The press release accompanying Carlos Henrique Pereira’s first American release claims that "the balance between [his] opposite inspirations (of his native Brazil and current home, New York) and styles is seamless." It’s not. Not that this is a bad thing.
There are a number of metaphorical and literal dualisms here - Brazil/New York, piano/guitar, agua/terra, composition/improvisation. None are blended seamlessly, and that, I think is why this album shines. If there is a problem with the world music scene, it is that it promotes a type of postmodern pastiche in which styles morph into one another and lose their ability to have any meaning - the music just "sounds pretty". Pereira does much more than that here, and the seams are precisely where his music is interesting - when one part of the dualism places the other in relief and we are left with a picture of why both are meaningful on their own terms.
Pereira’s guitar playing is deft. His touch is light, his tone full but not heavy, and his taste is impeccable. His piano playing is heavy handed, but thoughtful. It is earthier; the antithesis to his atmospheric guitar. Complimented most often by accordion, bass and percussion, the rhythm section generally drives the band while Pereira himself seems content to float along in the wash.
The most interesting track on Agua e terra
is "Uraçu", where Pereira most clearly indulges his improvisational desire. The guitar solo hardly feels that way though. Instead Pereira weaves through the tune and changes as if there was simply no other way to go. In a way, his ideas are so logical, they seem intuitive.
"Paz" on the other hand is a meandering piece in which Pereira seems to lose himself, and in the process, loses his listener. The nebulous pastiche would be well-placed in a nature store at a mall, but is really not much more than wallpaper.
The album closing "As Far We May Go" has an appropriate title. Just as the band stretches its limits to a jazz trio style improvisation (New York?) a sole accordion draws them back to a new aged never-never land and the album ends with an uninspired fade out. This was as far as they would go.
This album fails when Pereira consciously attempts to eliminate the seams. It shines when he stands back and admires them, and admires difference. When water and earth are mixed seamlessly, it makes mud; but when mixed carefully and respected for their difference they become soil - something much more productive.