Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In review--Frantic and Lyrical (Brazilian jazz)

Hamilton De Holanda Quintet
Brasilianos 2
Adventure Music

If the late American bebop legend Charlie Parker had spent time in Brazil soaking up the music of Rio and Bahia, he would have composed music a lot like Brazilian mandolin player Hamilton De Holanda. The songs on Brasilianos 2 alternate between laidback and wildly frantic and the frantic ones can downright leave a listener breathless. In fact, I can sit listening to the faster pace songs and get my heart racing without aerobic exercise. It’s like eating gourmet chocolate and losing weight.  But on the musicians' part, the music itself could not be called effortless.  These players work up a sweat.

The CD portion of the album features 12 tracks and the DVD features a concert in Paris that shows the virtuoso musicians in action. The highlight of the DVD for me is De Holanda’s solo performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Adios Nonino, probably one of the most complex and sad song ever composed. I have seen classical guitarists tackle the piece, but seeing De Holanda playing it on a mandolin can’t be described in words. Though spectacular would do the trick.

As far as, the CD portion, I prefer the slower and moodier pieces, such as Tamandu√† (anteater) with its haunting harmonica and lilting mandolin. And the following track, Estrela Negra (black star), possesses a Brazilian guitar groove that shouts bossa nova. The mandolin gives the song an Italian feel too especially when De Holanda strums, as opposed to picking the strings. He’s the master of his instrument in the same vein that Piazzolla was the master of his bandoneon. And it’s a pleasure to hear someone play with deep feelings and masterful technique.

Ajaccio and Carolina De Carol flow at a medium tempo with plenty of curves and challenges for the musicians. The samba-jazz of Carolina De Carol certainly brings out a peppery Brazilian feel, whereas Ajaccio shares much in common with urban American jazz. And while I cannot describe all 12 tracks, I will say that each of them took a great deal of imagination and technical brilliance to compose. And beyond that the musicians play these songs with a lot of heart and soul.

While De Holanda is the obvious leader, I should mention that the other musicians in the quintet go beyond providing a musical backdrop for the mandolin. Listen to Gabriel Grossi wail on his harmonica or the tight rhythm section as well as, Daniel Santiago on guitar. This quintet must be tight to ride the hairpin turns and twists in this set of songs. So old Charlie Parker is shaking his head and perhaps wondering why he didn’t spend time at the clubs and beaches of Rio. Instead of go, Charlie go, we shout, go, Hamilton go!

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