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Victor Biglione: The Best of Brazil's Best?

Victor Biglione: The Best of Brazil's Best?
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The Gentle Rain is a landmark recording in the history of the Brazilian jazz guitar tradition. And, given the profusion of world class guitarists Brazil has produced in the past half century, that’s no small accomplishment.
Growing up in the 1960s had one propitious cultural benefit; exposure at an early age to Brazil's amazing popular music of the day, the bossa nova. As my record collection grew, so did a desire to see first hand the country responsible for producing so much singular music.

In 1970s, I spent three months in the country, seeing it from its southernmost realms to the heart of the Amazon in the far north. More trips to Brazil followed over the decades and the record collection mushroomed. By the late 1980s, I was writing stories about Brazilian musicians and reviewing recordings for Guitar Player, JAZZIZ, Américas, the publication of the Organization of American States, and other outlets. Along the way, I was fortunate to interact in Brazil with such legends as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfa, Marcos Valle, The Tamba Trio, Roberto Menescal, Azymuth and Victor Biglione.

Victor Biglione? While perhaps not as well known abroad as many Brazilian musicians, this incredibly versatile guitarist has been for much of the past three decades one of Brazil's top string virtuosos. And that's saying a lot. If Brazil has a surplus of anything, it is world class guitarists.

After years of formal study, Victor emerged as a professional musician in the late 1970s. His trademark flowing blond locks are still part of his persona, as is his ability to perform in virtually any style known to the modern guitar world, from rock, blues and fusion to classical, tango, bossa and straight ahead jazz. From tributes to Jimi Hendrix and Jobim, there is no stylistic reference Victor has not mastered. In short time, he became one of the country's most in-demand session artists and the first choice of Brazil's biggest pop music stars when putting together an all-star band was required for a recording or a tour.

Victor was actually born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but, due to the political repression of the era, his family sought political exile in Brazil to escape their homeland's military dictatorship. His mother was a Ukrainian Jew; his father, of Italian descent. Both were political activists and members of Argentina's Communist Party. Although he returns to Buenos Aires from time-to-time to visit family or perform, he considers himself to be 100% Brasileiro.

Victor's extensive discography as a leader or co-leader extends from 1982 to the present and encompasses over thirty albums. Some are particularly distinctive. One is Condor, the soundtrack for the 2007 documentary film about the covert actions of an anti-democratic alliance of the military dictatorships of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil in the 1970s. Its was created to eliminate political opposition and orchestrated a campaign of terror that lasted for years. Victor distinguishes himself here as a composer, creating a dark and haunting soundscape, replete with some tango-style touches and classical overtones. In 2003, he released another gem; Marcos Valle & Victor Biglione—Live in Montreal. Here his shares the spotlight with the composer of such mega-hits as "Summer Samba" and his band. With Andy Summers, he produced two exceptional recordings; Strings of Desire in 1998 and Splendid Brazil in 2005. These bracing guitar duos survey a handpicked group of Brazilian and jazz standards and are a tribute to Victor's improvisational genius.

His current album is The Gentle Rain. I was honored to be asked by Victor himself to pen the liner notes. The commentary, translated from Portuguese in what follows, sums up why Victor is considered by serious guitar aficionados to be one of the planet's most accomplished string masters.

The Gentle Rain is a landmark recording in the history of the Brazilian jazz guitar tradition. And, given the profusion of world class guitarists Brazil has produced in the past half century, that's no small accomplishment. It is also the finest jazz recording to date in the remarkable career of Victor Biglione, and that's saying a lot. Even though he has produced three dozen albums since 1982, and although all of Victor's sessions have reflected in a variety of ways his supreme combination of technical skills and improvisational genius, The Gentle Rain stands out. It displays his unparalleled artistry in a multitude of expressions and through a breadth of stylistic references that will leave the listener dizzy with delight. It is truly the very best of Victor Biglione.

The fabled bassist Sergio Barroso, a revered member of Brazil's bossa nova-era generation of jazz greats, and André Tandeta, a veteran drummer who provides the always perfect rhythmic underpinnings to the eight performances, are Biglione's partners on this bracing set. It is the guitarist, however, that commands attention from beginning to end as he melds his vast array of stylistic influences, from blues, funk and rock to bossa nova, fusion and straight ahead jazz, into one imposing voice.

The special charm of The Gentle Rain radiates through the session's eclectic program. Handpicked by Biglione for their challenges and rewards, these compositions, whether ballads or burners, are perfectly suited to the guitarist's many talents. Among the most surprising takes are "Batida Diferente," the sambop classic, and "Take Five," Paul Desmond's catchy masterwork. Both have seldom been attempted by guitarists, yet both prove to be a magical match for the diverse abilities of Biglione and his rhythm section partners. On such ballads as Tom Jobim's lovely yet seldom recorded "Por causa de você" and Luiz Bonfá entrancing title tune, Victor displays other aspects of his multifaceted virtuosity as he explores these lush melodies reverentially, always choosing the perfect chords and inflections to amplify their natural beauty.

Make no mistake: The Gentle Rain is a remarkable accomplishment and yet another milestone for this gifted guitarist. But, would we expect anything less from Victor Biglione?"

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