||Nando Michelin - Brazilian Project
DTRCD - 188
Giana Viscardi - Vocals, Felipe Salles - Saxes, Nando Michelin - Piano, Fernando Heurgo - Bass, Pedro Ito - Drums
1. Samba e Amor
3. Canoa Canoa
4. Vento Bravo
5. Pra Dizer Adeus
6. Viver de Amor
7. eu Menino, Romance "Laranjinha"
8. Tudo Que Mao E Mais, Iemanja
9. Escadas da Penha/Ronco da Cuica
One of the aspects that noticeably separate a live-recording of music from the controlled environment of a recording studio lies in its potential to capture some of the concert venue’s unique character. Such quality may manifest itself not only sonically, but also indirectly through the effects that a club’s or concert hall’s atmosphere can have on both the performers’ creative mindset that day, as well as the audience’s involvement and level of enjoyment. In the best of situations, through such recording we are able to enter into the particular relationship among these two participants, get a sense of the types of musical energy present, and are able to “take home” a vivid impression of the kind of dialogue that occurred in the creation of that musical event.
In the Greater Boston area, there is perhaps no better place to experience this essential feedback-loop between musicians and listeners than at the Acton Jazz Café. Run by a musically knowledgeable as well as gastronomically ambitious proprietor, this small and somewhat hidden little gem of a jazz club located a short car ride north-west of town has been serving the regional jazz community for a number of years now, enhancing an intimate musical experience with a multitude of superb culinary offerings. But what arguably has been setting this venue apart the most from its competition elsewhere, is the sincere warmth and respectful welcome with which musicians and listeners alike are embraced every night.
People feel at home there, they like to return as the atmosphere at the café is special. The practice of allowing bands such as the Nando Michelin Brazilian Project to establish a connection with the audience on a regular basis has surely been part of this success. One of its rewards has been that there tend to be “regulars” in the best sense of this word – folks that can be counted on to invest their interest and time in live-music, and, yes, some money as well. Another reward has been that this effort has provided a creative outlet as well as ongoing opportunities to grow for many musicians, which brings us to the music on this CD.
Developing or expanding a musical style takes time to experiment, but also consistency on part of the musician(s) involved. From this perspective, Uruguayan-born pianist, composer, and arranger Nando Michelin, who for a number years now has immersed himself in a variety of musical forms and stylistic contexts, has to be called a relentless musical activist, so to speak. Aside from being a first-rate pianist, one of his many fortes is surely to be found in his impeccable arranging skills, which always strike a natural balance between a tune’s fundamental melodic and harmonic integrity, and his original conceptions of melodic shape, rhythmic language, and stylistic form.
When paired with the kind of masterful musicianship exhibited in this recording by featured vocalist Giana Viscardi and the other group-members, such treatment does never amount to a mere reshuffling of a composition’s structural elements nor to a simple import of extraneous stylistic conventions, but results in an idiosyncratic reinterpretation of its essential character. Hence, this release is not yet another rehashing of bossa nova evergreens or late-night serving of sultry Brazilian vocalese, but presents a modern, jazz-oriented approach to some of the most outstanding examples of contemporary Brazilian musical penmanship.
A case in point may be found in the treatment of Edu Lobo’s classic “Pra Dizer Adeus,” a haunting ballad whose distinctive melodic chromaticism is framed by complementing highly, angular, yet utterly lyrical, unison lines of piano and Felipe Salles’s soprano saxophone. Michelin’s sparse accompaniment delicately catches the voice’s anguished expressiveness, playing with the individual resonance of each chord during an evocative solo that even manages to include a fleeting reference an equally classic song of related subject matter - “Never Let Me Go.” Or perhaps in the beautiful Michelin/Viscardi original “Iemanja,” which opens with a brief appellation to the Afro-Brazilian goddess of same name before evolving into a relaxed bossa nova groove. But here, as in many of the other tracks, a darker, latent harmonic modality in the form of repeating piano riff breaks through from time to time, connecting different sections of the tune and urging the music forward. Another sign of Nando Michelin’s musical maturity is clearly evident in the way he lets this ensemble breathe life into each composition, never letting it dictate the intensity of the moment or constrain the flow of musical energy. This liberty, for example, allows drummer Pedro Ito to frequently let go of a rhythm’s strict regularity and color the flow of time with an array of darker, washy, patches of counter-rhythmic accentuation. His interaction with Michelin during the pianist’s solo on “Viver De Amor” may serve as nice illustration of this approach, but it is also evident throughout the funky 12/8 version of “Vento Bravo,” where contrasting levels of intensity naturally build up to, and eventually culminate in a cathartic release.
Most prominent, not only sonically but even more so musically, in shaping each tune’s progression is undoubtedly the voice of Giana Viscardi throughout this performance. Mrs. Viscardi is one of the youngest representatives of what seems to be an inexhaustible lineage of outstanding Brazilian vocalists of recent times, and includes artists such as Marissa Monte, Zizzi Possi, and Vania Abreu. Possessing a superb intonation and sense of time, the sound of her voice easily matches, if not at times appears to eclipse, the lush intensity and projection of Felipe Salles’ saxophone playing.
In the rhythmically loose, yet intense version of Milton Nascimento’s “Canoa, Canoa” for example, each note of her high registers projects like a focused beam of musical energy reminiscent of a Gal Costa, while elsewhere she manipulates the song’s lyrics with a power and vibrancy that surely would have delighted Elis. However, most striking is the stunning assuredness in her rhythmic articulation and phrasing, most audible in the more samba-influenced selections such as Djavan’s “Serrado,” or the exhilaratingly up-tempo “Escadas da Penha/Ronco da Cuica.” During the latter tune, her delivery in the middle milonga-ish section imaginatively blurs the distinction between speech and song, while throughout the final a-capella batucada duo with Pedro Ito she keeps attacking each syllable with nothing less than a percussionist’s precision and intent.
This is a recording rich in musical contrast: bright and dark harmonic textures, fast and slow tempos, loose and articulated rhythms. In each tune, we are bound to find a variety of such juxtapositions. But this is also a recording rooted in a deep understanding of the musical languages of samba, contemporary Brazilian song, and jazz. One just needs to listen to the sophistication in bassist Fernando Huergo’s melodic embellishments of the fundamental baião rhythm in “Romance ‘Laranjinha’”, or appreciate the vocalese agility of his nimble solistic statements in “Iemanja,” to realize that this music represents a true assimilation as well as integration of these languages on his and everybody else’s part. The audience at the Acton Jazz Café that evening certainly did, and now, thanks to this beautiful recording, so can you!
- Bertram Lehmann
Dedication and Thanks
I'd like to thank all the musicians that participated in the Brazilian Project for their extreme patience and admirable musicianship, also all those who at some point during these two years joined us in great performances : Gustavo, Steve, Bertram, Harvey, Beto, Leco, Pie, Nate, Jason, G. Garzone, Keala, and especially Teresa Ines. Also to Gwen and all the staff at the AJC, Jamey and everyone at Double Time, Beto & Verena and Bertram Lehmann for his great liner notes and for sharing all his knowledge. My greatest gratitude to all my Brazilian friends who inspired the love I feel for this music: Cabeça, Ge, Julinho, Deana, Rita, Octavio, Carlos Silva, Portinho, Luciana Souza, Celso Adolfo, Carlos Rocha, Joao Marcos, and everyone else I might have forgotten.
This CD is dedicated to my lovely wife Paula.
Above all , thanks God and guru Paramahansa Yogananda. - Nando Michelin