Moon And Sun - Dark And Light
Yet again, Mark Weinstein gives us the great pleasure of another 'Brazilian' album in his latest release, Lua e Sol, released on 14th October this year, a little over three weeks ago. The delay in this review is entirely due to the circumstance that my first review copy appears to have been lost in the transatlantic post, and thus a second had to be sent which finally made it safely across.
If by now you might be thinking, "shades of Herbie Mann?", then think again. Mark Weinstein's approach and treatment of Brazilian jazz is completely different to Mann's, entirely his own. As with everything Weinstein chooses to tackle, his approach and treatment is wholly and wholesomely original, innovative, and even adventurous. Mark Weinstein and Brazilian music were made for each other. As Weinstein himself put it, when he first played Brazilian music (back in 1998 on Jazz World Trios), "it was like I came home." Who could possibly argue with that? Weinstein has made Brazilian jazz truly his own. While he does share the late great Herbie Mann's passion for Brazilian music, Mann played it like a highly accomplished outsider whereas Weinstein seems to have almost been born to it, playing with a passion and fluency that are unmatched, also bringing to it his unique style of jazz flute and bringing out the vibrancy and excitement of Brazilian music that Mann only hinted at for the most part.
Where the previous O Nosso Amor pushed the portal into Brazilian music wide open and took us through into its exciting, rich and complex world, with Lua e Sol Mark Weinstein takes us even deeper into this territory, showing us the contrasts of light and dark, embracing these contrasts that are so fundamentally inherent in Brazilian music. In terms of composers, on the "light" side the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim springs to mind as perhaps its supreme example, while the "dark" is perhaps best represented by the compositions of Hermeto Pascoal.
The Brazilian composers encompassed by Lua e Sol are Baden Powell & Vinicius de Moraes, Herivelto Martins & Roberto Roberti, Pixinguinha, João Donato & Gilberto Gil, Pixinguinha & Benedicto Lacerda, Ary Barroso, and Eduardo Lobo & Gianfrancisco Guarnieri. The album is completed by two Weinstein and one Matta originals. The material ranges from bouncy choros to irresistible sambas and darkly seductive ballads.
As with 2006's O Nosso Amor, again Mark Weinstein has chosen guitarist Romero Lubambo and bassist Nilson Matta as sidemen for Lua e Sol, adding Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista, well remembered from Jazz World Trios. A truly world class line-up again then. Baptista's percussion here is particularly noteworthy. The kind of palette he summons up from his various drums and other percussion instruments is truly symphonic in its scope and has to be heard to be believed. Often, the overall effect somehow evokes the sounds of the rainforests and swamps of South America in a fantastic symphonic poem. This is particularly striking certainly if you have intimate experience of theses sounds.
Mark Weinstein's Lua e Sol opens with the Baden Powell & Vinicius de Moraes composition, Canto de Ossanha, a lively, light-hearted and swinging piece. Maestro Weinstein's flute sings and dances in flowing improvs, with equally imaginative soloing from Lubambo, with a call-and-response type exchange between the two. At just over eight minutes, this is the second-longest piece on Lua e Sol, but the time seems to fly by all too quickly. The first of two Mark Weinstein originals, the delightful Estrelinha, follows. A slightly dark, seductive ballad, reflective and introspective, there is plenty of scope given to both Lubambo's guitar and Weinstein's flute for imaginative soloing, and there also is room for an inventive bass solo from Matta. Floresta is the sole Nilson Matta original on Lua e Sol. This piece has strong leanings towards the Brazilian avantgarde in parts, and Weinstein gives his alto flute its first outing on this album with fluid, inventive soloing and supreme ballad playing. Lubambo supports with great guitar work and soloing, and Matta's bass is a delight too. This track is also the first to give a hint of Baptista's 'symphonic percussion'. The 'light' side returns with Herivelto Martins & Roberto Roberti's Isaura, all sweetness and light, with outstanding soloing all round. The great Pixinguinha's Choro da Gafieira is even 'sweeter', one of the sweetest of all choros, albeit short at just under two minutes. However, this will make it ideal air-play material and surely puts Mark Weinstein onto a winner here.
The title track of Mark Weinstein's Lua e Sol then proceeds to hit us with a return to the 'dark' side with this Weinstein original, deeply into Brazilian avantgarde territory that sadly so far tends to be relatively little known outside Brazil. Weinstein's imrovs dance and soar, sometimes in a dark kind of ecstasy, and equally excellent soloing is provided by Romero Lubambo's guitar, with outstanding bass from Nilson Matta and almost otherworldly percussion from Cyro Baptista. At over nine minutes it is the longest track on Lua e Sol by a full minute, but again, time becomes distorted and feels like it is compressed, you really don't want this track to end. Weinstein gives the lead on João Donato & Gilberto Gil's darkly meditative, introspective Emorio to his enchanting, unparalleled bass flute. As ever, the soloing is of the highest order, and also as ever, Weinstein's sheer magic on his haunting bass keeps you longing for more. Another short piece by Pixinguinha & Benedicto Lacerda, Segura Ele, marks a return to the 'light' side, sweet and happy and chirpy, again perfect air-play material. Pra Machuchar Meu Coracáo is a somewhat darkly seductive ballad by Ary Barroso and sees another outing for Weinstein's alto. This hauntingly beautiful piece is just perfect for the alto flute, especially when it is in the magical hands of Mark Weinstein. The soloing by both Weinstein and Lubambo here is probably at its most lyrical, fluidly singing and dancing along, with Weinstein making the most of his alto's low register. Alas, the closer of Mark Weinstein's Lua e Sol comes all too soon in the form of Eduardo Lobo & Gianfrancisco Guarnieri's upbeat, up tempo and quite infectious Upa Negrinho. Weinstein's improvs dance a merry dance and soar, Lubambo also dances a merry dance on his guitar, Matta's bass provides the perfect glue to keep everything together, and Baptista's percussion injects its own magic and humour. Perhaps a tad longer than most US radio stations usually tend to prefer at just shy of five minutes, this incredibly catchy tune, and a real show-piece at that, should nonetheless prove a real winner on air.
The 'Man With The Magic Flute', Mark Weinstein, has done it again with Lua e Sol and served up an exciting and totally absorbing album full of surprises. It is the most exciting Brazilian jazz album since... well, since Weinstein's last. Mark Weinstein is like a fine wine that's still getting better and better all the time. And Lua e Sol should not only continue to bring Weinstein the increasing critical and public acclaim and wider recognition that his genius so richly deserves, Luo e Sol is the kind of album that should surely win Mark Weinstein the recognition of a major award if there is any justice left in this world and any meaning left in such awards.
Don't miss out on this breathtaking and spellbinding album!
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