It is a pleasure to discover works of unabashed beauty and lyrical sophistication which are imbued with an infectiousness joy. Actually, you don’t even need to discover it. But insert disc and press play. The hardest part may be fighting a loved one, or your cat, for that comfy chair. And once that is done your efforts will be justly rewarded, just lean back and listen to the music as it warmly unfolds before you and be transported to warm ocean breezes, sandy beaches and azure skies. The hard work and sweat (gotta be a labor of love) have already been done by two Brazilian musicians Mario Adnet and Se Nogueira. Together, they have gathered a tight yet engaging ensemble of capable musicians who interpret a snapshot of 28 selections from Moacir Santos’ rich and voluminous output. Ouro Negro (Black Gold) is a two CD offering of this scandalously underrepresented composer, arranger and tenor player whose invaluable work is every bit on par with such Brazilian greats like Anton Carlos Jobim, Baden Powell and Joao Gilberto, among others.
From its opener, Coisa n 5
(Thing No. 5-he writes 10 of these things and they’re all terrific) immediately perks up the ears with a patchwork of intricate music and polyphonic swirls of horns and kinetic beats of percussion a hallmark of that Santos sound. Most tracks have an ensemble of 10 to 12 musicians who don’t overpower you but lull you into a comfort zone with their excellent rapport. Listen to the soothingly cool and detached flute, then how the baritone saxophone dances around the march of the percussion and staccato horns. If you’re not hooked, then try Suk-Cha
which is tempting with its lilting and subtle horn solos and catchy melody or Coisa n 3
(Thing No. 3) which has a charming dialogue between soloist, ensemble and percussionist which will threaten to make a convert out of you with its unshakeable beauty.
Much in a jazz vain, this CD has ample amounts of instrumental solos and interplay which suggests a combination of sophistication and daring. Take Bluishmen
with its classical feel and exercise in restraint. There is a daunting piano and trombone intro that threatens to erupt amidst the weight of its foreboding mood before succumbing to a shower of percussion and upward lifts of the saxophone. Or take Kathy
, a clever five-four construction with nice progression of eloquent solos featuring flute, flugelhorn and a swinging saxophone. Maracatu
(Nation of Love) written for the beautiful hills and lush landscape in Brazil has pungent solos from trumpet and trombone. The soloists are spicy and articulate and never allow the music to sound dull or chromatic.
Of the 28 tracks it is hard pressed to pick a stand-out, but Jequie
, a town Santos passed by on his trip home to his native land, is composed using the challenging Lydian Modes first incorporated into jazz by composer George Russell. It is, as are all tracks in this recording, invitingly warm, reflective and touching. Easily, it could have served as a musical portraiture of someone.
From his opener to the very last ounce of music offerings from this disc Moacir Santos, who never relinquishes his Afro-Brazilian roots, unleashes his unbridled talents, his personal experiences and an undying love that are so implicit in his bracing and warm music which soothes and heals upon listening. Moacir Santos’ music sits comfortably well with us now as it will well into this century. There simply is no time that will predate these gems.