Well, I don't read or speak Portuguese. I sure wish I did. It's a beautiful language, from what my untrained ear tells me. My untrained ear tells me that it likes the flow of the language, its subtlety and its deceptive often-monotonic quality that bespeaks underlying sadness, the emotions always mixed. The music shifts imperceptibly, like limbs within rustling clothing, as the chords glide by in waves or as they pile on density while the melody effortlessly extends over long tones, or in the case of "One Note Samba," over a single note.
Humbled by my ignorance but determined to learn, I went to www.altavista.com for translation services. Here's what I came up with: "Samba & I cry 20 with Pacing Part. These two Compassos are officially the primerios launchings of our recorder. These wonderful here recorded artists, some already consecrated, other beginning ones, they had bet in the design and if they entusiasmaram with the possibility to leave it registered in Company Disc. Simple thus. Prá are in the oven others to give wafer in the mouth are some here."
Now that I fully understand the backgrounds of the artists and the thematic intent of the recording, I can competently report to you the significance of what I heard.
No, really, it's my opinion that reviewers, more often than not, should be required to write about CD's without the crutches of liner notes or PR releases so that the quality of the music itself can be described in all of its honesty and technical quality. That would put all of the artists are a more even playing field, so to speak, and make the writer concentrate solely on the music, instead of on peripheral issues, such as the artist's previous recordings, political beliefs, past musical associations with other musicians, color of skin, style of dress or earnestness of expression. The music would be the reason for the existence of the review, and that review itself would be honest and focused on solely the music.
Note, though, that so far I haven't written about the music on Samba & Choro and that I have composed a long stall. So here goes.
Samba & Choro consists of 5 segments in which Brazilian musicians perform 3 songs each before a live audience. Whether this is the recording of a single live performance I can't tell you with absolute certainty, although I can assume that "Recorded to the living creature in July, August, September, November and December de 2000 in the Imperial Paço Especials" means that each of the sections was recorded before a separate gathering. The fact that some of the featured performers back up the others during successive events implies that all of these musicians know each other very well indeed, especially when one hears the musical understanding apparent on the CD.
Guitarist Maurício Carrilho, for example, exchanges phrases with clarinetist Pedro Paulo Santos and mandolin player Pedro Amorim in a connected way, as if threading, one player performing two bars, only to have the other pick up the next two bars and so forth until an entire fabric of a song is woven, the other musicians instantly fading into rhythmic accompaniment when one leads. Saxophonist Edgar Duvivier creates an emotionally unabashed appeal, with particular attention paid to the tone of his soprano sax, on Luciana Rabello's "Queixa Antiga," after which pianist João Braga shifts the rhythm and feel of the peace from one of meditation to one of confident assertion through his effective use of dynamics. On the other hand, they move into a more festive approach, with implicit danceability, on "Samba Na Neve," Duvivier's rich tone swelling and receding to make his musical points while Braga goes slightly Don Pullenish when it's his turn to solo.
Guitarist Luciana Rabello varies the composition of her groups from a string trio on "Beliscando" to one of the guitar backed by piano on "Velhos Chorões" to accompaniment by a 7-string guitar on "Sensível." Using the acoustic guitar entirely on all 3 tracks, Rabello effectively sustains tones through the repetition of a note, gradually building the note's intensity, or employing grace notes to pull on the heartstrings.
Then there's Guinga, who evidently alternates between clarinet and vocals. "Canibale" consists of an extended, uplifting clarinet solo on which guitarist Santos fills in the chords and prods as Guinga accents, both of them ending in unison on a single phrase and a final stinger, provoking delighted applause from the audience. And vocalist Miucha expands her interpretation of tunes like "Na Batucada Da Vida" from a warm lower alto range effortlessly up two octaves, always on pitch and with an inherent feel for the rhythmic center of the song. "Todo Sentimento" allows for Helvius Vilella's introductory set-up before Miucha builds a story, one that's perceptible through her shaping of tones and phrases, from the foundation of the song's changes.
While many Americans say that they like Brazilian music, they often mean that they like Brazilian songs played by American musicians, a jazz lick thrown in here or a wink-of-the-eye blue note slipped in there, all in the interest of the integration of cultures for "world music." But Samba & Choro, meaning possibly "Samba and Love Songs" (maybe not), lets open-minded, non-native listeners enjoy unadulterated Brazilian music from the perspective of the proverbial fly on the wall. That is, the Brazilian artists on Sambo & Choro were playing for an appreciative Brazilian audience, and now the availability of the CD allows us to listen in.