Album of the Week: Alma do Nordeste (soul of the northeast), Jovino Santos Neto

by chip on April 4, 2008

Alma do Nordeste (soul of the northeast)
Jovino Santos Neto
2008 – Adventure Music

A great composer takes his listeners past the simple execution of traditional form; instead they vividly describe the subjects of their pieces. Musical building blocks like tempo, texture, and dynamics help shape mood and guide the listener’s feelings. Cultural elements reference specific times and places; certain ethnic instruments bring a culture or country to mind. Creative interpretation of these elements adds perspective to a piece and allows a listener to view the subject from the composer’s eyes. Personal expression placed inside of these structures allows the listener to interpret the musician’s opinions on the subject. Jovino Santos Neto brings all these pieces together into a striking set of compositions that describe the Northeastern region of Brazil on Alma do Nordeste (soul of the northeast).

Unique Compositional Approaches Build New Meaning
Neto introduces unique compositional techniques to add depth and direction to several songs. A rubato flute conversation between Neto and Carlos Malta opens “Alma do Nordeste” until driving percussion leads into an exotic melody. Neto and Malta expand their conversation into a collective improvisation that builds into a frenzied climax. A return to the main theme integrates several melodic developments as well as a journey into 6/8 and double time. Ambient sounds from the Northeastern Brazilian region of Pernambuco introduce “Passareio.” An unusual 31 beat cycle gives the song a distinctly different flavor, while the use of Brazilian percussion instruments keeps the song grounded. The song avoids traditional melodic conventions, relying upon a free improvisation between Neto and Malta that instigates imagery of birds. A galloping rhythm full of interesting note choices takes listeners on a ride during “Vermeio Agreste Lampião.” The texture increases in depth, reaching a hectic strength with a collective improvisation between Toninho Ferragutti’s accordion, Eduardo Neves’ flute, and Marcelo Martins’ tenor sax. The group adds coloristic fills to a timeless section until the rhythm section returns with the song’s powerful main pulse. A fusion influenced groove in 7/4 as well as a duet between soprano sax and melodica provide a strong foundation in Neto’s tribute to drummer Airto Moreira, “Amoreira.” Neves patiently builds his soprano sax solo from short ideas into long, busy phrases that exploits the instrument’s high register. Neto utilizes syncopated rhythms and jazz influenced runs to create an inspiring melodica statement. The bold compositional shift outside the stylistic norms of Brazilian music helps the listener build diverse imagery and capture new meanings.

Capturing The Region’s Culture and Spirit
Neto utilizes the Northeastern styles of forró and xote to capture the region’s spirit and culture. Ferragutti displays the accordion’s strong expressive abilities on the bluesy melody to “Saudade de Sua Gente.” The inherent swing of the xote rhythm frees Neto to include traditional jazz phrasing, giving the song an earthy feel. Ferragutti reveals range and virtuosity through quick chromatic runs while fretless bassist Dudu Lima provides a busy improvisation. The up-tempo drive of Tiago da Serrinha’s pandiero pushes “Forró Vino” through a series of band breaks under Martins’ tenor sax melody. Moving melodic sequences and strong rhythmic accents build Martins’ solo into an assertive statement. After Neto plays a jazz tinged solo, drummer Marcio Bahia shapes an exciting and tastefully developed solo around band hits. Neto thoughtfully constructs a solo piano introduction to “Fulô Sertaneja,” leading smoothly into a gentle duet with Martins. As the melody closes, Neto jumps into a xote rhythm leading the band into a swinging shuffle section. Martins colors the groove with blues licks that quickly evolve into a conversational improvisation with Neto. Bahia and Lima add spice to the swung groove on “Donkey Xote” with slightly askew fills and rhythmic interpretations. Lima takes an extended solo, exploring blues ideas, chordal colors, and rhythmic accents. Martins responds with a carefully constructed soprano sax solo, leading into Bahia’s explosive improvisation between breaks. Neto’s creative interpretation of xote and forró takes the repertoire in new directions and adds the authentic touch of musical genres from Northeastern Brazil.

Different Variations on the Baião
Neto interprets the Northeastern Baião rhythm in several different ways in order to express his vision. A short piano introduction brings “Borborema” directly into a rhythmic melody. Bahia and Lima open into a free texture, allowing Neto to creatively construct an interesting statement. Martins joins Neto’s closing phrase before moving into his aggressive solo that invokes an enthusiastic response from the rhythm section. Neves, Martins, and Neto melodically exploit the different feel of the baião in 3/4 on the main theme to “São Pedro na Jangada.” The group transitions into a percussion feature, highlighting the unique nature of the rhythmic structure. The horns return for quick breaks, allowing Bahia to fill around the 3/4 time. The rhythm section layers into the main pulse on “Biboca” before harmonica player Gabriel Grossi introduces the beautifully simple melody. Neto plays with thematic development and sequential movement to drive his solo assertively through the form. Grossi’s rich tone returns with an insightful solo that progresses from spacious notes into quick runs. Ferragutti’s polyrhythmic playing over an up beat 7/4 baião rhythm creates an energetic introduction on “Festa na Macuca.” Martins’ flute and a rhythm section breakdown lead the group into an exciting solo exchange between Martins and Ferragutti. Neto jumps into an inspired improvisation that engages Bahia in spontaneous accents, eventually leading back to the melody. The recurring presence of the baião rhythm forms an important foundation for the album, and Neto’s creative manipulation of the style helps him invoke specific ideas from the music.

Vividly Bringing The Culture of Northeastern Brazil To Life
Neto creates bold sonic imagery of Northeastern Brazil on Alma do Nordeste (soul of the northeast), bringing together diverse compositional tools to paint a strong picture. His use of rhythms from the Northeastern region makes an authentic connection to the culture. Neto’s willingness to experiment with the genres through time signature, texture, and instrumentation colors the music and further focuses his concept. The extensive presence of improvisation adds perspective to the work, allowing each player to comment upon diverse settings. The individual musicians invest significant energy into reflecting upon the Northeastern Brazilian culture. They both follow the structure of Neto’s compositions and insert their personal voices into the work. Alma do Nordeste (soul of the northeast) benefits from Neto’s thoughtful craftsmanship, stylistic and cultural knowledge, and expansive musicianship – Neto pulls all these pieces into his compositions, vividly bringing the culture and sounds of Northeastern Brazil to life.

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