The first cut here, "Espelho de tua força," has the expectant vibe of great things to come. What does follow is Brazilian-tinged jazz driven by consistently precise and colorful percussion--friendly but not exceptional. The flute is light and fluffy, the keyboard electronically mellow, the bass plump and springy. Alexandre Cunha provides the main excitement. He's a wonderful percussionist, fluent in the idioms of both American jazz and Latin rhythms, and active, but careful to fit in as he prods or accents the mainline.
His brief flurry introduces the session with authority, and he finishes strong with his most extended solo. In between, the vibe tilts to the commercial side--more Sergio Mendez than edgy Hermeto Pascoal. Several tracks are candidates for a smooth-jazz station, especially the annoyingly repetitious "Mano Zé."
"Correnteza" surprises though with a near-New Orleans beat and guitars from Nashville rather than Rio. Made me smile. That's followed by the most adventurous track, "Embaraçado." The rhythm is tense, driving and complex. A piano chorus lightens the mood before the ensemble repeats the unusual angular opening line.
And then a cheerful, breezy "Chapéu patheta" returns us to the beach at Ipanema. Flutist Tino Junior leads the way and is supported by an electric keyboard, bass, and Cunha's ever inventive percussion. (Note: though numerous musicians are on the album, many appear only once, and the average group-size is roughly a quintet.)
"Partindo pro alto" brings another surprise. A hard-plucked guitar starts things off with a sound that comes straight from the Seinfeld theme song, then Cunha and a swirly, sustained electronic keyboard switch us back to a smooth-jazz version of Brazil. The track is a microcosm of the entire album. Brazil never disappears for long and Cunha delights, but the arrangements, except for the occasional unexpected touch, stick to the easily digested.
Recommended for drummers--and Brazilian fans tired of Gerber's apple sauce, but not about to go for feijoada.