Brazilian Jovino Santos Neto allows us to glimpse the contemplative side of the piano maestro on his latest double-CD of duets, Veja O Som (See The Sound), featuring 20 tracks recorded in both the U.S. and in Brazil. However, the samba, so close to JSN’s heart, provides the rhythmic pulse on the album. The sheer number of talented guests is exhaustive, and any real devotee of jazz would be remiss not to check it out. Monica Salmaso, Joyce Mareno, Paquito D’Rivera, David Sanchez, Bill Frisell, Airto Moreira, Mike Marshall, and—there’s more?
The “American” CD opens with some fire, as David Sanchez and JSN indulge in the jazz samba “All of Those Things.” Other highlights of disc one include “Santa Moreno,” a the speedy Spanish minor tune with Mike Marshall, “Caminhos Cruzados,” with eccletic guitarist Bill Frissell, reminiscent of the great recordings of Bill Evans and Jim Hall, and “Veja o Som,” where JSN explores the rhythmic depths with one of his master teachers, Airto. It’s one of the most indulgent and least polished cuts. The disc ends with a version of the strange jazz standard “Nature Boy” that will grow on the listener in due time.
JSN’s duet with Mônica Salmaso on disc two is worth the purchase of the CD alone. Salmaso sent JSN a poem from a São Paulo urban poet, the pianist added the chords to the “powerful” melody, and the result is an understated masterpiece. Other “Brazilian”-disc high points include a spicy forró duet with the accordian master Toninho Ferragutti entitled “Feira de Mangaio,” and the wistful “Joana Francesa” with vocalist Paula Morelenbaum. Duets with Gabriel Grossi and Vittor Santos are performed well. However, one can’t escape comparisons of “Canto de Xangó” to the untouchable Baden Powell original or Moacir Santos’ “April Child” to the indelible 2001 recording with legend Gilberto Gil on Ouro Negro, another must-have two-disc Brazillian jazz CD. (The big-band trombonist Vittor Santos also played on Ouro Negro as well.)
Nonetheless, the stars come out on this cross-continental journey of sound (six cuts were recorded near his home in the Puget Sound)—and between JSN and his brothers and sisters of sound, as he likes to call them. The intimacy that JSN shares with each of his guests is tangible, and the result is a two-disc set of amicable and classy musical dialogue that combines both sentimental, sparse playing with dynamic rhythmic flourishes. What more could one ask for?