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Dexter Payne: Pra Vocé

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Pra Vocé is clarinetist Dexter Payne's homage to the late Thiago de Mello, the composer, percussionist and multi-instrumentalist whose life and music reflected the panoramic beauty of his native Brazil and with whom Payne recorded several beautifully reflective pieces of music, including and especially their self-produced 2007 duet Another Feeling (2006, Dexofon). Take time to stroll around and enjoy the beauty of its pathways and gardens, and sit in its contemplative shade, and you'll quickly learn that the quietly brilliant Pra Vocé more than honors de Mello—it seems to warmly embody his very musical breath.

The uniquely beautiful blend of Brazilian, jazz (especially New Orleans), African and other instrumental musical styles on Pra Vocé also illustrates Payne's expansive background: He's studied Balkan dance music in Istanbul, spent a decade playing throughout Africa (including Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda), which culminated in his 2008 appointment as Director of the Afropop Ensemble at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and more recently toured the US and Canada with the The Lionel Young Band, the 2011 International Blues Challenge Champion.

Payne is clearly the leader but every musician's voice—Dave Willey on accordion, Bill Kopper on six- and seven-string guitar and Victor Mestas Perez from Venezuela on piano—sings through the liquid rhythms poured out on drums and pandeiro by Raoul Rossiter (who plays with Kopper in the band Ginga). Rossiter keeps Pra Vocé flowing with gentle but exquisite rhythms, rippling into the spaces between the piano and guitar in the live recordings "Sampa" and "Assanhado" and warm, quicksilver closing homage to the Brazilian state "Lembrei do Ceará." In a performance as brilliantly quiet as Dom Um Romao's on the legendary Francis Albert Sinatra/Antonio Carlos Jobim (1967, Reprise), Rossiter places every beat in just the right place.

This live version of "No Wolf at the Door," which first appeared on Another Feeling, paints Jobim's "Meditation" in guitar, piano and accordion shades, with Pérez and Payne so attuned that their piano and clarinet seem to complete each other's phrases.

Like twin dawns, the two opening selections sound particularly beautiful early in the day. Kopper opens "Chorinho pra Vocé" in a cascading acoustic guitar waterfall, into which Payne's clarinet expertly yet playfully dives like a dolphin. In the choro standard "Alma Brasileira," which translates to "Brazilian soul," Payne's singing clarinet and its deft interplay with the quicksilver rhythm section on which it dances lends the spirit of New Orleans improvisational jazz to this classic Brazilian piece.

Track Listing: Alma Brasileira; Chorinho pra Vocé; No Wolf at the Door; Sampa; Doce de Coco; Playground; Assanhado; Conversa de Botequim; Lembrei do Ceará.

Personnel: Dexter Payne: clarinet; Dave Willey: accordion; Bill Kopper: six-string guitar, seven-string guitar; Victor Mestas Pérez: piano; Raoul Rossiter: drums, pandeiro.

Title: Pra Vocé | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Dexofon Records

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