Album of the Week: Lua e Sol, Mark Weinstein

by chip on December 19, 2008

Lua e Sol
Mark Weinstein

Once a musician finds their niche, it can a comfortable place to be – it takes a brave artistic soul to keep pushing themselves into new directions. Many musicians experiment with different styles, but they generally bring outside influences into their realm. This is an admirable task, and it’s one that stretches an artist to a certain extent. It’s a fairly safe experiment though; when the artist finds their breaking point with the new musical material, they have all their standard conventions as a net. Truly stepping outside the niche involves a trip into a different and authentic musical context. This journey needs to involve the tradition’s important songs and composers, but it also needs to a trip taken with the genre’s experts. Authentic musicians that have spent their life immersed in that genre are the perfect band mates for this endeavor; they are bound to push the artist. This is a time intensive task that involves repeated experimentation. The artist needs to feel comfortable taking risks in a public space and committing themselves fully to this new realm. Flautist Mark Weinstein has always been a brave and cutting edge musician; on Lua e Sol he takes a trip into the authentic world of Brazilian music with a strong cast of musicians.

Drawing Upon Compositions From The Group
Three interesting pieces come from musicians in the ensemble, placing a unique slant upon the music. The rich tone of Nilson Matta’s bowed bass resonates underneath textural sounds on Weinstein’s “Lua e Sol” until percussionist Cyro Baptista implies a funky groove underneath Weinstein’s open melody. Both Weinstein and guitarist Romero Lubambo create adventurous improvisations with bold assertion as the rhythm section changes texture beneath him. The group creates structural contrast with freedom and texture, starting with standard patterns and falling into chaotic collective improvisation. Weinstein plays a lush melody out of time as Lubambo follows him closely on Matta’s “Floresta” until Matta and Lubambo jump into an up-tempo baiao groove. Weinstein embraces the rhythmic propulsion enthusiastically with a bright solo, leading into Lubambo’s virtuosic statement. The rhythmic momentum disappears suddenly, leaving Matta and Baptista alone to improvise freely until Weinstein and Lubambo return to the original theme. Lubambo provides a short unaccompanied introduction to Weinstein’s “Estrelinha,” leading into the reflective and beautiful melody. Weinstein grabs his solo section with an aggressive push, spinning flowing lines through the rich harmony. After a finely constructed improvisation from Lubambo, Matta makes an expressive melodic statement that utilizes register, technique, and strong development. These three pieces show the group both playing upon stylistic inspiration but also bringing individual concepts into their performance.

Digging Into Samba Compositions
Several tracks draw upon heavy samba compositions, taken from some of Brazil’s top composers. Baptista’s driving pandiero rhythm connects strongly with Matta’s bass on the introduction to Baden Powell’s “Canto de Ossanha” until Weinstein enters with the uplifting melody. Weinstein adds bluesy inflections to his statement, releasing into a major mode for the bridge. Lubambo takes a more jazz influenced approach, developing rich melodies that correspond closely to the harmony. Weinstein, Lubambo, and Matta play a unison riff to introduce Pixiguinha’s “Choro da Gafieira,” quickly moving into the contagiously up-beat melody. Weinstein riffs around the melody a bit as the group moves through the form several times, but this short track remains purely focused upon the groove. Lubambo starts Herivelto Martins and Roberto Roberti’s “Isaura” with an attention-grabbing lick before moving into a more rhythmic introduction. Following Weinstein’s playful interpretation of the catchy melody, Matta presents an outstanding solo full of memorable musical lines, a blues edge, and fantastic bass chops. Weinstein follows with an inspired improvisation that reflects the song’s joyful nature, while Lubambo builds his statement around the song’s addictive rhythmic momentum. These songs allow Weinstein to jump headfirst into works from Brazilian composers and experiment with his group through interactive improvisations.

Traveling Through More Brazilian Styles
A few more pieces travel through a variety of Brazilian styles, reflecting the tradition’s diversity. The deep and expressive nature of Weinstein’s bass flute introduces João Donato and Gilberto Gil’s “Emorio” amid a variety of sound effects from Baptista, including whispering, birdcalls, and jungle noises. Weinstein’s instrument adds a dramatic effect to the melody that leads into Matta’s logically constructed solo, full of powerful thematic development. There’s a weight and depth to Weinstein’s bass flute solo, as he makes every note matter until Lubambo adds an equally insightful yet busier improvisation. Beautiful jazz harmonies color Lubambo’s brief introduction to Ary Barroso’s “Pra Machuchar Meu Coracáo,” until Weinstein flavors the melody with a gentle sway over a consistent bossa nova. Both Weinstein and Lubambo take full advantage of the song’s rich harmonies, displaying skilled jazz chops in two short statements. They both return for a second run through the changes with more refined and melodic ideas, providing the perfect contrast to their initial ideas. Baptista maintains a driving brush pattern as Lubambo and Weinstein play a rhythmic melody on Gianfrancisco Guarnieri and Eduardo Lobo’s “Upa Negrinho.” Lubambo perfectly captures the song’s energy with an active and bluesy solo that pushes the band into an unstoppable momentum. After a brief return to the melody, Weinstein provides a wonderful contrast with a more understated improvisation that invokes active participation from Matta and Baptista. These songs place the group in a variety of different contexts, invoking new and exciting ideas from them.

Making Brazilian Jazz His Own
Weinstein has made in-roads into Brazilian music on previous albums, but his work on Lua e Sol shines with a bold personality and a brave experimental spirit. His repertoire choices reflect his familiarity with Brazilian music and a deep study of the style. Yet he’s demonstrated that on previous albums; the most striking piece here is the distinct sound created within this context. He experiments with elements of free jazz, textural changes, and interesting arrangement ideas, searching for a clean fit for his ideas into the Brazilian jazz realm. The use of Baptista’s vast arsenal of percussive sounds and rhythmic ideas plays a big part in the group’s sound – the exclusion of a drum kit removes the familiar while Baptista’s endless creativity evolves into a range of colors. Lubambo and Matta are the perfect companions for Weinstein’s exploration; their background in Brazilian music is unparalleled and their comfort with jazz improvisation allows them to spontaneously move in a variety of directions. Weinstein has spent a career moving out of his comfort zone and finding a way to assert his voice in each genre he visits; as Weinstein continues to explore Brazilian Jazz on Lua e Sol, his willingness to boldly take risks brings him one step closer to making the genre his own.

Check Out These Related Posts:
4 Latin Jazz Flautists Bringing The Instrument Into The Forefront
Revisiting Latin Jazz Classics: Cuban Roots, Mark Weinstein
5 Latin Jazz Guitarists Making A Contribution To The Scene
Album of the Week: Con Alma, Mark Weinstein

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