Having just dropped Departure on the Tapestry label, Felipe Salles fifth recording as a leader has found a most unique approach to the musical heritage of his native Brazil while at the same time infusing the advanced harmonies of 20th century contemporary classical music. Departure has Salles reunited with Uruguayan pianist Nando Michelin, Boston resident Keala Kaumeheiwa and German Bertram Lehman and joining them we find jazz trumpet extraordinaire, Randy Brecker. According to Brecker, Salles is the real deal. Thanks to Salles and his Brazilian background combined with his overall knowledge of music, jazz and the long lost art of bebop it is rather easy to spot Salles as a studied composer. Fresh compositions cutting new ground, haunting and cutting a wide musical path through a variety of genres has Salles has seemingly taken a musical road less traveled with tunes that range in influence from Bartok to the blues and from Hermeto to straight ahead jazz always bearing down on what is becoming known as the Salles style and groove. One key to the success is Salles is keeping the same level of complexity his music is known for but making it work with less players. This less is more zen like approach to his music keeps an organic if not accessibly eclectic feel to his music which otherwise may have actually outgrown itself.
"Departure" opens this most adventurous release with a minor key and shifting meter creating a subtle dynamic tension broken by the distinctive sound of trumpet player Randy Brecker with the eclectic sound of the Salles on bass clarinet multi-tracked just below the surface of Salles on tenor. "Seagull Island" continues an articulated pop of vitality all with a dialed down Brazilian vibe and yet another virtuoso solo performance turned in by Salles. Nando Michelin on piano along with bassist Kaumeheiwa and the nuances of drummer Lehmann fill out the sound of a rhythm section that can hold their own with any band on any stage. Salles is oddly reminiscent of the early sound of a Kenny Garrett and the lyrical sense of purpose on this tune is unmatched by some of what Salles;s contemporaries are attempting to pull off today. "B's Blues" is another tune in a minor key and while the meter shifts so does the melodic line and lyrical intensity. The syncopated pop is finally dialed down a notch as a beautiful ballad begins to take shape showcasing the versatility and expansive nature of a truly natural talent. Brecker is right, Salles is a studied composer but unlike so many there is a natural ease and flow to his music despite the innate complexity of his work. The most amazing aspect of the talent of Felipe Salles is the constant groove, ease of connectivity and the avoidance of the natural self-indulgent pitfalls that are a-typical of such a prolific talent.
The hybridization of jazz over the last two years seems to have grown at a steady and in some cases alarming rate, it is the next big thing. Some artists take the more self indulgent road in an effort to say, "look at me!' Salles takes the hybridization of his music seriously by instead saying, " check out what WE just did." Jazz has the unique ability to make most people tighten up in the same fashion as they do when they hear the words "tax-time" but Salles is a musical chameleon as he keeps it loose, understands when and where to change colors and most of all he keeps it swinging!
Tracks: Departure; Seagull's Island; Bela's Reflection; Maracatu D'Orleans; Awaiting; B's Blues; Schoenberg's Error; Adagio Triste; Natural Selection.
Personnel: Felipe Salles: tenor and soprano saxes, flutes, bass clarinet; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Nando Michelin: piano; Kea;a Kaumeheiwa: bass; Bertram Lehman: drums & percussion; Laura Arpiainen: violin.