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The Reunion Project: Varanda

Dan Bilawsky By

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If ever there was a gathering that's true to name and a misnomer, this is it. The Reunion Project isn't a glimpse at a band reformation or a grand comeback statement, but rather an expression of shared experiences, influences, and actions. It's both a look back to earlier times and the dawn of a new adventure.

Saxophonist Felipe Salles and guitarist Chico Pinheiro grew up together in São Paulo, absorbing the same sounds and making parallel yet distinct strides; Salles, pianist Tiago Costa, and drummer Edu Ribeiro all met while studying at the University of Campinas, cutting their collective teeth as gigging musicians in local nightspots in the surrounding area(s); and all four men join forces here, rounding out The Reunion Project with the addition of young Brazilian dynamo Bruno Migotto on bass. When brought together, this crew creates a highly evolved statement that points to its place of origin while tilting Brazilian jazz on its axis.

All five of these musicians contribute music written for these specific personalities. That shows in every move this quintet makes. Material, background, and personal history all contribute to a sonic synergy that takes this music to an extremely high level. Pinheiro and Salles seem to be of one mind, spinning out tricky snaking lines in unison in the most articulate and stylish of fashions, all the while working toward the same goal or sound. They both place extreme value on the same "three Cs"—clarity, cleanliness, and creativity. The rhythm section makes its mark by balancing tastefulness and energy, something that's evident in every scenario. This is a band that's simply in perfect alignment.

Varanda offers myriad glimpses into the connectivity at play between different parties. "Sinuoso" is the first of several numbers to highlight and showcases the Pinheiro-Salles partnership, as both join forces to deliver fleet-fingered lines and split off to make their respective thoughts known. It's the perfect introduction to this lineup. Then "Cobalt Blue" opens the eyes and ears to a prismatic dance in five where instruments pirouette around one another, "Maracatim" places Salles' flute in a bubbly atmosphere that also finds Costa digging in, "Sunset" gently sails on Migotto's bass riff, and "Jack And The Goblin Brother" disorients and delights with intense grooves, solo trades, and metric sleight of hand.

The second half of the album builds on the ideas, concepts, and connective bonds that are audible early on. The brief "Varanda" weds and weaves piano, guitar, and clarinet into a beautiful whole; "Reunion" opens and closes in gentle fashion while kicking into high gear in the middle; "Matthias" gives Pinheiro and Costa a chance to work with melodic pointillism and dovetailing designs as a duo before taking off with the full quintet; "Br" brings Salles' soulful soprano to the fore over funky treads and quieter movements; and "Yesterdays," refashioned in five, serves as a slinky and intoxicating goodbye.

This is Brazilian jazz through and through, but don't expect paint-by-numbers samba and bossa nova beats and harmonies. The Reunion Project plays by its own rules. This is music born of Brazilian men but bound by no cultural conventions.

Track Listing: Sunuosa; Cobalt Blue; Maracatim; Sunset; Jack And The Goblin Brother; Varanda; Reunion; Mathias; BR; Yesterdays.

Personnel: Felipe Salles: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Chico Pinheiro: guitar; Tiago Costa: piano; Bruno Migotto: bass; Edu Ribeiro: drums.

Title: Varanda | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Tapestry

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