Brazilian Rubens Salles is a pianist and composer wielding a remarkable sense of rhythm and elastic melody. To say his work is in line with samba, rhumba, and other south of the border exotica wouldn't be quite correct, as much of this is either tangentially or directly abstract, but those modes are deliciously present no matter where you travel in the disc. If you're a fan of Gil, Moreira, Pascoal, Bonfa, and the giants of the tradition, this is going to be a very pleasing disc.
In fact, the revered Hermeto Pascoal is probably the best reference point, as that guy was an innovator who loved the old refrains but wasn't content to let them lie, and, frankly, I think Salles one-ups Hermeto. He also covers a Chick Corea tune here (Humpty Dumpty) while sharing much of Chick's idiosyncrasies, and not just in speed chops. Salles is more than capable of them in jawdropping embellishments, leads, and asides, but he equally follows a Mingus/Kirk-ish approach to structure, fragmented and quirky but hypnotic, irresistible. I suspect, like Chick, he studied Bartok. Nonetheless, what he does to the Jobim / de Moraes "Garoto de Ipanema" is stunning, and every single cut here is endlessly absorbing, a diamond mine of interplay and intelligence.
Salles allows his highly talented sit-ins plenty of room to work out as well. The percussion element will show why Patrick Moraz is so enamored of the region's musics, and the level of all-around sophistication is truly worthy of ECM, Blue Note, all the jazz heavies. Vitor Alcantara appears as a dexterous winds player who brings the expertise of James Newton, Dave Valentin, Yusef Lateef, Tim Weissberg, and other flautists to mind while his sax work is a good deal more vivacious than, say, Dave Sanborn's (and I'll never, ever, EVER understand how that guy got so damned famous!).
Fusion fans should rejoice in this release as well, because that's what Salles is really concocting here, though the outside jazz elements hide it well. Aficionados of Alice Coltrane's Illuminations or of Magma or even One Shot, minus all the darkness and distortion, should turn their progfan licenses in if they don't swoon upon hearing this smorgasbord of killer cuts.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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