Album of the Week: Brazilliance x4, Claudio Roditi

by chip on April 17, 2009

Brazilliance x4
Claudio Roditi
Resonance Records

An artistic encounter of sympathetic musical personalities can inspire fine performances from all involved, often bringing unexpected qualities to the surface and almost always guaranteeing unforgettable recordings. Many professional musicians spend the majority of their time working with high quality collaborators, and they often explore interesting artistic avenues through brief gatherings of different groups. Most of the time these musicians get the job done and they provide inspiration, but on some levels, professionalism is simply not enough. When musicians share common cultural backgrounds, similar artistic interests, and identical performance aesthetics, a different type of magic arises from the collaboration. A highly energetic momentum propels the grooves into a new space, the improvisations capture an extra intensity, and the spontaneous interplay appears to be the result of telepathic communication. The performances seem effortless and natural; the artistic output resonates from the performers like a common extension of their bodies. It’s an ideal musical situation that all artists aspire towards, but few rarely capture. Musicians don’t often spend their time with collaborators that share broad pieces of their musical personalities, making those sympathetic moments more magical. Trumpet player Claudio Roditi, a long-time veteran of the Brazilian Jazz scene, gathers a sympathetic group of musicians on Brazilliance x4, resulting in a memorable recording.

Exploring Roditi’s Original Compositions
Roditi contributes several compositions to the recording, moving his musical personality into the forefront. Duduka da Fonseca dramatically introduces “Dinner by Five” with an unaccompanied drum solo before pianist Helio Alves assertively moves chords over a pedal tone and Roditi boldly states the melody. Roditi captures the song’s momentum with a blistering stream of notes before developing his improvisation with smart accents and hard bop intensity. Alves matches Roditi’s fire with virtuosic melodic runs, bluesy embellishments, and shifting thematic ideas. Roditi shapes an upbeat idea with short melodic snippets, allowing da Fonseca to insert some rhythmic commentary on “Tema para Duduka.” Alves creates his own clever twists on the melody, building a strong improvisation until Roditi blasts into an inspired statement. The band disappears allowing da Fonseca to take his time constructing a brilliant unaccompanied solo, full of color and melodic structure. Alves introduces the main theme with subtle flourishes on “Song for Nana” before Roditi tenderly restates the full melodic idea over a gentle bossa nova foundation. This understated setting provides the perfect setting for Alves, who fills his improvisation with jazz finesse and smoldering atmosphere. Roditi travels through his solo with an inventive melodic flair, weaving rapid runs and long tones back into the melody. The group attacks the melody on “Gemini Man” with a vigorous passion, driving the familiar melody through an unstoppable samba groove. Roditi displays his close familiarity with the changes, tearing through the thick momentum with a fierce tone, a technical strength, and a series of strong ideas. Alves draws upon Roditi’s inertia, wildly meshing pieces of the melody, steaming runs, and syncopated rhythmic ideas into an unforgettable display of improvisatory fire. Roditi’s compositions strike a chord with the musicians, inspiring strongly committed performances, interesting conversational interplay, and exposed improvisations.

Drawing Upon Samba Compositions
The group also draws upon samba compositions from well-known Brazilian composers, finding a common ground in familiar repertoire. The rhythm section explodes into a funky strut over a baiao groove as Roditi and Alves gallop through the inspired melody on Victor Assis Brasil’s “Pro Zeca.” Roditi captures the song’s inherent swing and character with a bluesy solo that pushes the groove with rhythmic accents and quick flights of notes. Alves cleverly twists rhythmic phrases into new ideas over the course of an interesting and winding solo, leading into an engaging and creative improvisation from da Fonseca. A unison band run leads into a syncopated melody with a naturally rhythmic nature on Raul de Souza’s “A Vontade Mesmo.” Roditi assertively wraps his ideas around the samba’s rhythmic structure, leading into an energetic statement from Alves who continues to play around the groove. The original unison run introduces da Fonseca’s improvisation, a colorful display of ideas based upon the underlying samba foundation. A stop break makes way for Roditi’s introduction of the melody on Johnny Alf’s “Rapaz de Bem,” an uplifting melody with an active series of chords. Alves leaps headfirst into his improvisation with long winding lines that he develops through strategically placed references to the melody. The mellow sound of Roditi’s flugelhorn offsets the rapid bebop flavored lines that he pushes through his improvisation, providing a distinct edge to the track. These songs create a familiar meeting point for these musicians, allowing them to explore each other’s distinct personalities in a comfortable setting.

Balancing The Repertoire With Bossa Novas
The group balances their traditional repertoire with a group of bossa novas from a variety of composers. The rhythm section indulges in a flowing momentum at the onset of Durval Ferreira and Lula Freire’s “E Nada Mais,” leading into Roditi’s brilliantly understated melodic interpretation. He maintains his burning cool beneath his soulful improvisation, letting his ideas heat to a boil over the course of multiple choruses. Alves displays a similar elegance to his solo, flavoring his statement with a blues edge that pushes the band forward. There’s an upbeat joy behind Joao Donato and Paulo Sergio Valle’s “Quem Diz Que Sabe” emphasized by the simple repetitive nature of the melody. Roditi focuses upon melodic development, using space and rhythmic emphasis to build an appealingly tasteful solo. Alves spins witty rhythmic variations around his ideas, giving way to bassist Leonardo Cioglia’s improvisation, a solid statement that resonates with his instrument’s rich tone. Roditi recalls his jazz roots with a medium tempo bossa nova version of Miles Davis’ “Tune Up,” putting a distinctly different twist on the standard. Roditi skillfully weaves lines through the changes, but there’s a distinct cool to his sound, emphasized by his use of space and his flugelhorn tone. Alves displays a comfortable familiarity with the tune, developing a strong statement that rolls through the groove with an enthusiastic edge. These tracks open possibilities for the musicians to show another side to their musicianship while supporting each other in a common setting.

An Inspiring Sympathetic Relationship Between Musicians
Roditi presents a highly engaging set of Brazilian Jazz on Brazilliance x4, resulting from the strength of the bond between his group’s members. Roditi performs with an inspired voice throughout the recording, acting as an insightful melodic interpreter and a thoughtful improviser. His balance of hard bop fire and rhythmic ingenuity combine into an attention grabbing voice, as his group simultaneously supports and pushes his performance. Roditi’s compositions sound outstanding at every turn, inflated with a pure acoustic honesty and a shimmering authentic Brazilian quality. The use of samba and bossa nova compositions from Brazilian composers seems like a natural fit here, and the musicians dig into the songs with integrity and joy. Alves shines as an especially strong voice both as an improviser and accompanist, enthusiastically taking every opportunity to shape the songs into an expressive statement. Duduka da Fonseca has contributed to the Brazilian Jazz scene for many years, and the depth of his experience can be seen here. His improvisations are complete statements that combine colorful imagery with a unique melodic sensibility, while he consistently provides an unbeatable range of Brazilian rhythms. The strength of these musicians complement each other throughout Brazilliance x4, demonstrating a sympathetic bond that fuels outstanding Brazilian Jazz – a quality that these four musicians can hopefully capture on many more collaborations.

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Check Out These Related Posts:
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