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Jacaranda

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Album Review

After the initial shockwaves of Miles Davis' seminal fusion recordings began to settle, jazz rock fusion began to become a genre unto itself. What Miles had created as a way of opening both the disciplines up to one another — in the same manner that bossa nova and rhythm and blues did in the 1960s — created a slew of musical possibilities before fusion closed in on itself in the later 1970s and became its own restrictive genre, full of sterile, workmanlike chops, and endlessly repetitive rhythmic constructs. But perhaps no one, not even Weather Report's Joe Zawinul or Creed Taylor at CTI realized the full aesthetic and panoramic potential of fusing seemingly disparate elements together in an entirely new tapestry, the way that Brazilian composer and guitarist Luiz Bonfá did on Jacarandá in 1973. His collaborators, producer John Wood and arranger/conductor Eumir Deodato, assembled a huge cast of musicians in both New York and Los Angeles, and came up with nothing short of a grooving, blissed-out masterpiece of fusion exotica. The cast of players is in and of itself dizzying: Airto, Deodato, Bonfá on acoustic guitars, Stanley Clarke, Wood, Mark Drury, Ray Barretto, John Tropea (on electric guitars), Bill Watrous, Randy Brecker, Idris Muhammad, Jerry Dodgion, Sonny Boyer, Phil Bodner, Maria Toledo, and many others — including full string and horn sections. The ambitious Deodato charts opened up the principals and brought hard Afro-Cuban rhythms, softer Brazilian ones, funky riffing soul and R&B interludes, and classical themes and variations, as well as sophisticated jazz harmonics and syncopation to a collection of tunes by Bonfá and others. Sound like a mess? Hardly. This is one of the most disciplined and ambitions recordings to be issued during that decade. Here Bonfá's gorgeous palette of samba and bossa melodies is married to film score dynamics, lush romantic cadenzas, smoking jazz grooves and cultured extrapolations of folk and popular music schemas. creating a stunning mosaic of color, release, pastoral elegance and bad-ass, intoxicating, polyrhythmic Latin soul vistas. While the entire album flows form front to back with seamless ease, there are a few standouts. The opener, "Apache Talk," features Barretto's congas creating a bottom for Muhammad's brushes and snare, as Clarke's bass plays one note insistently and hypnotically before Wood's Rhodes and finally Bonfá's 12-string come shimmering in with a funky urgency that is underscored by Tropea's bluesy fills. When the horns finally enter, the entire thing is popping and grooving on its own punchy axis. It's a wonder that Gilles Peterson hasn't picked up on this cut yet. Elsewhere, Bonfá's velvety tropical read of Enriqué Granados' "Dance No. 5," with its slippery classical guitar and extended harmonic palette, is a whispering wonder of sensual delight. The minor-key riffing in "Strange Message" that becomes a full-blown soundtrack-esque anthem is a wonder, and the jazzy soul of the title track with Drury's popping stand-up bass playing counterpoint to Bonfá's 12-string before Muhammad and Wood kick it on the funky side is breathtaking (Man, if Ralph Towner could only play 12-string like this, he might have been a contender!). Reissued on the JR label, in magnificent, warm, crystalline, 24-bit remastered sound, the album contains an excellent essay on Bonfá by executive producer Arnaldo DeSouteiro. This is the great fusion album that was never released here in the States, where the full possibilities of the new music were personified. If ever there were a case to order a CD online, this is it. It's so fine it's hardly even believable.

Biography

Born: 17 October 1922 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Genre: Bossa Nova

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Although overshadowed by the towering figure of Antonio Carlos Jobim and to a lesser extent by João Gilberto, Luiz Bonfá was right there at the birth of bossa nova as well. In fact, at least two of his songs, the haunting "Manha de Carnaval" and equally evocative "Samba de Orpheus" swept the world at least three years before Jobim's songs began to make a global impact, paving the way for the first Brazilian wave. In addition, Bonfá cultivated a delicate, precise classical guitar style, though more...
Full Bio
Jacaranda, Luiz Bonfá
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