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Alma do Nordeste by Jovino Santos Neto

There is an old adage that suggests that one will inevitably return home again to discover his true identity, walking those same hallowed streets of his antecedents. Such is the case with Jovino Santos Neto’s new release, Alma do Nordeste (Soul of the Northeast) an album, for the most part, conceived and recorded in Northestern Brazil with old and new friends. Drummer Marcio Bahia and harmonica player Gabriel Grossi, who both appeared on Neto’s successful Roda Carioca, return on this latest effort. As Neto explains in his liner notes, an 800-mile, cross-country tour to the states of Alagoas, Pernambuco and Paraiba inspired him to capture the sounds of his grandparents’ native land.

The 13 cuts criss-cross the Northeastern musical stylings of forró, baião and xote while maintaining jazz sensibilties. Forró, because of its generous use of accordion, sounds like a combination of zydeco and reggae. It’s party music that is still heard on the lush beaches of Racife. In all three styles, the accent is on the two and the four, much like in a polka. The slowest of the three, xote is meant for slow dancing and is rooted in the German polka, the schottische.

Alma do Nordeste’s "Festa na Macuca" ("Party at the Macuca Farm"), an atypical baião in 7/4 rhythm, gets the party started. Neto had indulged in irregular rhythm on Roda’s first tune, the aptly named "Estrela do Mar" ("Starfish"), played in 5/4. Despite its odd time, "Festa" is unabashedly jaunty, and Jacob do Bandolim, if he was still alive, would have reveled in the cut’s tight, swift, melodic head.

Other energetic pieces include "Amoreira" ("Raspberry Vine"), Neto’s nod to legendary percussionist Airto Moreira, as well as "Alma do Nordeste" and "Forrô Vino." All three showcase the musicians’ organic musicality (it doesn’t come through as strongly on Roda) and ability to jam full throttle. The title cut is given tribal coloring with the inclusion of Tiago da Serrinha’s Brazilian bass drum, the zabumba, and his driving pandeiro (Brazilian tambourine), a mainstay in the choro form.

The most interesting xote is "Fulô Sertaneja" ("Flower from the Sertão"), which opens with Neto’s introspective, rubato piano. Marcelo Martins then joins him, offering a dose of sparse and soulful soprano sax. Martins’ playing is reminiscent of Bradford Marsalis’ on Requiem’s more somber tracks. Suprisingly, "Fulô" evolves into an admirable groove before it fades out.

If you want to listen to some classic forró, then throw on some Dominguinhos. However, if you’re looking for a CD that tries "not to recreate what had already been done so well by generations of great musicians from the Northeast," then take a ride with Neto and visit the multifarious musical landscapes that Alma do Nordeste explores.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jovino Santos Neto
  • CD Title: Alma do Nordeste
  • Genre: Brazilian Jazz / Brazilian Pop Jazz
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Adventure Music
  • Tracks: Festa na Macuca (Party at Macuca Farm), Saudade de Sua Gente (Your Folks Miss You), Amoreira (Raspberry Vine), Passareio (Birdsong), São Pedro na Jangada (Saint Peter on the Raft), Rede, Sossego e Chamego (Hammock, Peace and Cuddling), Fulô Sertaneja (Flower from the Sertão), Alma do Nordeste (Soul of the Northeast), Bilboca (Mud Hut), Forrô Vino, Borborema, Donkey Xote, Vermeio Agreste Lampião (Red Wild Lantern)
  • Musicians: Jovino Santos Neto (piano, melodica, fifes, flute), Toninho Ferragutti (accordian), Gabriel Grossi (harmonica), Carlos Malta (flute, fifes), Marcelo Martins (flute, soprano and tenor sax), Joseman Honaine (10-string guitar), Dudu Lima (acoustic and electric bass), Marcio Bahia (drums), Tiago da Serrinha (various percussion), Durval Pereira (various percussion)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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