Archives for posts with tag: Brazilian

Album Review: Pura, Luciana Oliveira (YB Music, 2013)

pura Luciana Oliveira is a Brazilian vocalist whose music is classified as Musica Popular Brasileira (MPB), which is more of a movement than a genre. Its membership is as broad as the styles it encompasses. With her sophomore album, Pura, Oliveira manages to expand MPB just enough to distinguish herself from a crowded Bossa Nova revival that surged in the 90’s.

Pura has a rawness that evokes a kind of folk music rather than the constructed coolness of recycled Bossa Nova. The production reminds me of the spartan treatment on Da Lata’s excellent debut, Songs from the Tin (Palm, 2000). The style is showcased in two very different tracks. “Condicionada” is a dissonant melody with sparse arrangements and a tribal rhythm track. It’s dark and raw, about as far as you can get from trendy ‘chill out’ collections. A brighter and beautifully playful track, “Samba em Pilet” offers a nice contrast and borders on ‘singalong.’

My favourite track, “Menina Guiné” is different yet again, this time borrowing from Oliveira’s history with reggae artists, including the Brazilian band Natiruts and dub legend Mad Professor.

With Pura, Oliveira proves that contemporary Brazilian music is more varied and substansive than the style that was “on trend” in the lounge music era. What more could we ask from a distinguished member of the MPB movement?

Album Review: Clementine Sun, Khari Cabral, February 2012

Who? I happened upon Khari Cabral’s name while reading an interview with Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick of Incognito. Maunick, a musical hero of mine, collaborated with Cabral on this album. Anything Bluey touches is usually gold and it is true for this record.

Clementine Sun manages to put jazz, Brazilian, and soulful jazz-funk together in a way that is completely digestable in a single album. Several tracks have a Brazilian vibe, including the title track and the exquisite “Major Bossa,” sung by Sabrina Malheiros, daughter of Azymuth guitarist Alex Malheiros.

Cabral built a profile in the Atlanta ‘smooth jazz’ scene, collaborating with artists like India.Arie, and eventually becoming her musical director. India.Arie is featured here on the bossa-inspired “Never in Your Sun.” JazzTimes magazine describes Cabral as ‘the prince of soul bossa.’

Beyond the Brazilian sounds, there are distinct jazz and jazz-funk tracks. “Coolamon Waltz” is a nice keyboard and vibe arrangement in three-quarter time. “Ninos,” a collaboration with Allman Brothers bassist Orteil Burbridge, is a jazz fusion track that strongly evokes Pat Metheny. On the jazz-funk tip, “Get Back” is a light-hearted tune featuring the vocals of Chantae Cann.

An album as eclectic as Clementine Sun can sometimes come across as disjointed. What’s more, the bossa nova revival that started in the 90s has lost its legs and feels less and less authentic in recent music. Despite the headwinds, Cabral pulls it off. The jazz elements of this record provide a nice contrast to the Brazilian sounds and make the album more listenable end-to-end.

Music Review: Recent discoveries with the Rhodes sound

Butterfly, Azymuth (Far Out Recordings, 2008)

BBNG, Badbadnotgood (independent, 2011)


I’ve always been drawn to the sound of a Rhodes electric piano in the right hands. Herbie Hancock and George Duke are the masters. Jamiroquai and D’Angelo are notable disciples.

The warm and easy sounds have sprung up again for me in two recent discoveries. One is relatively fresh, only a few months since they came on the scene. And the other is a trio of living legends that has been making great music with the Rhodes sound for over 30 years.

Azymuth is the latter. This trio from Brazil has had an admirable consistency of style over the decades. It’s not to say they’ve been stagnant. Indeed, their recordings from the 70s, 80s, and 90s have a distinct flavour that is both apt for the era but also timeless. The best part about Azymuth is the musicianship. They are talented improvisors, songwriters, players, and producers. Their music is pure, simple, and utterly listenable.

Butterfly, their 2008 release, is a perfect showcase of their talent. From the downtempo “Morning” to the upbeat sound of “Os Cara La” and “Triagem,” this album is all good. Azymuth are described as ‘Brazilian’ by genre but  I would call them jazz-funk. Although bossa and samba rhythms are common and they record most vocals in Portuguese, the overall sound is decidedly jazz with funk instrumentation.

After discovering their music just recently and immersing myself in their many recordings, I’m easily convinced that Azymuth keyboardist, Jose Roberto Bertrami, is one of the world’s greatest virtuosos on the Rhodes.

In contrast to the prolific history of Azymuth, Badbadnotgood have only recently appeared on the scene. They are a Toronto-based trio, formed, it seems, in the image of Azymuth. With a keyboardist, bassist, and drummer, BBNG is about tight rhythmic lines with warm and easy keyboards overtop. They also have a streak of hip-hop, which sets them apart from both traditional jazz-funk outfits and pure hip-hop artists. Listen to “Hard in the Paint” from their live album, BBNG Live 1. It’s hard-edge opening sets up a dark and driving groove for the rest of the track. They wisely left the Rhodes idle for this track, which is better served by pounding the low octaves on an acoustic piano.

Their self-titled debut was released in September 2011. “The World is Yours” features some impressive keyboard improvisation by Matthew Tavares as well as the tight hip-hop beats marshalled by Alex Sowinski. “Fall in Love” starts sparsely with the unaccompanied keyboard tones and crescendos into a rich improvised interplay of all three players.

BBNG’s first record comes almost 36 years after Azymuth’s debut. In fact, I’d wager the members of BBNG weren’t even born until Azymuth was about a dozen albums deep into their career. Still, the resemblence is remarkable. I don’t know whether to be more impressed by the young talent on BBNG for successfully taking up the torch from masters like Bertrami or by Azymuth themselves for remaining fresh after all these years.

Regardless, both finds have enriched my jazz/funk collection and given me hours of material to enjoy with the Rhodes sound. Azymuth released another album in 2011, entitled Aurora. It is also a strong album but not as consistent as Butterfly. “E mulher” is a particularly nice track from Aurora.