Nilson Matta – “Black Orpheus”


Nilson Matta - "Black Orpheus"Nostalgia is a potent activator, and childhood memories a strong influence on the present.  As much as any other source, those connections at an early age with art form as strong a bond as anything, and they often manifest later with an emotional urgency that compels a person to communicate them to others.

So, it’s no wonder to read that the inspiration of bassist Nilson Matta in recording his new release Black Orpheus dates back to his childhood reaction at hearing the soundtrack to the play Orfeu da Conceição, by the playwright Vinicius de Moraes, and later, the music composed for Black Orpheus, the movie version of the play by Antonio Carlos Jobim (with lyrics by de Moraes).

This is uplifting music.  This is music light on its feet that takes to the sky with powerful flaps of wings.  There is a joy and celebration to this music that, when one considers the tragedy surrounding the original story of Orpheus & Eurydice and the film’s Orfeu & Eurydice, it seems disconnected from the music’s source material.  But keep in mind, this music is about an adult’s memory of childhood connections with music… a bond that transcends the original agendas of storytellers.  It becomes Matta’s story.  This type of transference is why stories never die.

Your album personnel:  Nilson Matta (bass), Guilherme Monteiro (guitar), Klaus Mueller (piano), Alex Kautz (drums), Fernando Saci (percussion), and guests:  Randy Brecker (trumpet); Anne Drummond (flute), Laura Metcalf (cello), Anat Cohen (clarinet), Kenny Barron (piano), Reinaldo Silva (percussion), Leny Andrade (vocals), Alfredo Cardim (piano), Erivelton Silva (drums), Jorjao Silva (percussion), and Gretchen Parlato (vocal).

The album begins with as powerful an opening statement as you’ll ever encounter.  An epic, yet restrained chorus that simmers with tension.  Strings, trumpet, piano, bass and flute create waves of striking beauty and warmth.  When the tempo transitions up a notch, it’s the grandeur of navigating a path over rolling hills across a sweeping landscape, and no less epic than the opening moments.

Much of this music has a festive attitude, jaunty even, but with melodies that take their time expressing themselves.  It imbues the music with a casual grace in the midst of rhythms that inspire motion.

A couple vocal tracks, each with a seaside sway, a cadence like waves gently slapping the shore.  Instrumental tracks have a linear shape to them, but some start out with a wandering solo without boundaries before the ensemble joins in and re-establishes the collective direction.

A strong rhythmic presence is balanced nicely by the velvety touch of strings.  And though he’s definitely a member of the tempo setting squad, Matta’s bass hits the higher registers with a lyricism that takes his sound up into melodic territory.

An outstanding album of striking beauty.  Matta did his inspiration proud.

Released on the Motema label.

The cool album cover is by Rebecca Meek.

Jazz from NYC, though the recording has some roots in Rio de Janeiro.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3