Vanderlei Pereira and Blindfold Test
Vision for Rhythm
Vanderlei Pereira is a renowned Brazilian drummer who has been in the states for over thirty years. With extensive experience as a sideman in his native country as well as in the U.S., this marks his first recording as a bandleader with his newly formed band, Blindfold Test. Vanderlei lost his sight at a relatively early age, could no longer read classical music but kept going, turning to jazz instead. Interestingly his bandmates often wear blindfolds in performance, even while playing some of the most challenging material in order to “level the playing field” for their leader.
He has rock and pop in his background as well and this versatility across several genres has enabled hi to perform alongside Toots Thielmans, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, Tito Puente, Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Claudio Roditi, and many others. The members of this unit are highly regarded in contemporary Brazilian music.
Vision for Rhythm features fresh material, rich melodies, infectious rhythms, colorful solos, and a lively, engaging group sound. Most of the dozen selections utilize Susan Pereira’s voice as part of the ensemble. Her wordless vocals and strong scat-singing abilities, along with the beauty of her tone, help give Blindfold Test its own sound. Other major contributors are Jorge Continentino on tenor and flutes (Rodrigo Ursaia’s equally skilled tenor is on three tracks), pianist Deanna Witkowski, acoustic guitarist Paul Meyers, and Gustavo Amarante or Itaiguara Brandão on bass.
The 70 minute album includes three Pereira originals: “Ponto de Partida” (“Point of Departure”), “O Que Ficou” (“What Remains”), and “De Volta à Festa” (“Back to the Party”); the latter two clear standouts, the former for Continentino’s remarkable tenor solo and tone and the latter for its blistering, wild ride. (Continentiino shines again too along with Witkowski). There’s a song apiece by Airto Moreira, Edu Lobo, and Antonio Adolfo; and others. The exciting opener, Airto Moreira’s 7/4 samba “Misturada,” gets the momentum flowing for the memorable program, which includes both energetic performances and smoothly flowing pieces (“O Que Ficou” and “Les Matins de Rixensart”) before concluding with the title cut, a fascinating showcase for the leader’s drums, an homage to the great drummers that are part of Brazil’s hallowed jazz history.
Not only are the compositions challenging and appealing, but the solos are imaginary as well whether on flute, sax, piano, or the inventive drum breaks from the leader. Susan’s wordless vocals (especially “The Cry and the Smile” and “Alma Brasileira (Brazilian Soul)” will evoke Flora Purim’s contributions to Chick Corea’s Return to Forever and the many CTI albums Purim also appeared on in the’70s.
Now, with the release of Vision for Rhythm, Vanderlei Pereira will be thought of not as only as a masterful Brazilian jazz drummer and a valuable sideman, but also as a significant bandleader with his own distinct musical concept.
Like his bandmates, remember to close your eyes while listening. It will enhance your experience.
- Jim Hynes