Dave Pietro was a latecomer to Brazilian music, primarily because he lacked the opportunity to immerse himself in it until he traveled there with the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra in 1998. And immersion actually is
the process that happened. Once Pietro returned to Brazil with Toshiko Akiyoshi’s Jazz Orchestra, he continued to listen and to study and to appreciate and to immerse himself into.... and eventually to contribute to.... Brazilian music. Possessing the humility to realize that his role is to honor the music in its native authenticity, Pietro didn’t set out to change the music, but rather to interpret it. And so he recruited several U.S.-based Brazilian musicians, primarily rhythm-section-based, through the assistance of percussionist Valtinho Anastacio, and Pietro brought in some of his associates from the New York orchestras. This amalgam of styles and personnel provided the opportunity for Pietro to bring to life his own compositions, rooted in Brazilian harmony and sway and allowing for jazz improvisation.
While the primary instrumental voice on Embrace,
of course, is Pietro’s, the secondary voice, figuratively, is Anastacio’s. Literally,
Anastacio’s human voice is primary. For Pietro generously allows Anastacio to create the "Interludes" of Embrace,
combinations of Anastacio’s singing in Portuguese, as spur-of-the-moment as a jazz improvisation, and his work on berimbau, adding a sense of authenticity to them, as if they were sung in Sao Paulo, rather than in New York.
As far as Pietro is concerned, his playing is chameleonic. On "The Scene Between Two Unseens," Pietro explicates the melody on alto sax, following Anastacio’s introductory incantation, as he floats over the accompaniment of Pete McCann on electric guitar and David Berkman on Fender Rhodes. His undulating "Remembrance," arranged to include interwoven backup through the use of three other horns, features Pietro on soprano sax. And Pietro ends Embrace
with a sensitive duo performance on C-melody sax with pianist Helio Alves, the richness of the sax accomplishing the purity of timbre, neither alto nor tenor, that Pietro sought.
Dave Pietro has tapped into the beguiling charms of Brazilian music considering it through the perspective of an admiring adherent who wasn’t born to the music but who has made it an important component of his being and expressed now on this gracefully stated and deceptively complex CD that reveals new layers of richness upon each relistening.