Mark Weinstein - O Nosso Amor
It is an immense pleasure and relief even to at last be able to complete a review, begun in 2005, of Mark Weinstein's O Nosso Amor, after having played a preview into dust alongside the previous release, Algo Mas, for so long. O Nosso Amor was released in 2006 on Jazzheads and made No. 1 in radio play nationwide in the US and "Best Brazilian Jazz Record".
O Nosso Amor could, in many respects, almost be called Mark Weinstein's Brazilian Algo Mas, in that it is very nearly as revolutionary in terms of Brazilian music as Algo Mas is in terms of Cuban. So, if perhaps you're looking for some sort of re-hash of for example one of Herbie Mann's early bossa albums with João Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim (Herbie Mann & João Gilberto with Antonio Carlos Jobim, if memory serves - I really wouldn't like to dig through my collection to make sure), you're going to be in for a very big surprise. O Nosso Amor does not limit itself to bossa nova alone, although of course with a title that is a song by Jobim from the soundtrack of Black Orpheus, it is not surprising that the album contains two further pieces by the master himself. Rather, it presents a veritable smorgasbord of Brazilian musical styles in addition to bossa, such as samba, choro, frevo, capoeira, and batucada. Mark Weinstein builds on his earlier recordings with Romero Lubambo and Cyro Baptista on Jazz World Trios and his 2003 album of the music of Hermeto Pascoal, Tudo de Bom, and goes beyond, using his jazz flute as it has not been heard before in Brazilian jazz, creating a portal into the exceedingly rich and complex world of Brazilian music.
Mark Weinstein picked the finest team of Brazilian musicians to be found anywhere for O Nosso Amor. Nilson Matta, bass, and Paulo Braga, drums, will already be familiar from Tudo de Bom, while Romero Lubambo, classical guitar, played on two tracks of Jazz World Trios. Together with percussionists Guilherme Franco and Jorge Silva, this makes for a completely amazing line-up.
The music on O Nosso Amor comprises eight Brazilian classics and four originals, one each by Weinstein, Matta, Lubambo and Franco.
The opener of Mark Weinstein's O Nosso Amor comes in the form of Bahia, one of the oldest and best known (probably best known to many through Trane's [John Coltrane] version) pieces on this album, a samba-jongo written by Ary Barroso in 1938. It is wonderfully swinging, full of yearning, Weinstein's solos dancing along almost languidly. Lubambo's guitar work and soloing are also outstanding. João Donato, one of the most intensely "Latin" Brazilian composers, wrote Lugar Comum jointly with João Gilberto in 1975, with lyrics by Gilberto Gil. Here, Weinstein's alto flute evokes the lyrics supremely, further reinforced by a superb bass solo from Nilson Matta about halfway through. A jazz samba by Matta, Sampa 67, is the first of the originals, a tribute to his native city, São Paulo and apparently his first VW beetle (or bug, as it's better known in North America) car, with some breathtaking soloing from both Mark Weinstein and Romero Lubambo. The first of three Antonio Carlos Jobim compositions, a choro canção from 1979, follows with Falando de Amor. Weinstein's flute sings along in an incredible combination of melancholy and relaxed coolness, and his flowing improvs are set off by a reflective extended solo from Matta's bass. Hauntingly beautiful is how I have to describe this piece and especially Weinstein's flute. An up-tempo march characteristic of Brazil's North East and the carnival of the city of Recife, Frevo Camarada is the second original on O Nosso Amor, this time by Romero Lubambo. The hard-driving drums of Paulo Braga characterise this frenetic piece, with Mark Weinstein's flute dancing along merrily with soaring improvs and excellent soloing also from the drums and percussion as well as guitar. The eponymous title track follows, a classic Jobim composition, co-authored by Vinicius de Moraes, from the soundtrack of the classic movie Black Ortheus. This happy romantic piece with its carnival-like atmosphere has Weinstein's flute singing and dancing in lyrical, flowing improvs, chirpy and cascading along here and there, and there is also a wonderful extended solo from Lubambo.
A brief Batucada by the percussion section follows, bringing us a taste of the frenzied energy of the Rio carnival in a dazzling display of virtuosity. Naquele Tempo, the first of two pieces on O Nosso Amor by Pixinguinha (Alfredo da Rocha Vianna Jr.), still regarded as the greatest choro composer and flutist, has Mark Weinstein giving his bass flute a rare lead outing. The effect is both stunning and haunting, hypnotic even, greatly enhancing the nostalgic, almost melancholy atmosphere of this piece. The bass flute has a certain sweetness, much like the tenor sax in its family, that other members of the same family cannot match. A Weinstein original, Marka Som - a pun on his first name and 'marca', i.e., marking sound -, is a wonderfully up-tempo bossa nova in a somehow very modern-sounding idiom that also sees strong samba influences, an utterly charming and enchanting composition. There is wonderfully lively, fluent soloing from Weinstein as well as Lubambo and Matta - sheer magic all round. The second of the Pixinguilha choros, Um a Zero, was composed as a celebration of Brazil winning its first ever international football (soccer) title in 1919, and Weinstein's flute dances playfully and exuberantly through this joyful and infectious number. It leaves you quite breathless, with Mark Weinstein seemingly never coming up for air! The samba-canção Por Causa de Você is the last of the Antonio Carlos Jobim compositions, a slow, reflective, somewhat nostalgic piece perfectly suited to Mark Weinstein's alto. Romance and lyricism prevail here, with also finely judged, gently romantic guitar soloing from Lubambo. The final original, by percussionist Guilherme Franco, Capoeira, also provides the closer for O Nosso Amor. Inspired by the Bahian berimbau, in addition to some fine bowed bass there is some outstanding flute from Weinstein that sounds improbably native American, at times reminiscent even of Andean pan pipes, and of course quite extraordinary percussion and percussion soloing. There are strong free jazz overtones while at the same time this is perhaps the most "native" Brazilian sounding track. Simply breathtaking - like everywhere on this album, this is Brazilian jazz flute as you never heard before.
As is usual for Mark Weinstein, O Nosso Amor is not only a completely consistent album, but also utterly compelling and spellbinding. It is brilliant and sparkling with Weinstein's creative genius that he constantly keeps pushing further and further, taking us with him on magical journeys of exploration. Like all true creative genius, Mark Weinstein does what he does because he has to. In the process, he creates music that often completely blows your mind. With O Nosso Amor, Mark Weinstein has done exactly that, yet again. This is the stuff that legends are made of. To talk about this album being essential would seem profanity.
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