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Grupo Falso Baiano: Simplicidade: Live at Yoshi's

Dan McClenaghan By

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In the early 1960s, a series of albums by Stan Getz, including Jazz Samba (Verve Records, 1962), with guitarist Charlie Byrd, and Getz/Gilberto (Verve Records, 1963), with Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, helped propel the Brazilian bossa nova to an unusually high level of popularity. But in Brazil, before there was bossa nova there was choro, an earlier instrumental music that has escaped popular attention outside its home country. On Simplicide, San Francisco Bay area's Grupo Falso Baiano takes the traditional choro sound, stretches it out, and adds an American accent.

Where bossa nova possesses a cool, sensuous, smooth-flowing feel, Grupo Falso Baiano's music has a happy, lively sound—danceable and ebullient. The quartet, featuring saxophone/flute, guitar, mandolin and percussion including pandeiro and zabumba, can sound, at times, like an freewheeling and exotic form of bluegrass ("Caminhando") and, elsewhere, like a wistful lament ("Rosa Cigana").

The set opens with three tunes by some of choro's most influential twentieth century composers: the joyous "Caminhando," penned by Nelson Cavaquinho and Norival Bahia; the lilting title track, written by Jacob do Bandolim; and Pixinguinha's bouncy "Chegui," that showcases the group's seamless interplay—here, as a sextet, with the addition of pianist Jovino Santos Neto and percussionist Brian Rice. "Feira Livre" lifts the energy level higher, the sextet locked in tight over the intricacies of tinkling percussion, with Zak Pitt-Smith's sax weaving a sweet melody around the strings. Pitt-Smith then switches to flute and the group shifts into a stop-time groove, with the percussionists filling the spaces.

Choro, in the hands of Grupo Falso Baiano, is a happy and engaging music, full of tempo shifts and moods swings. A real bonus on the set is its closing tune, "Forro Na Penha," featuring Neta on accordion, giving the sound a sighing, ecstatic, African Zulu jive atmosphere counterpointed by Pitt-Smith's cool flute incursions.

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