JAZZBO NOTES RECOMMENDED RECORDING
Too often on recordings that attempt to fuse Brazilian rhythms with jazz, one or the other element tends to get shortchanged. Either the rhythms are overly simplistic, or the improvisations substitute scale running for substantive improv. To some extent, that’s the case with Samba Jazz In Black And White.
True, reed player Anat Cohen is playing jazz, not just running scales, but her ideas aren’t that interesting, and her tone is thin and even whiny. Much better is pianist Helio Alves. He has all the advantages of his Latin heritage with none of the potential deficits. His improvisations are rhythmically muscular, but he never sacrifices harmonic complexity. His solos build logically and powerfully — he’s a great musician. Guitarist Guilherme Monteiro isn’t bad either. He has a pleasant tone, and his improvisations flow nicely, even if what he’s saying isn’t that exciting. Unfortunately, Anat Cohen is heavily featured.
Guest Trumpeter Claudio Roditi is convincingly lyrical in his use of the Harmon mute on his featured spot, the near ballad Bye Bye Brazil.
Surprisingly, guest guitarist Vic Juris (who never fails to irritate me in his regular gig with the Dave Liebman Quintet) uses his bop chops to good advantage on Viver de Amor. His intricate phrasing and clean tone work very well in this context.
Leader Duduka Fonseca allows enough variety within his chosen musical genre to keep things from getting dull. As a drummer, he kicks up the complexity of the grooves a notch, while still maintaining their essentially Brazilian character.
Also, kudos to Fonseca for finding singers like Maucha Adnet and Alana Da Fonseca who can actually carry a tune, a recurring problem on many jazz releases.
If I have a criticism of Samba Jazz In Black And White, it’s that it isn’t very exciting. It’s a mellow listen, which isn’t really my thing. But I have to admit, Duduka Fonseca achieves a creditable fusion of jazz and samba.
I only wished he had used another reed player. Anat Cohen just doesn’t do anything for me.