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Walking With My Bass by Nilson Matta & Friends

Here's another one for the Great-Music-That-Might-Go-Unnoticed department. Bassist Nilson Matta is not exactly a household name but he is a musician's musician. Originally from Rio de Janiero but now resident in New York, Matta's discography includes work with, among others: Herbie Mann, Nancy Wilson, Paquito D'Rivera, Paul Winter, Oscar Castro Neves, Claudio Roditi, Luiz Bonfa, Charlie Byrd, Helio Alves, Joe Carter, Sadao Watanabe, Eliane Elias, Kenny Barron, Carlos Barbosa Lima, Aloisio Aguiar, Vincent Herring, Joe Henderson, Mark Weinstein, Don Pullen, oh--and Yo Yo Ma. He is also a member of the highly-regarded Brazilian Jazz Trio Da Paz, along with guitarist Romero Lubambo and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca. For his first recording under his own name he has pulled together a remarkably diverse group of musicians to create an album that probably shouldn't work. But it really does.

It is usually a reg flag for me when I see totally different personnel listed on each track of a recording; I expect a set with no continuity. Why that is not the case here is a bit of a mystery. The first track suggests instrumental Brazilian jazz, with trumpeter Riditi combining with flutist Drummond to create a bright ensemble sound over a crisp rhythm section, interspersed with Juris' slightly sardonic guitar, as they interpret Moacir Santos' composition. I would love a whole album by this ensemble but they are not heard again until a performance of Matta's own "Bossa for Copacabana" later in the album. But no matter, the change of pace is instant and refreshing as Rosa Passos appears for a delightful "Samba Sem Você," accompanied by her own guitar plus bass and percussion. No sooner have we settled into the Brazilian vocal mode, however, than there is another change of pace and we are confronted by Ellington on the harmonica--Mauricio Einhorn's "A Train." There is more lovely vocal music to come, Ivan Lins, Joyce Moreno, Filó Machado, Joao Bosco, but in between we hear "Berimbau" in piano trio (plus percussion) format with Matta joined by Kenny Barron, Jeff Tain Watts and Jorje Silva. Next we are back in vocal mode with Joyce Moreno and her husband Tutty on drums, but instead of purely Brazilian repertoire, she sings "I Only Have Eyes For You," with a Bossa Nova interpretation, of course. Einhorn now returns with "Smile," through which Charlie Chaplin enters the jazz cannon! "Here's That Rainy Day" brings more Kenny Barron, at the top of his game, while "Night And Day" gives us a chance to hear from Anne Drummond again, along with a distinctly Getz-like Allen. Finally, Victor Brasil's up-tempo "Creek," not heard on record since Airto Moreira's first recording, has more Drummond and some fleet piano work from Alves as the album closes on even brighter note than its opening.

The glue that holds all this together is Nilson Matta-his bass, his concept and his Rolodex! The latter because these are all-with the exception of Jeff Tain Watts-musicians he has worked with before, both in the US and Brazil. It is a measure of their respect, and affection, for him that they wanted to contribute to his recording. It is his respect for them, and for the artists whose compositions he has chosen-such as Santos, Chaplin and Brasil-that has informed the concept for the record. And it is his bass playing, with a big, full sound, faultless intonation and unerring sense of time, reflecting his influences from Mingus to Paul Chambers, Ray Brown and Ron Carter, that provides the underpinning for each artist and the continuity of the whole. If there is one problem with the album it is that Matta's informative notes are hard to read.

Nilson is one of the performers on Nancy Wilson's Turned To Blue that just won the Grammy for best Vocal Jazz Album. Walking With My Bass should be nominated in the best Brazilian, or Latin, Jazz Album category. It's that good.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Nilson Matta & Friends
  • CD Title: Walking With My Bass
  • Genre: Brazilian Jazz / Brazilian Pop Jazz
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Blue Tucan Music
  • Rating: Five Stars
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