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Helio Alves and Duduka Da Fonseca: The Indomitable Brazilians

Nick Catalano By

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Undeterred by the pandemic, camaradas Helio Alves and Duduka Da Fonseca continue their masterful musicianship in Gotham boîtes wearing masks as they consistently perform ever-fresh music from the Brazilian archives. Performing at Smalls Jazz Club on April 28 in front of stouthearted souls representing New York's proud jazz patronage while streaming the show for worldwide adherents, they once again displayed their knowledge and command of Brazilian composers and compositions.

Both samba stalwarts have fronted various combos in their long performing history in the Big Apple. For this date, they were billed as The Helio Alves Quartet with saxophonist/flutist Steve Wilson and bassist Peter Washington. Notably, Alves resurrected compositions from figures whose music is less known in these parts but whose works have long been heralded in Brazil.

Opening the first set, the quartet showcased Johnny Alf's "Rapaz de Bem"(1955) and Chico Buarque's "Sem Compromisso" (1974). More rarities followed: Nelson Cavaquinho's "Luz Negra" (1964), Raul Mascarenhas's "Sabor Carioca" (1989), and Dom Salvador's "Gafieira" (1984). With Alves and Wilson sharing the head and followed by exquisite solos from all four players, the pattern for the evening revealed an especial group cohesiveness. Another infrequently heard composer, Moacir Santos, was commemorated with a rapid-fire performance of "Coisa #10" (1965) highlighted by Da Fonseca's percussive pyrotechnics.

This cascade of lesser-known composers was a particular gift for the audience. Too often, performers rely solely on Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gilberto or Ivan Lins and ignore a vast trove of Brazilian musical polymaths. Alves deserves special plaudits for this show as both performer and educator. He will reunite this band on May 28 and 29 at the Jazz Forum in Westchester.

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