"I fell in love with the jazz guitarall kinds of jazz guitarists, from Jim Hall to Pat Metheny to Luis Bonfá, by listening to their records," explains Brazilian composer, arranger, bandleader and guitarist Rodrigo Lima. Saga luxuriously extends this jazz guitar love affair across the American and Brazilian continentsit was recorded in New York, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro and Curitibaand across the two CDs of Lima's utterly magnificent recorded debut.
Producer Arnaldo DeSouteiro elegantly (but not overly) produced Saga into the warm and lush yet concise jazz sound of the best CTI Records, Verve Records and other Creed Taylor productions, and teamed with Lima to assemble an all-star ensemble for these sessions: It features guest appearances by clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen flutist Hubert Laws, vocalist Ithamara Koorax, vibes player Mike Mainieri and arranger and conductor Don Sebesky, plus two songs specifically composed for Saga by Brazilian musical legend Hermeto Pascoal. Except for Pascoal's songs, Lima either wrote or co-wrote every tune.
"Brahms," a twenty minute Brazilian jazz interpretation of Brahms' Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Movement 3, is the centerpiece of this set, a genuine triumph of musicianship and taste that Lima describes it as "a gift for our friend Raul De Souza," who is given two choruses to improvise on trombone. Lima's acoustic guitar rings as clear as a harp, overflowing with Metheny's gentle soul and Hall's direct warmth but with a passionate almost wild element in his playing too. Everything about "Brahms"the drummer's pliant but insistent beat, the vibes' and keyboards' cool and rippling soundsfits together perfectly.
"Both Rodrigo and I are big fans of the late guitarist Jim Hallespecially his Concierto album for CTI, which includes a 20-minute jazz version of Joaquin Rodrigo's 'Concerto de Aranjuez," DeSouterio explains. "That track was the basic inspiration for our adaptation of Brahms' Symphony No. 3 in terms of having great improvisers doing loose solos over a sumptuous composition."
Even better, there are also sixteen other compositions to enjoy. In "Flying Waltz," Laws' flute solo and Lima's acoustic guitar solo each seem to breathlessly hover above Sebesky's pliant, heavenly string arrangement, which he conducts himself; eight minutes opens up just enough time for "Flying Waltz" to lugubriously meander in and out of your ears, like a country stream with no particular place to go.
Uruguayan keyboardist Hugo Fattoruso, who has played so long with so many Brazilian musicians that most people assume he's also from Brazil, further illuminates several tunes: His harpsichord dazzles "Brasileirão" with a melody as nimble as "The Flight of the Bumblebee" and lends a new sound to the lively fusion jazz "Samba da Mistura," while his synthesizer explores the colorful outer limits and inner corners of the quicksilver "OPA!," quicksilver jazz-rock fusion named by Lima to honor the jazz-rock fusion band that Fattoruso led in the 1970s and 80s.
There is so much more to write about if there were only space and time. "It was a very special joy to work with Rodrigo Lima," DeSouteiro concludes. "He's one of the most talented composers and instrumentalists I've ever met. His creativity is astonishing. For sure, Saga is one of the best albums I've ever produced." After even just one listen, you will be sure to agree.
Disc 1: Canção Praieira; Novos Cariocas (Anat's Song); A La Vuelta; Brasileirão; Flying Waltz; Altinho; Vida Nova; Pilotos; Opa!; Ânima 2; Palinha do Vinho. Disc 2: Brahms; Porta Aflora; A Velha Sozinha; Tango; Samba da Mistura; Nosso Borogodó Coió.
Alice Hamlet: cello; Gene Back: violin; Luis Barcelos: bandolim, cavaquinho; Sergio Barroso: acoustic bass; Sofia Ceccato: flute; Anat Cohen: clarinet, tenor sax; Laudir DeOliveira: congas, cuica, percussion; Arnaldo DeSouteiro: arranger, bells, percussion, voices; Hugo Fattoruso: accordion, harpsichord, acoustic piano, electric piano, synthesizer; Sammy Figueroa: percussion; Frank Herzberg: arco bass, acoustic bass; Jamil Joanes: electric bass; Ithamara Koorax: vocals; Hubert Laws: alto flute, flute; Rodrigo Lima: charango, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboards, piano, triangle, viola caipira, vocals, whistle; Carol Ma: violin; Cesar Machado: drums; Mike Mainieri: vibraphone; Lulu Martin: electric piano; Aline Morena: vocals; Débora Nascimento: bassoon; Zé Eduardo Nazario: caxixi, drums, percussion, tabla, vocals; João Palma: drums, voices; Carol Panesi: flugelhorn, keyboards, trumpet, violin; Hermeto Pascoal: melodica, piano, voices; Janaina Botelho Perotto: oboe; Kerrick Sasaki: viola; Don Sebesky: arranger, conductor, string arrangements; Raul de Souza: trombone; Trio Capitu; Ajurinã Zwarg: drums, soprano sax; Itibere Zwarg: electric bass, cello; Mariana Zwarg: flute, piccolo, tenor sax.