When we think of Brazilian music, we probably first envision guitars or maybe those iconic Stan Getz/ Gilberto collaborations. In fact, the music lends itself to all kinds of instrumentation and this 2CD offering from trumpeter and flugelhornist, bandleader Mark Morganelli, is as a good an introduction or sampling of this music that one can find. There are 28 generous tracks by ten Brazilian composers. Half are instrumental and half are vocal.
Here’s some background on Morganelii. He is a veteran jazz artist who has produced over sixty compact discs, most for Candid Records, twenty of which were recorded “Live” at NYC’s Birdland club, where he was the music coordinator for five years. Nearly thirty years ago, Morganelli and his family moved to Westchester, and shortly thereafter, he inaugurated the Jazz at the Music Hall series in Tarrytown. Performers included Ahmad Jamal, Billy Taylor, Harry “Sweets” Edison, James Moody, Betty Carter, Gerry Mulligan, Herbie Mann, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Maynard Ferguson, Dave Brubeck, Chuck Mangione, Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea, Savion Glover, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Dr. John, Spyro Gyra, David Sanborn, Chris Botti, Pat Metheny, Hugh Masekela and the Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Illinois Jacquet, Duke Ellington and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestras–150 shows in 22 years.
As a trumpeter and flugelhornist, Morganelli performed at the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival, the 1992 & 1994 Syracuse Jazz Festivals, the Du Maurier Downtown Toronto Jazz Festival, JVC/NY and Saratoga Jazz Festivals, the White Plains Jazz Fest, several tours of Italy (including in 2018), many concerts and festivals in Europe, Japan, Brazil and the Caribbean, and hosted nightly jam sessions aboard the QE2 to the Newport Jazz Festival from 1996-99. He continues to perform with his Jazz Forum All-Stars around the region and this is his fifth CD as leader, He and his wife, Ellen Prior opened their new Jazz Forum club in Tarrytown, NY in June 2017. There’s a ton more to his impressive bio but a ton of music here on this project that deserves some words.
Sure, he channels players like Stan Getz as do many that cover Brazilian music. He is one horn soloist and proves masterful with his tone and command of some of the most melodic music in any genre. For this outing the Jazz Forum All-stars are: Abelita Mateus (piano), Eddie Monteiro (Midi-accordion, vocals), Monika Oliveira (vocals), Nilson Matta (bass), Adriano Santos(drums), Nanny Assis (guitar, percussion, vocals), Carlos Barbosa-Lima (guitar). They are some of the best Brazilian players anywhere, especially guitarist Barbosa-Lima. The project was recording in Tarrytown a year ago.
Two thirds of the songs are from Brazil’s most famous composer, Antonio Carlos Jobim including the famous “Amor Em Paz” and “Desafinado” as two of the first three selections, with “So Danco Samba” (reminiscent of Ellington’s “Take the A Train’) also on Disc 1 and “Dindi” on Disc 2. The other most recognizable composers are Luis Bonfa, most famous for his musical score for the iconic 1959 film Black Orpheus. As such, the longest selection on the two discs is his medley of the must listen carnival themes “Mamba da Carnaval and Samba de Orfeu.” Brazilian contemporary Claudio Roditi has one selection, “Rua Dona Margarida.”
The pacing and sequencing of the two CDs is great, mixing the vocal and instrumental performances as we move from glorious brassy moments to gorgeous guitar work to shimmering keyboards and ensemble playing. One sequence that stands out is Jobim’s jazz waltz “Chovendo Na Roseira” where Morganelli’s superb solo is followed by Monteiro’s Midi-accordion and then splendid vocals from Oliveira. That’s followed by a sensuous vocal from Monteiro on Ivan Lins’ “Velas Icadas,” described by Morganelli in the liners – “speaks of unfurled sails and is evocative of the many beautiful bays, full of sailing vessels in Brazil.” That’s followed by Roditi’s dance tune “Rua Dona Margarida,” an homage to the street in Minas Gerais where Roditi grew up. It first appeared on Rodi’t Candid release, Two Swords, that Morganelli produced nearly thirty years ago.
Throughout, there are other sequences that are just as moving. There are nearly two hours of music between the two discs. If you are new to Brazilian music, this is a great place to start. If you’re an avid fan of the music and especially Jobim, this is a “must have.” The music is both energetic and smooth at the same time. As the iconic David Amram says. “As a master musician, Mark Morganelli has used his gifts as a soloist, band leader and tour guide to bring you to Brasil and Brasil to you, with this classic new album of musical gems. Each song is a treasure. Listen to it over and over (I have done so five times already). Your kids will love it too.” There’s little to add to that. Just listen and listen some more.
- Jim Hynes