:: These reviews were originally published
:: in Daniella Thompson on Brazil.


 

The bass takes center stage (almost)

Nilson Matta & friends in Walking With My Bass.

Daniella Thompson

29 January 2007

Nilson Matta needs no introduction. He’s the best-known Brazilian bassist living outside Brazil, and one of the best known in the world. His work with Trio da Paz alone would be sufficient to establish his name, but in Nilson’s wide-ranging career, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Having played with just about everyone who’s anyone in Brazilian popular music, Nilson has a large circle of musical friends and a rich source of collaborators to draw upon when planning his own CD.

“This project,” says Nilson, “represents a little bit of my musical life and expresses my gratitude to the artists that I have shared this life with so far. I have worked with all but one of the musicians on this CD in concerts or on recordings over the last thirty years or more.”

Walking With My Bass is not so much a showcase for Nilson’s bass as it is one for his arranging talents. This well-rounded album of Brazilian jazz offers a variety of musical styles and features both beautiful vocals and expert instrumentals by a diverse group of top-rung guest artists, among them Rosa Passos, Joyce & Tutti Moreno, Ivan Lins, João Bosco, and the always unique Filó Machado.

Although the album’s liner notes provide a wealth of information about the tracks and the musicians, they are illegible unless you’ve been fitted with bionic eyes. It’s a great shame that the art director sacrificed legibility by reducing the text to mousetype and printing it on a black background.

Luckily, Nilson was more than happy to provide the liner note’s texts. The italics below them are mine.

Nanã

I have loved this song for more than 30 years. I remember when I was 16 and listening to the genius drummer Edison Machado playing this song with so much feeling. I’m so glad I was able to record it with Claudio Roditi, Paulo Braga, Vic Juris, Helio Alves, Anne Drummond, and Jorjão. This is also my homage to the great composer, maestro, educator, and mentor of many great musicians from Brazil, Moacir Santos.

A big-band treatment for this jazz classic, with fine solos by Claudio Roditi (trumpet) and Anne Drummond (flute).

Samba Sem Você

Rosa Passos—I just love the way she sings and plays the acoustic guitar. I first heard her voice coming through my car radio in 1980. It was one of those great musical moments. Years later Rosa was the special guest at two concerts that I was performing in, one in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Bowl and the other at the Bern Jazz Festival in Switzerland. It was great to play my bass with her in both concerts.

One day I received a call from virtuoso cello player Yo-Yo Ma, asking me to play on his recording of Brazilian music. When I got to the studio I had a surprise: Rosa was one of the guests. With Yo-Yo we recorded two Grammy-winning CDs and traveled all over the world together; we always have such a good time.

Valtinho Anastacio is playing percussion with us on this composition by Rosa. He has a magic touch! We’ve been friends since we meet in Japan in 1983, and I admire his playing a lot.

Rosa Passos at her jazzy best. Her impeccable division and swing maintain a conversation with Nilson's playful bass and Valtinho’s driving percussion.

Take the A Train/Smile

Talking about virtuosos, Maurício Einhorn is surely one. He’s also fun to be around because he’s a master joke teller. My producer wanted something different for the album. I called Maurício in Rio and invited him to record, and he accepted right away. He asked me who else was with us, and I said Duduka da Fonseca on drums... My wife was listening to the conversation and said, “That’s all, just the three of you. This will sound different.” So thank you Luisa, Maurício and Duduka!

I’m glad Duduka was in Rio while I was recording. His samba playing was masterful and gave us the foundation that allowed the three of us to play so creatively.

“Take the A Train” and “Smile” represent two facets of harmonica-bass-drum arrangement. The former is joyful and energetic; the latter a lyrical meditation.

Atlântida

It was a great moment for me when I called Ivan Lins at his home in Rio to invite him to record with me and to hear him respond immediately, “Let’s record, I have a song for us.” I’ve known Ivan since the ’70s, when I was playing with Chico Buarque and MPB-4, and there were those encounters at concerts, TV shows, and on the beach. At that time, if you wanted to see musicians, singers, actors, artists in general, you would go to Ipanema beach. It was a wonderful time in Rio that we all, I believe, miss a lot. Ivan brought two excellent musicians to our session, the drummer Theo Lima and guitarist Leonardo Amuedo. This beautiful song that Ivan composed was performed with a lot of emotion and love.

A modest arrangement of vocals, piano, guitar, bass, and drums yields rich results. Ivan’s scatting and Nilson’s bass solo stand out.

Berimbau/Here’s That Rainy Day

When my producer Tony Spaneo suggested “Berimbau” I agreed right away, because it’s one of my favorite Baden Powell songs and it’s a perfect fit for the bass. I had the privilege of playing with Baden in 1973; we did two big tours in Brazil, and it was a great experience.

“Rainy Day” is another of my favorites. To have Kenny Barron on this album is something very important to me—not only because he is considered one of the greatest piano players in the history of jazz, but because he is a great friend, as is his lovely wife Joanne. I had the pleasure to be part of his Brazilian Project with Trio da Paz, playing concerts all over the world. I really enjoy the afternoons our families get together for Brazilian/American BBQ.

I am pleased to have Jeff Tain Watts on drums. He is the only musician on the CD that I am working with for the first time. His playing brings an important integration of cultures to this project. Jorge Silva, my dear friend, plays percussion here with a lot of heart and Carioca taste.

“Berimbau” is an exploration of the bass as melodic instrument. And why not? It has more strings than a berimbau. “Here’s That Rainy Day” is dominated by Kenny Barron’s suave piano.

I Only Have Eyes for You

Joyce and Tutti Moreno: a perfect couple. We have been friends for such a long time. I remember the day we had a rehearsal to record this song in their charming apartment in Rio. After we had gone over the music, Joyce said, “Let’s eat.” They served delicious Brazilian food. Thanks, Joyce and Tutti, for your incredible talent, for the great food, and your contribution to this recording.

Joyce (one of the few Brazilian vocalists who can do it) sings in English and plays guitar. Tutti on drums and Nilson on bass complete this intimate arrangement.

Bossa for Copacabana    

Copacabana, for me, is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The first time I saw it, I was ten years old. Coming from Sao Paulo, I found it an amazing place. I moved to Rio in 1970 to live in Copacabana, and it was there that I met my beautiful wife Luisa. This song is dedicated to Copacabana for the great moments of the past, present, and the great times yet to come.

Composed by Nilson Matta, this swinging instrumental features lovely solos by Helio Alves (piano) and Claudio Roditi (trumpet).

Perfume de Cebola

Filó Machado and the one-and-only Robertinho Silva. We recorded this song in Rio de Janeiro, and the combination of summertime and two masters in samba swing was just perfect. After we finished recording this incredible composition by Filó, my body kept swinging and shaking for days.

The sound of Filó Machado is, as they say in Portuguese, inconfundível. Here he sings his own tune with lyrics by Cacaso, whose name was curiously omitted from the credits.

Jade

I played in João Bosco’s band for two years, and it was an incredible moment in my musical life. We became friends the first day we met. Playing with João always takes you on a great voyage. He is the type of guy who likes to be prepared but when we start to play, something spiritual happens and the playing is so free. It’s an honor for me to have him and his beautiful composition “Jade” on this record.

I’m also happy to have two great musicians on this recording: my old friend and fantastic drummer Paulo Braga and a new friend and special talent, guitarist Guilherme Monteiro.

João Bosco knows how to infuse a strong African flavor into his earthy lyrics (“Luz talismã misterioso cubanacã/Delícia sensual de maçã/Saborosa manhã”) as he does into the arrangement of this haunting song.

Night and Day

What a great composition by Cole Porter. I wrote this arrangement the night before we recorded specifically for these incredible artists, Cyro Baptista, Harry Allen, and Anne Drummond. I didn’t have any idea how the arrangement would sound. The producer Tony Spaneo and engineer Michael Brorby were also wondering. After explaining my ideas, we played through the arrangement and I decided to record right away. The first take was great. Anne, who thought we were still rehearsing, said, “Let’s record now.” I replied, “We already did,” and that’s the take you’ll hear on this CD.

This arrangement cooks. Harry Allen’s sax and Anne Drummond’s flute weave in and out, while Nilson’s bass and yCro Baptista’s percussion keep the rhythm going.

Creek

This song was composed by the great sax player from Brazil, Victor Assis Brasil. He left us many beautiful compositions. I love this song, and this is my tribute to him.

Anne Drummond leads with a virtuosic flute performance, assisted by Helio Alves (piano), Vic Juris (guitar), and Paulo Braga (drums).


Nilson Matta & Friends: Walking With My Bass
(Blue Toucan Music BT0120819; 2006) 67:32 min.

01. Nanã (Moacir Santos/Mário Telles)
02. Samba Sem Você (Rosa Passos/Fernando de Oliveira)
03. Take the A Train (Billy Strayhorn)
04. Atlântida (Ivan Lins/Celso Viáfora)
05. Berimbau (Baden Powel/Vinicius de Moraes)
06. I Only Have Eyes for You (Harry Warren/Al Dubin)
07. Bossa for Capacabana (Nilson Matta)
08. Perfume de Cebola (Filó Machado/Cacaso)
09. Smile (Charles Chaplin)
10. Jade (João Bosco)
11. Here’s That Rainy Day (Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke)
12. Night and Day (Cole Porter)
13. Creek (Vitor Assis Brasil)

 


Copyright © 2007–2008 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.