Nilson Matta's Brazilian Voyage: Copacabana is just that, a voyage across the beautiful landscape that is Brazilian jazz music. Your tour guide is uniquely qualified to take you on this voyage. If this is your first voyage, you will want to stay. If you are returning to the land of Brazilian jazz, you will recognize familiar territory, but Matta's descriptions will be uniquely Nilson's!
My collection of jazz recordings is peppered with the work of Nilson Matta and I welcome this latest effort with great enthusiasm. My first live experience of Nilson was with Harry Allen and Trio Da Paz at the Newport Jazz Festival. They were in the side stage and it was close up and intimate. His mastery of the acoustic bass in the environment of the small group was evident, but not as much as his mastery of the Brazilian genre. He drove those rhythmic motifs deep into my psyche.
This, the third album organized by Matta is the perfect venue for making that voyage to Brazil. The opening track, "Baden" is Matta's composition dedicated to the memory of the legendary guitarist Baden Powell. The work between Matta and Mauricio (percussion) is wonderful, providing the rhythmic and melodic pocket for Klaus Mueller to accentuate the piece. The adaptation of "Trenzinho do Caipira" on of composer Heitor Villa-Lobos' better known works is a great example of the respect for the past brilliance as honored by the ensemble working with Matta. Harry Allen treats the melody with such sensitivity and respect for its fundamentals that you can hear the care in which the entire piece has been treated. Anne Drummond(flute) is equally proficient and sensitive to the origins of this tune. The key to this song is the intended dynamics in the melody that have been conserved in the contemporary treatment by Matta and his band mates. Águas Brasileiras, "Brazilian Waters" opens softly with Matta plucking the bass and then gently joined by Mueller on piano with Zottarelli executing perfect dynamics with the brushes on drums. The bass solo is deep, emotional and executed with the soul of man in familiar waters. I listened to this cut over and over to fully absorb the beauty of that solo, and the surrounding melody. A wonderful composition with transcendental power.
The rhythms of Brazil are brought to the top of the mix, boiling into the Ari Barroso composition of Brazil (Aquarela Do Brasil) , "Watercolors of Brazil". Allen and Drummond lock into a harmonic treatment of the melody that comes across as if they are one musician with one instrument. The rhythm section is tight on this piece and drive the song from the first note until the last with Mueller tying the melody to the beat perfectly. The entire ensemble sell the groove on this song.
"Pantanal" another Matta composition features his gravely bowing style and deeply sensitive dynamic. The basic elements of this composition have an almost American Pioneer feel to them. This solo piece evokes the Celtic soul of the ancient European music that entered the Portuguese music vocabulary when they were roving the seas building an empire. The Pantanal is a large wetlands in the heart of South America, the largest of its kind with a diversity of wildlife and fauna that give this region a unique identity, an identity that is also unique to Brazil. No voyage would be complete without an examination of the "Pantanal".
The bossa nova "Copacabana" is named for the beach where Nilson met his wife. It features the brilliant sax work of Harry Allen. I am already a big fan of Harry, a native of my home state of Rhode Island. But when I listen to him play Brazilian music, especially a Bossa, I would swear he is a native of Brazil himself. His technique is flawless and channels the spirits of the great Stan Getz among others. I can see why Matta and Allen team up so often, they have a chemistry.
I did not know the legend of "Saci Pererê" until I read the liner notes of this CD but I had already listened to the cut and it made total sense that the song is descriptive enough to be the sound track to the story as it might be told. If you want to fully appreciate the playfulness of this song, Wikipaedia this character, get to know the nature of his mischief and see how any Brazilian child would come to know this character. Matta expresses his own description of Saci in this tune with a intense and dynamic treatment in his solo. I loved the energy of this song as conveyed in Mueller's piano playing. Zé Mauricio's percussion solo spot puts the folklore into total perspective, coming in after the piano and bass have cut out.
"I Can See Forever" is a Harry Allen composition and is another example of the great chemistry between Allen and Matta. It is also further evidence that Allen has a Brazilian soul. The tender, almost bittersweet melody evokes a feeling of nostalgic longing for something or someone that one was fond of and which is lost, perhaps never to return. The addition of this composition might harken to the Brazil of Matta's childhood.
But no trip to Brazil ever ends in total sadness or melancholy because after all Brazil is the land of sun, sand, beautiful women and a wonderful people. The upbeat nature of Gonzaga's "Asa Branca/ BAIÃO" with its pulsing, driving rhythms and soaring melody delivered by Drummond's flute leave one with a lightness and satisfaction that wants to draw you back to Brazil.
Nilson Matta's Brazilian Voyage - Copacabana, is an invitation to hear Brazil, and learn of its wonderful culture, the beauty of its landscape and the heart and soul of its people. I encourage you to embrace this music, this country and this CD.