The term Brazilian Jazz is a very precise one, at least as applied to this group. Having resided in New York City for many years, all three of these musicians have been able to blend their Brazilian roots with the jazz influences of their current environment. Guitarist Lubambo has worked with Dianne Reeves, Michael Brecker,and Grover Washington, Jr., as well as with Astrud Gilberto, Flora Purim and Airto, bassist Matta with Joe Henderson, Don Pullen, Slide Hampton and David Murray as well as with Claudio Roditi, Paquito and Gato Barbieri, and drummer Da Fonseca, a Grammy nominee, has accompanied John Scofield and Tom Harrell as well as a who's who of Brazilian performers, including the master--Antonio Carlos Jobim-who is quoted as saying "Duduka has worked with me, and I love the way he plays."
The result of these interactions, coupled with the superior technical ability and unfailing taste of all three players, is to produce a beautifully balanced blend of Brazilian genres--chorros, bossa novas, milangas, tangos, zambas and chamamés-with the melodic and harmonic elements of post-bop. It is absolutely the best of both worlds. The popularity of Jobim and Bossa Nova has given U.S. audiences a slightly false impression of Brazilian music-the subtlety and gentle wistfulness is certainly there in Jobim and Bonfa, but there is another side, more raw, certainly more passionate. While Trio Da Paz is not as intense as Yamandú Costa or Hermeto Pascoal, there is an assertiveness, a sense of restrained power, that comes across in their live performances, such as the one I witnessed a few weeks back at the Smithsonian Jazz Café in Washington DC, but which is only fleetingly in evidence in their recorded work. Conclusion: they really need to do a live recording. Until then, however, you should still pick this up and try to catch the trio live if at all possible.
The trio's virtuosity is in evidence from the very first track, Miles Davis' "Seven Steps To Heaven." Lubambo's finger-style technique is flawless, even at the fastest tempos. It is an approach to the instrument that is fairly rare, probably because it is so difficult. Jeff Lynsky, Gene Bertoncini, the late Charlie Byrd, and others have mastered the technique, but Lubambo has brought to a new level; when I caught the trio in D.C. he did not use a pick at all, even for the fastest single-note passages. He draws a lovely sound from the instrument, and creates improvisations of great invention and fluency that effortlessly blend jazz and Brazilian melodic lines. Bassist Matta is equally skilled, a cross between Scott LaFaro and Ray Brown! The trio format require him to move back and forth between accompaniment and solo, as well as contributing to theme statements. Matta fills each role with ease and grace. As for Da Fonseca, he also fills a dual role, as timekeeper and colorist, again with taste and aplomb.
All of this virtuosity is applied to a nicely paced program, with Brazilian classics by Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Baden Powell, gentle ballads, and some unusual items such as "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead," "The Brazilian National Anthem," and a 3/4 version of "Take Five." Some great stuff from Trio Da Paz!