Merengue the latest work by Carlos Barbosa-Lima is an overwhelming collection of brilliant interpretations of some of the finest pieces ever composed for guitar. These songs shine in the hands of the living legend that Barbos-Lima has become. On "Merengue", Barbosa-Lima's fifth CD with ZOHO he delivers a selection of music by re-knowned composers from his native Brazil, Latin America and even Hawaii. For this work Barbosa-Lima assembled a fine list of musicians to enhance the presentation of these songs. Included among the talented musicians is special guest Hendrik Meurkens from the U.S., on harmonica, along with Duduka Da Fonseca(Brazil) on percussion, Gustavo Colina(Venezuela) on cuatro, Marcillo Lopes(Brazil) on mandolin, and George Anderson(U.S.) on bass. "Merengue" also features the recording debut of the "World Guitar Trio" featuring Barbosa-Lima joined by guitarists Karin Shaupp(Australia) and Chrsitopher McGuire(Texas, U.S.).
To presume that I could provide any critique of this CD would be a stretch for even the most accomplished guitarist and listener. The list of composers is impressive in it's own right and includes legends such as Gnattali, Riera, Villa-Lobos, Jobim, Brouwer, Savio and more. Many of which have had their pieces handled brilliantly by Barbosa-Lima in the past. This compilation serves as a venue to get a taste of the deep and diverse legacy of guitar music from that region. The nature of the compositions span and blur the classical, folk, popular and jazz lines. Which is what attracts so many of us to Brazilian, and Latin guitarists in the first place. There is no defining that music. One just knows that when executed brilliantly, the emotion, passion, and sense of place that it evokes is unmistakably Brazil.
Who better to execute these songs than the living legend of Carlos Barbosa-Lima, with over fifty years of uninterrupted performing. He has recorded over fifty albums on labels such as Chanteclair, and Concord Records. His performances have brought to life the works of many composers including, Ginastera, Mignone, Santórsola, Cordero, Scott and Yasui.
This entire CD is remarkable in that it enables the listener to span those composers and the underlying themes of the pieces and be guided through the process by one of the finest of that genre. I cannot cite any one cut that grabbed my attention. But I was surprised to see how comfortably the harmonica was featured in the tracks: "Modinha" and "Seis Por Derecho". Meurkens stylized the relationship between the guitar and harmonica in the Brazilian tradition that I was surprised to learn, goes back to the early twentieth century. On "Modinha" the harmonica adds a melodic lead and completes the harmonic, no pun intended, signature of the piece. Most notably, it clearly belongs in that song!
Merengue is the first CD I have reviewed by Carlos Barbosa-Lima, and I hope won't be the last. While I am well aware of his accomplishments, I was not fully aware of the raw entertainment value that a collection of songs presented by him can have. I urge anyone who loves guitar music, especially Brazilian poplular, classical and jazz music, pick up this CD and give it a listen. If you can do this, and you are not drawn to digging into the Barbosa-Lima discography immediately after, then you missed my point. If you do end up digging into the discography, Merengue will represent the tip of a deep and rewarding iceberg. I have enjoyed the experience!