There was a particular quality of the music of Don Pullen’s African-Brazilian Connection that didn’t reveal itself to me until years after I had begun voraciously delving into that section of the Pullen discography… it was the way that he molded Brazilian and African music into recordings that were jazz at heart without sacrificing the soul of the original music.
I probably didn’t explain that well.
Stated differently, I discovered that I often think of, and sometimes recommend, Don Pullen’s Ode to Life as a straight-ahead jazz recording, even though it really doesn’t sound, per se, like Kind of Blue. But the elements of swing in Pullen’s music, the heartbreaking swoon of his ballads, the bop of the up-tempo pieces… even though he was meshing the rhythms of Brazil and Africa with Jazz, it was done so artfully that the music didn’t sound so much like a soup of influences… just, simply, Jazz, and all the ingredients Pullen used for the music blended perfectly into a singular outstanding taste.
That brings me to The Brazilian Trio, and their new release Constelação.
Bringing together Brazilian and Jazz music, this trio has created a delightful album that sings with the heart of Brazilian composers, while sounding, well, kind of like a straight-ahead jazz piano trio.
Each of the trio members contributes a composition to the album’s ten tracks. All the others (with the exception of Cedar Walton’s “Bolivia”) are the compositions of Brazilian composers.
Many of the tunes have a lovely restraint, powerful in that way that saying the just the right words can carry so much information and feeling. For instance, on their cover of Jobim’s “Luiza,” the Trio refrains from the syrupy melodrama of the original, and display a pensive, smoldering facet of the composition. Three of the tracks bear Jobim’s name in the small print.
There’s also plenty of buoyancy. The Trio’s take on the title-track has all the fiery bounce of the original, even without the use of alto sax as in original composer Alfredo Cardim’s quartet.
Da Fonseca’s contribution, “Isabella,” is an evocative waltz, with just enough lightness to warm the heart, and just enough darkness to remind us that there is an inherently small, yet unmistakable sadness in the best waltzes.
In general, piano handles all matters of elegance, drums the wide smiles, and bass plays the role of that little voice that asks all the big questions. Constelação is an album that, measured by the emotional spectrum, covers a lot of territory, yet does so from within a perfect little space.
Released on the Motema Records label.