What does a Ukrainian-born bassist, who spent the first four decades of his life based primarily in Eastern Europe, know about Brazilian music? This skepticism-filled question might run through the minds of people who hear of bassist Ark Ovrutski's background, but the music on Sounds Of Brasil will instantly squelch any doubt about his skills in this musical arena.
Since moving to the United States in 2005, Ovrutski has had the opportunity to work with the crème de la crème of the New York jazz scene, and the connection he made with Brazilian drumming guru Duduka Da Fonseca is clearly one of the most important musical relationships that the bassist has formed. Da Fonseca's drumming mastery and encyclopedic knowledge of grooves from his native Brazil helps to drive these songs, and his band mate from the Brazilian Trio, pianist Helio Alves, helps to provide all of the right harmonic touches.
While the program moves comfortably from baião rhythms to bossa nova to batacuda snippets and beyond, holding a degree in ethnomusicology isn't a prerequisite to enjoy the musical treats passed out by Ovrutski and his Brazilian-meets-Big Apple wrecking crew. Ovrutski covers funky, Blue Note-style hard bop filtered through a partido alto groove ("2nd Line/Partido Alto"), solo-filled samba that nods toward a New York meeting place for the Latin music scene ("SOB") and warm bossa nova beauty that benefits from the two-flute front-line of Craig Handy and Jorge Continentino. Continentino continues to provide soothing sounds when he switches to tenor saxophone for "Baby's Vibe," a ballad that stands apart as the only piece with no real connection to Brazilian music, and his baritone work is a key ingredient on both takes of the bolder "Brasilian Carnaval."
Ovrutski passes the authenticity test at every turn, but his most impressive playing comes during his tribute to composer Paul Hindemith ("Mr. Hindemith"), which benefits from his infectious solo work and the bouncy, groove hookup between the bassist and Da Fonseca. While the album is an ensemble effort all the way, Ovrutski defers to Da Fonseca in the end, allowing the master to give a brief demonstration of what Batacuda is all about. On the surface, Sounds of Brasil is a sensational survey of the musical riches that Brazil has to offer, but buried even deeper within the music is an energetic spirit that speaks volumes of the talents of bassist-composer Ark Ovrutski.
Track Listing: 2nd Line/Partido Alto; SOB; Song For My Mom; Mr. Hindemith; Brasilian Carnaval
(Take 1); Baby's VIbe; Samba In 4th; Brasilian Carnaval (Take 2); Batacuda.
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