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Friday, February 8, 2013

Nilson Matta's Black Orpheus Motema 2013

Black OrpheusTo leave a critic at a loss for words is a beautiful thing which brings us bassist Nilson Matta and his "riff" on the classic 1959 film, Black Orpheus which drops 2/12/13. Taking on a film score that in many ways out shined the movie on several levels, Matta assembles an all star band to give this Brazilian classic the respect due while doing a righteous second take on one of the most important film scores in the last 50 years. Matta's Black Orpheus is in reality a fusion of both the 1959 Academy Award winner for best Foreign film and the lesser known but equally as important stage play, Orfeu  da Conceicao -  both productions are perhaps the roots of Matta's prolific talent and musical family tree. Matta embodies the modern evolution of classic Brazilian music with an artistic flair that stays true to his sense of self while losing nothing in terms of authenticity when the music is put up for closer examination.

Both works helped propel Brazilian samba and jazz to a more global audience and their impact on music in general and jazz in particular may only be rivaled by West Side Story in terms of musical significance. Brilliance is somewhat of a subjective term but it is the virtuoso talent of Matta that is pushing the roots of Brazilian music forward as evidenced by this stirring release not to forget previous work with Roni Ben-Hur who also is in the Motema stable of world class artists. Could any other bassist have put together a project and band such as this? Probably. Would the finished work have the sonic depth of field and flavor that is Nilson Matta? Doubtful.

Matta does a perfect reinvention and turns out an organic set of tunes that develop their own unique rhythmic pulse and lyrical celebration pulled from a deep and incredibly rich sonic color pallet. Of course when your band includes luminaries from North and South America, then capturing the essence of Brazillian music is the equivalent of catching lighting in a bottle. Brazilian music and especially the samba is straight from my wheelhouse so I will admit somewhat of a bias however with varying degrees of brilliance, Matta crushes this release. A great deal of care was put into coming up with a band that could handle the dynamics of Brazilian rhythms before taking a look at those that would be charting the harmonic direction of this work. Stand out guests include Anat Cohen whose solos were knocked out without the need for overdubbing and Randy Brecker who captured the raw energy of the Carnaval. Flutist Anne Drummond adds a layer of texture that keeps the work organic and raw yet wildly accessible. 

Six of the tunes are from Antonio Carlos Jobim. The Matta original "Hugs And Kisses" sounds as though they could easily slip in the Jobim Songbook undetected. Matta handles the arrangements on seven tunes proving he is indeed a legitimate jazz triple threat as an instrumentalist, composer, and arranger.

Nilson Matta is a key player in the natural evolution of music that continues to impact jazz in the United States. Black Orpheus is as close to perfect as one can get for any genre. Matta is indeed the real deal and Black Orpheus should help Matta achieve an even higher level of critical acclaim that he so richly deserves.

Flawless. Righteous, ridiculous (as in ridiculously good), and the real deal could all be used to describe the release but would fail in embracing the sound and impact that Brazilian music has on modern jazz today and Matta plays a key roll in keeping the spirit of the music alive and well!

Tracks: Overture; Repinique Interlude; Samba De Orfeu; A Felicidade; Cuica Interlude; O Nosso Amor; Manha De Carnaval; Batucada; Eu E O Meu Amor/Lamento No Morro; Frevo De Orfeu; Valsa De Euridce; Ascend My Love; Um Nome De Mulher; Batucada II; Se Todos Fossem Iguais A Voce; Violao Interlude.
Personnel: Randy Brecker: trumpet; Anne Drummond: flute;  Laura Metcalf: clarinet; Guilherme Monteiro: guitar; Klaus Mueller: piano; Nilson Matta: bass; Alex Kautz: drums; Reinaldo Silva: repinique, percussion; Anat Cohen: clarinet; Kenny Barron: piano; Fernando Saci: percussion, pandeiro cuica; Leny Andrade: vocals; Alfredo Cardim: piano; Erivelton Silva: drums; Jorjao Silva: repinique solo; Gretchen Parlato: vocals.