This release is the prime example of not judging a book or release by the cover. This labor of love includes some of the finest contemporary players in guitarist Dave Stryker and bassist John Lee paired up with such Brazilian legends as Romero Lubambo on guitar and the great Claudio Roditi on trumpet. The irony here is that Down In Brazil is the end result of a little networking while performing at Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair, New Jersey. Dukich handles the vocals which are spot on for the material as well as the co production duties with keyboardist Bob Baldwin and Brazilian percussion icon Cafe'. Long known as being a stickler for authenticity, Cafe' had an overriding penchant for keeping the rhythms clean and authentic which is no easy task considering Brazilian jazz has about three times as many sub genres as does the improvised music we refer to as jazz does here in the States. There is an immediate synergy on display, a lyrical cohesion of sorts where the authenticity is not compromised in an attempt to strike commercial gold. While some would consider that conjecture as all artists are secretly hoping for commercial success, combining the music of Michael Franks with that of the genius of Antonio Carlos Jobim is a daunting task to be sure.
"Down In Brazil" is the Michael Franks tune that sets the table for a bright and breezy excursion into the world of Brazilian jazz. Think of Down In Brazil like going on holiday without the hassle of packing or expense of plane tickets! A lesser known Jobim tune "Voce Vai Ver" is elevated with texture and finesse of Romero Lubambo's guitar combined with the flute of Don Braden. A personal favorite is the classic Jobim tune "Agua De Beber" with an organic transition from English to Portuguese and the end result as music you feel with your hips and feel with your feet. Ebb and flow is not forgotten with these release and the arrangements are so well suited not only to the musicians but to the overall vibe of the release that you will find yourself wondering where the time went! A release full of delightful subtle nuances that allow the disc the chance to reveal a little something new with each spin.
To the traditionalist the line up may seem out of place but if there is an ounce of truth to the statement that music is the universal language then Down In Brazil is proof positive. Dave Stryker and John Lee turn in note worthy efforts. To be brutally honest there are simply too many high points to list for reasons of space alone. Those that know me well know that Brazilian music is my musical sweet spot and Down In Brazil hits my sweet spot hard!
Easily one of the better Brazilian releases of the last two years. Virtually flawless.
Tracks: Down In Brazil; Final Feliz; Voce Vai Ver; Agua De Beber; Bem Que Se Quis; Manha De Carnival; Contigo Aprendi; Mais Que Nada; Encostar Na Tua; Rio De Janero Blue.
Personnel: John Dukich: vocals, flugelhorn, valve trombone; Claudio Roditi: trumpet; Don Braden: tenor saxophone, flute; Dave Stryker: guitar; Romero Lubambo: guitar; Nick Rolfe: keyboards; Bob Baldwin: keyboards; Roy Assaf: piano; Adriano Franklin: bass; Calvin Jones: bass; John Lee: bass; Pyu Garcia: drums; Karl Latham: drums; Enrico Granafei: harmonica; Care': percussion; Fabiana Masili: background vocals; Lilly Dukich: background vocals.