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


From “Insensatez” to boTECOeletro

Potpourri for a troubled age.

Daniella Thompson

4 November 2004

Quarteto Maogani (photo: Beti Niemeyer)

The general elections just concluded bring sharply to mind the plurality and variety of human experience and opinion, in art as in politics, religion, or sports. In the artistic arena, there is hardly an endeavor about which opinions are more divided than they are about music. Par for the course.

Why don’t we, then, seek to find the common denominators between “high” and “low,” the arty and the popular?

We’ll give it a try. I confess to being too downcast to embark on this investigation with a light and eager heart. This is more in the way of the show must go on, or else we’ll have admitted defeat. Onwards and upwards.

Antonio Carlos Jobim is the universal gold standard of Brazilian music. This is so even outside Brazil, where Tom (although nobody ever calls him Tom on U.S. radio) is just one of many talented popular composers, associated first and foremost with bossa nova. In his native country, though, Tomzinho is a transcendent God, firmly seated on the highest echelon of spirituality, somewhere in the Elysium of clowd nine, which he undoubtedly shares with his maître, Maurice Ravel.

Classic Jobim

Quarteto Maogani’s third album, Água de Beber (Biscoito Fino BF 576), is an exploration of that Elysian Tom, his precursors and inspirations.

In their customarily limpid arrangements and meticulous interpretations, the four guitarists evoke the sound of a harp in “Canto do Sertão” from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4 (Heitor Villa-Lobos). Augmented by Jessé Sadoc’s muted trumpet, the track expresses all the longing of which a human heart is capable. Their “Imagina” (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Chico Buarque) palpably reincarnates Erik Satie. “Derradeira Primavera” (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Vinicius de Moraes) is an exquisite lullaby that tiptoes daintily onto a 19th-century pastoral scene. “Mulher” (Custódio Mesquita/Sady Cabral) gains new subtlety and complexity. “Insensatez” (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Vinicius de Moraes) drifts into a dreamy dimension in waltz time. Everything about this disc is highly refined, including the sambas.

A little Jobim, a lot of Aquino

Two Jobim tunes can be also heard on Luiz de Aquino’s new disc, Esquina do Tempo (Next Music CDS 9157). Aquino, a guitarist-songwriter who lives in France, is an eclectic musician who incorporates disparate world-music elements into his arrangments. Jobim’s “Este Seu Olhar” is given a flavor that is now new-age, now jazz, with programmed effects supplementing guitar, saxophone, contabass, and percussion. His “Samba de uma Nota Só” (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Newton Mendonça) employs programmed sequences and a seductive speaking style that turns this warhorse into something altogether different, reminiscent of the work of another Brazilian expatriate, Chico Mello.

Alongside Jobim, Luiz de Aquino presents his own compositions, which manage to sound popular and intelligent at the same time. His opening song, “Na Mata,” features a refrain that is calculated to echo mindlessly in listeners’ heads for days: Digui digui digui eh. Leva!/ Digui digui digui eh. Yet the lyrics make perfect sense: toda cidade grande torna pequeno o homem. All this is overlayed with background whispering, a bass voice repeating the maddening refrain, a bit of Moroccan vocalizing, and an infectious rhythm conducive to spontaneous dancing.

In “Caminhos de Cuba,” the whispering recitative interjects the single line Caminhos de Cuba estradas de terra tristeza nos olhos poeira de história over a staccato of 7-string guitar, accordion, percussion, and sequencing. “Pode Ser Agora” is a meditation on what time brings and takes away, including everything one has and everything one knows. The memorable “Esquina do Tempo” is short on lyrics but long on beauty, and a showcase for Aquino’s guitar acumen. “Vamo Nesse Passo” is a nordestino tune complete with accordion, violin, and zabumba-like percussion. At times soaring, at others descending down to earth, this album is above all a pleasure for the ears.

Eclecticism, Brazilian style

Aleh, whose self-produced debut disc is called MPGSOULSAMBAGROOVE (Nikita Music 24.05.920-2), delivers all of the above. He doesn’t record Jobim but instead builds Zé Ketti’s “Opinião” into his own “A Voz do Samba,” an intro that segues into the funky soul-rap “Opinião (Rapaziada Atacar).” Aleh is a rocker who pays attention to his precedents, both within and without Brazil. His songs are catchy (listen to “Sou do Bem” and “Mister Mistério,”) and arranged for maximum impact. For the dancers, there’s nothing like his “Dona da Banca,” offered here in two different mixes.

From the same label comes producer Ricardo Imperatore’s boTECOeletro (Nikita Music 24.05.1243-2), an electronic-acoustic collage in which small vignettes by Jackson do Pandeiro, As Baianas Mensageiras de Santa Luzia, and Radamés Gnatalli are mixed with loops and samples such as the batucadas of Pedro Luís e A Parede’s Monobloco. The interesting result, as the producer explains, is “neither strictly popular nor strictly erudite; brasilidade is the disc’s basic concept.”


Copyright © 2004–2008 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.