents a collection highlighted by his originals and lightly spiced with Brazilian flavors.
Despite Alves' capacity for blinding speed, his dashes over the keyboard are never solely showy. Instead, his technical prowess is consistently used to drive or embellish the melody or to add meaningful texture and depth to an improvisation. That control and care allows him to make use of his speed with equal effectiveness, as on his own jauntily paced composition "Sambetinho," or within a ballad like the Antonio Carlos Jobin number from which the album takes its name.
For most of the disc, Alves is firmly in the forefront. His cohorts provide solid and interesting support, but this is truly Alves' showcase, with a couple notable exceptions: a lovely bowed solo by Debriano in the latter portion of "Falling Grace," and another strong bass solo in the following number, "You Must Believe In Spring." For his part, Wilson creates a strong, layered beat for Alves to explore and interact with, providing much of the forward momentum that characterizes this upbeat recording.
Track Listing: 1. Frenzy
3. Angel Eyes
4. Portrait In Black And White
5. Falling Grace
6. You Must Believe In Spring
7. Loose Samba
8. Song For Anna
Personnel: Helio Alves, piano;
Santi Debriano, bass;
Matt Wilson, drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.