One of the many delights of writing for All About Jazz
is stumbling upon a great CD from the past, and being able to bring it to an audience that might have missed its debut. It's clear that Songs from the Last Century
is one of these rare gemseven before a single note is heard, the list of players and songs suggests that something very special is going on.
For one thing, the leaders are the superb pianist Helio Alves
and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca
(hence HD2), who are known as two of the greatest emissaries of Brazilian music and its happy cross-fertilization with American jazz. For this 2005 CD, they gathered together the formidable bassist Eddie Gomez
, notably from the Bill Evans
trio; the legendary saxophonist Phil Woods
; the brilliant arranger of the string quartet, guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves
, and two wonderful singers, Maucha Adnet
and Paulo Jobim, whose sultry blend evokes the iconic sound of the great Antonio Carlos Jobim
. That's no surprise, since Adnet recorded and toured with Jobim's Banda Nova for the last decade of his life, and Paulo is, quite audibly, his son.
The ten tunes are imaginative and wide-ranging, from the churning opener, "Three Views of a Secre,t" by Jaco Pastorius
, with its masterful Woods commentary, to the closer, the beloved "Very Early" by Bill Evans
, transformed here into a lilting samba with Gomez supplying a strong presence and a powerful solo. The journey also includes an exceptionally tasty tropical take on Toots Thielemans
's signature "Bluesette," with Da Fonseca and Alves joyfully playing off each other, and a soulful "These Foolish Things," which Adnet has said is one of Jobim's favorite songs (another, for the record, is "I Concentrate on You," which he reportedly wished he had written).Jerome Kern
's "Yesterdays" is also in the mix, along with familiar compositions by Brazilian giants Hermeto Pascoal
, Toninho Horta
, Egberto Gismonti
, and of course Jobim, whose "Sabia" takes on new dimensions with the contributions of Woods and strings (and those are real strings, not synth pads). In sum, Songs of the Last Century
is an unusually creative blend of the sound and sensibilities of north and south, and played with great musicality, taste, and swing.