Let's see...How can I put this in the interest of full disclosure. Many years ago I was a young music student attending the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Clinic and I had the incredibly good fortune of having Mike Tracy as a teacher. Only recently had we been in touch in my attempts to bring a jazz festival to what I consider to be the black hole of jazz, that being Louisville Kentucky. So at best we are probably nothing more than Internet acquaintances yet the thought of passing critical review on the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Louisville , where I received by Degree is still somewhat of a daunting task.
Tracy and his 4tet make my job a relatively easy one as a.) Brazilian music is my musical ground zero and b.) the tunes on Surfboard are all authentic Brazilian pieces served up with memorable moments and inspired playing by each member of this most unique jazz collective. Tracy's sixth recording as a leader is a delightful collection of seldom played Brazilian standards (at least here in the States) and is delivered with passion and an incredibly legitimate artistic interpretation. Surfboard came to be through Tracy's association with pianist Renato Vasconcellos then suddenly a few more calls went out and we have bassist Leonardo Cioglia and drummer Vanderlei Pereira both from Brazil but based out of the Big Apple. The chemistry was obviously there with the end result of Surfboard being recorded in two days - unheard of.
Highlights are all most too numerous to list so I'll hit some favorite moments of mine. Opening with a smoldering samba "Viva o Rio de Janeiro" we have Tracy's somewhat forgotten skill on soprano complemented well with the counterpoint of Renato's spirited piano solo with an effortless sound that borders on addictive. "Recado Bossa Nova" having been previously recorded by the great Hank Mobley has an effective reharm done. The tune is dialed back slightly turning the tune into what I commonly refer to as a bit of jazz nasty as stated on Tracy's warmth and open tone on tenor. Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Mojave" is a rare Brazilian jazz waltz. Bassist Cioglia kicks the party off with a lyrical solo, perhaps his best. Tracy ramps up his part on tenor and the rhythm section does the deceptively subtle chameleon like approach of shifting meter at will with the end result the feeling of a tune played in 4/4 time when in reality it has been 3/4 all along.
As a jazz educator, Mike Tracy is second to none. As a performer, Tracy brings that rare gift of passion combined with a technical proficiency and deep understanding and appreciation of the music contained on this release which is a rare commodity in deed. For Tracy's devotion to his craft not to mention his incredibly fortunate students....
Tracks; Viva O Rio De Janeiro; Recado Bossa Nova; Felizberto; Surfboard; Montreux; Mojave; April Child; Distante; Mr. T Cai No Forro; Love Theme From Cinema Paradiso.
Personnel: Mike Tracy: Tenor & Soprano Saxophones; Renato Vasconcellos: Piano & Keyboards; Leonardo Cioglia: Bass; Vanderlei Pereira: Drums; Anderson Pessoa: Tenor Saxophone.