Very often writers ignore popular jazz artists and groups on the theory that they have sufficient exposure and don't need further praise. As a result, some of the subtler, finer points of the aesthetics go unnoticed. In addition, popularity and high success can be a curse, bestowing certain problems lesser performers don't have.
In recent months, Trio Da Paz
, performing the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim
, has had an unprecedented run of sold out performances at Dizzy's. The group has featured premier soloists like vibraphonist Joe Locke
and saxophonist Harry Allen
, and has virtually dominated Gotham's Brazilian music scene. The improvisational wizardry of guitarist Romero Lubambo
, bassist Nilson Matta
and percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca
has received huge audience response, but the growth of the group's versatility and depth over the years has received insufficient critical reaction.
The night of September 2, 2012 was a case in point. After dazzling renditions of the standard samba repertoire ("Corcovado," "Little Boat") with impressive soloing from Allen and Locke, and special excitement from vocalist Maucha Adnet
, the group unveiled "Pro Flavio," a composition by Lubambo. The tune, commemorating the guitarist's father, derives from a little known tradition in Northeastern Brazil (specifically Recife) and utilizes intriguing Baiao Partido rhythmic patterns. Da Fonseca explained some of this tradition backstage after the show, and the discussion led to other areas of the vast Brazilian repertoire which have been overlooked by American critics.
The performance of "Pro Flavio" uniquely showcased the trio's talents and provided ammunition for this column. The myriad micro-cultures of Brazil contain vast troves of musical treasures which, upon examination, can only increase the appetites of American audiences. Trio Da Paz not only delights patrons with its incomparable execution of the Jobim, Astrud Gilberto
and Luiz Bonfa
hits; it explores new musical territory. To experience some of this rarified air, fans should listen to the group's recordings. In Trio Da Paz & Joe Locke Live at JazzBaltica
(MAXJAZZ, 2008), the focus is on some of this "new" music. In original compositions, such as Da Fonseca's "Dona Maria," Matta's "Copacabana," and Lubambo's aforementioned "Pro Flavio," some of the excitement of the live performance at Dizzy's is available.
The popularity of Trio Da Paz will no doubt continue. But audiences should begin to focus on the group's compositional innovations, which reveal a complex aesthetic in Brazilian music even richer than they might expect.